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Nicholas Greenwood - Cold Cuts CD (album) cover


Nicholas Greenwood


Canterbury Scene

3.63 | 54 ratings

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4 stars The Apprentice of Hell-fire Gets His Fingers Burnt

I think it must have been the Arthur Brown connection that piqued my interest for this album. Being a very sad old mammal who scours the internet, garage sales and council refuse dumps for anything remotely connected with Mr Brown, I was commensurately 'well chuffed' to finally lay my trembling paws on this obscure 1972 oddity. Ain't it funny that the adrenaline rush you get when coaxing the holy grail out of hiding never matches that of supping from the beaker? Regardless, there are treasures to behold on this fine disc together with a few of those stubborn 'hard to shift' stains left by substances unknown but unmistakeably the handiwork of Brownian Motion. I mean check out the cover and tell me a sedentary homunculus made out of rashers of rotting bacon is the fruit of a well adjusted loop?. Greenwood bailed from the 'Crazy World of Arthur Brown' just before Arthur steered his vehicle into a head on collision with his own coming in the opposite direction. Or if you prefer, their erstwhile drummer Carl Palmer's version: after touring on the back of the success of the global smash Fire, the band were stuck in New York unable to gig as Arthur's sabbatical into 'Black Mysticism' prevented him from performing. I also read somewhere that another band-member was incarcerated in a psychiatric institution? (The God Of Hell-fire must have been a taxing paymaster)

Greenwood's career after his short stint in the excellent Canterbury steeped Khan and subsequent solo début appears to have stalled. This is a great pity as the promise shown on Cold Cuts would indicate he could have had a very large future in bluesy heavy/psyche/acid prog (Kinda just trips off the tongue don't it?) However I have long suspected that many of the lyrics on this album indicate our Nicholas was one of those sensitive and selfless souls not remotely equipped to deal with the 'pushy quicksand' that is the music industry circa 1972. There is a jaded disillusion never far below the surface of this music and wedded to an unflinching honesty for the cant and hypocrisy of a counter-culture he portrays as being increasingly pursued under the counter, Mr G may have decided that his integrity would be a trailer for a movie that's shorter than the trailer.

The opening triumvirate instrumental A Sea of Holy Pleasure, could double as a roll call of Greenwood's recent past and acknowledged influences. The spectre of the 'Crazy World' haunts this particular medium and similar examples of such a style can be sourced from the writing and arrangements of the late Vincent Crane. A very robust and malleable critter that undergoes many transformations and reaches several peaks before the end. I love Heningham's melancholic piano arpeggios on the intro which imply rather than state the impending harmonies directly. There is a soulful and accessible mood at play here which prevents the instrumentation, as accomplished as it is, from ever dashing with indecent haste into Fancy Dan's Smarty Pants Over Clever Clogs apparel. Those of you who likes yer Hammond chops 'well fired' are in for a treat here as the organ timbres served up are finger lickin' crunchy.

The chamber strings that introduce Hope/Ambitions make for an unlikely setting upon which to mount Greenwood's plaintive bluesy holler but this combination works incredibly well. A robust song featuring some neurotically restive flute from Bunk Gardner (the source of whose disquiet may have been forged as a Zappa reedsman?) Even at this stage in the proceedings, the tentative outline of the album's thematic compass is revealed in a lyric about a naive young man with nascent dreams of a successful music career with his best gal by his side.

Corruption - Very familiar territory for Arthur Brown fans being a slow lurching organ drenched waltz and although the Greenwood tonsils are not in the same league as his mentor Brown, the passion for having an individual find his own unique path through life and the sincerity it is couched in make them practically indistinguishable:

Foolish romantic sons are never successful Don't take a chance when you know that my way you'll be safe

Lead Me On - Like so much on Cold Cuts, this carries more than a distant echo of what Norman Haines band Locomotive was hatching circa the We Are Everything You See album with both the candid song-writing style and blues inflected delivery well to the fore. Credible jazzy brass arrangements are a lot harder to accomplish than they make it sound here (as even someone as distinguished as George Martin's efforts come across like Herb Alpert sounding the retreat)

Big Machine - Transparently caustic metaphor for a music industry which may even have stolen a march on Floyd's Welcome to the Machine ? Either way, Greenwood laments the 'singing sausages' that started life as an untamed and free beast of the field. Perhaps the flimsiest offering to the 'beast' so far as it never develops much further than late 60's pastiche but does by way of mitigation, sound uncannily like Ray Davies of the Kinks on the tag line to the verses.(That's a damn fine thing in my book)

Close the Doors - This on its own is worth the admission price alone. Although Greenwood would be the first to admit he is not a songwriter on a sustained par with Ray Davies, Pete Townshend, Gary Brooker or Norman Haines, he has in this number anything as good as that realised by his aforementioned peers and one of my favourite songs of all time.

I would gladly release all my lofty ambitions For the chance to be with someone Just close the doors and I'm not free She's clouded my brain so I can't see Melting before a vision of tenderness With the presence on earth of such faceless beauty

As a succinct expression of the unlimited power we divest in the beloved on account of our overriding need to love and be loved, I can't think of better in the entire realm of popular music. Nuff said.

Melancholy - Borderline filler from the 'Melisma Posing as Memorable Tune School of Song Craft' (Principal: G Hughes Esq)

Images - Another rather nondescript and uninspired 3 minutes and yes, things are starting to drag hereabouts. An initially interesting angular melody but like a suntanned goth, quickly pales as it vainly rummages for a suitable holiday destination.

Promised Land - Oh ye of little faith (i.e. principally your reviewer) but this is a beautiful and stirring pleasurecade from a bullet-proof limo that consigns the previous two tracks as tiny distant specks on the event horizon. It should also be self-evident that our protagonist has entered the spiritual realm in his quest to give a sense and a purpose for his existence.

Realisation and Death - Via this chirpy little lament we have of course come 'dead stop' to the final cycle of any man's life and the preceding conceptual thread should now be cast into stark relief. More beautiful string writing and the sumptuous organ carries an apt liturgical feel reinforced by a hushed urgency from Greenwood's vocal. It could be deemed a bit prone to some panto funereal gravitas but 'all over bar the shouting', a very strong closing statement for the album. Speaking of shouting, such is my (uncharacteristic) ambivalence here that I still cannot decide if the yelled Bring Out Your Dead to the fade is comic, chilling, clumsy or moving (Maybe an amalgam of all four)

Throughout Cold Cuts Nicholas Greenwood communicates very directly and often movingly so, what it's like to be a moral creature in a world where such concerns are considered either a weakness or a hindrance, and that's considerably more than any bloated banquet that prog ever served up.

So wherever you ended up after this Nicholas, be it delivering mail for the post office in remotest rural Wales or opening up your own Balaclava repair shop, I just want you to know that if you're reading this, you managed to touch this rodent's world however tenuously and briefly on this album recorded all those years ago and for that I thank you.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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