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Colosseum - Valentyne Suite CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.22 | 459 ratings

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5 stars You could argue that Valentyne Suite is dated. Or that it's just proto-prog. Or that it's (by the standards of the rest of prog) basic. I think all of the above is true, but this album is still essential to the prog canon. What I love about this is the grime of it. It's dusty, muddy, and like many of the other debuts of the "founding father" bands of prog, the production on this has not aged well. Nonetheless, they made the most of it, from the murky bordering proto-sludge of the Kettle to the big band arrangements featured on Butty's Blues.

The first side of Valentyne Suite starts with the Kettle, a song I was the most familiar with before my first focused listen. Jon Hisemen's busy jazz-rock drumming style contrasts perfectly with the sometimes droning heavy psych guitar. The vocal line has a very pleasing airy quality to my ear. To me, the Kettle is a song that's constantly bordering falling apart but never does. The scat solo at the end at the unison with the guitar is also quite fun. Elegy contrasts the psychedelic heft of the first song with some British R&B influence. In this track, Greenslade's key playing becomes more of a clear factor of the music. It concludes with a tasteful saxophone solo. Butty's Blues is a very nice jazz-blues track where the organ is finally singled out as one of the star instruments of this album. I quite enjoy the sound of an old organ, even with the murky and inconsistent production. The way the horn arrangements collide with psychedelic blues reminds me of Chicago's debut album, albeit in a british r&b style. The Machine Demands a Sacrifice is the last nugget on the first side and is two minutes of song combined with a hypnotic percussion vamp.

The stars of this album are definitely the title track, one of the great early epics in prog history. The contrast between the recording quality of some instruments is funny in retrospect. For example, the xylophone is sharp and tinny while the organ is so muddy. This song really defines Colosseum with the swells and trills of organ, the adventurous jazz-rock instrumentation, and the fast and sometimes sneaky segues into new material. Instead of lead vocals, this song opts for some truly haunting backing choir arrangements in a classical style instead of a jazz style. The meshing of these genres might be crude, but it was pioneering at the time. One thing I like about the production is how it seems to blow out when the song hits a dynamic peak. Am I saying that this is a lofi masterpiece? Potentially.

While the sides of this album are a bit uneven, I think this album is clearly essential and enjoyable. I wouldn't single this out as THE example of prog, but Colosseum deserves recognition alongside King Crimson, Procol Harum, etc. as one of the first masterworks in prog.

mental_hygiene | 5/5 |


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