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Greenslade - Greenslade CD (album) cover

GREENSLADE

Greenslade

 

Symphonic Prog

3.53 | 151 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Frustrating

For a prog fan like myself in the early 1970's, Greenslade appeared to have everything. An eponymous band leader who played a variety of electronic keyboards, long elaborately structured tracks, and on top of everything a Roger Dean sleeve. In fact, the sleeve is the best thing about this album, being an absolutely essential Dean illustration, which demands to be seen in its original foldout LP cover format.

Behind the sleeve though, the story is different. It is hard to identify what it is about the music of Greenslade which made it so obvious that they had little chance of being anything other than a second division prog band. Perhaps an examination of the opening track "Feathered friends" will help. Here we have a wonderful mellotron break surrounded by some diverse but weak melodies. The vocals are high pitched but not particularly tuneful. On the face of it, the lyrics are structured into rhyming phrases, but in reality, they are sung without any cognisance of that phrasing. The song passes by but makes little impression. And so it goes throughout the album. When the mellotron sweeps do appear, they are symphonic and majestic, but they stand like pyramids in a vast desert of sand.

The twin keyboards of Dave Greenslade and Dave Lawson dominate tracks such as "An English Western" and "Drowning man", and while the organ and mellotron tones are pleasant to the ear, they lack the melodic substance to make them genuinely compulsive. At this point, I am going to make it clear that there are many positives in the music of Greenslade. The lyrics are thoughtful, the overall sound is accomplished and pleasing, and there are far worse vocals than these about. And there is the rub. It is frustrating to find a band who were so clearly capable of becoming one of the prog giants for want of some decent melodies.

Side two of the LP consists of just three tracks, ranging from four to nine minutes. They are predominantly instrumental, and seem largely improvisational. There are times on Mélange when the bass and mellotron combination has strong echoes of Yes' "Heart of the sunrise" but where Yes would burst into a strong hook, Greenslade drift back into another muddled passage or simply fade. Only the rather out of character "What are you doing to me" stand out as being different, its earthy blues being interrupted by a mellotron fanfare.

Perhaps it is the band's leaning further towards jazz than their peers which is the defining factor. Those coming to the band via Genesis or Yes, as many would have done lured by the instrumental line up and sleeve illustrations, would most likely have been disappointed to find that the melodies and hooks were not nearly as strong. They would quickly have realised that while the band was awash with talented musicians, their compositional skills were less clear.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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