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Gravy Train - Staircase To The Day CD (album) cover


Gravy Train

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4 stars GRAVY TRAIN were a British quartet who play a very on the progressive rock side of classic rock. "Staircase to the Day" is considered a classic in the prog rock circles and I must agree. GRAVY TRAIN blend the English style classic rock sound with progressive movements creating an excellent but very different style. "Staircase..." offers nice mood swing throughout and ranges from HENDRIX-like guitar driven moments to pastel / keyboard laden parts.
Report this review (#30859)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Add another half star for 2.5!! A lot of progheads will choose this one to start with because of the Roger Dean cover, but let me assure you this is not the way to go about it: I sometimes feel it is better to work chronologically and in Gravy Train's case, this is certainly the case.

This last album is Gravy Train's swansong and I think they must've known this was so because I feel the enthusiasm is lacking completely. They tried hard to have a hit with the radio-friendly opener Starlight, but somehow this is not convincing. In my compilation, only the title track and The Last Day managed to find their space (but I was also running out of it ;-), but this album IMO is a better album than the previous Second Birth.

Somehow with Gravy Train, one never feel that they made too few of their albums to prove their worth (don't get me wrong they were worthy in their early career) but failed to develop on a promising debut, unlike other lesser known early 70's British prog bands (Gnidrolog, Audience, Titus Groan, Tonton Macoute, Spring etc.......). Gravy Train simply did not arrive at the train station on time, and only managed to jump on the prog bandwagon. Had all of their albums been released two years before (from 68 to 72) than they actually did (instead of 70 to 74), I would not be holding the same opinion.

Report this review (#30860)
Posted Thursday, June 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars ' Staircase to the Day'.... Great album deserving of greater commercial success. Great label ' Dawn' records and a Great cover by Roger Dean.' Starbright Starlight' has excellent keyboard arrangements building to a fine rock song.' Bring My life on Back to Me' talks about the frustrations of war and lost childhood. The title track reminds me of Zeppelins' Stairway to Heaven ( similarities in titles here and then some...) with classic keyboards by Peter Solley and co..( where is he now?)' Going for a quick one' is a great intro for side 2 for vinyl owners but the remaining gems have to be ' The last day' and ' Busted in Schenectady'. Why this album their last did not do better, I do not have a clue.
Report this review (#30861)
Posted Sunday, August 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The fourth work released in 1974 "Staircase To The Day". It makes to the second work after it transfers the register to the DAWN label and the last album. The content is variegated as well as the former work. The tune of various styles becomes complete. Will it be a deep attachment to the search for the originality to challenge various musical instruments and styles in the so much?Three stars.However, because the jacket is beautiful, I am doing by another one.

Report this review (#61712)
Posted Sunday, December 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
4 stars It's very true, Gravy Train were never considered as a 'top shelf' prog act, but they have given us some memorable moments (I'm not familiar with 'Second Birth, but own the other 3 LP's) - with 'Staircase To The Day' we have a stunning Roger Dean gatefold sleeve to enhance the listening experience, which may contain some vocal short-comings (Norman has a rather abrasive quality to his voice, and he is often very passionate in his delivery, this makes his vox quite an acquired taste).

Opening with the dynamic track 'Starbright Starlight', it suggests that the listener may have a winning hand with this album. Pete Solley's synth work being a treat, and the tune itself quite memorable. 'Bring My Life on Back To Me' is a rather standard tune, but Norman sings in a very emotionally distraught fashion, you almost feel his anguish and disappointment, his pain....or is it just painful to listen to ?? 'Never Wanted You' is an excellent tune featuring some odd meters and mellotron (always exciting prog embellishments) and finishing the first side is the beautiful title song - 7 and a half minutes of prog bliss, with Mary Zinovieff (possibly related to Peter Zinovieff of E.M.S. London ??) on synthesizer.

'Going For A Quick One' starts off with a decent riff leading into one hard-rockin' tune with more of Solley's synth work - the backing vocals by the 'Gospel Ayres' gives it a commercial touch though. 'The Last Day' is a light tune with some nice flute playing, but lacks excitement, 'Evening of my Life' is a pretty, piano driven ballad and closing track 'Busted In Schenectady' is quite an epic, full of heavy riffing, exceptional guitar playing, and even some shimmering electric violin. My overall rating is a 4 - just.

Report this review (#109697)
Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A great album. If you love the catchy and melodic Prog "Staircase To The Day" is a perfect album. Not perfect because the songs are great but perfect because the atmospheres are great!!! In my opinion this album deserves increase consideration. Yes, is true, the production not helped this situation, today is only one of the more good 70's Prog albums. But the atmospheres... Ethereal, rarified, sweets... And the songs..? Maybe, I think yhat the songs aren't bad at all. Correctly: The songs are good because wrote for the atmospheres. That are too come for pure case. But this is the magical art of "Staircase To The Day". "Starbright Starlight" is my preferred song. A correctly balance of emotions and Prog. But this is this album. And I conclude this review with a good consideration: "Staircase To The Day" is a dreaming album.
Report this review (#131769)
Posted Sunday, August 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Staircase to heaven

Unbeknown to the band at the time, Gravy Train's fourth album, "Staircase to the day", would be their last. Recording of a fifth album was started, the fruits of which can be heard on the "Strength of a dream" anthology, but the it was never completed.

For this release, George Lynon joins the band as a second lead guitarist. Sadly, Lynon passed away in 2002, but his contribution to this album certainly deserves our recognition. Noted Keyboard player Peter Solley (Paladin etc.) also contributes to the recordings on a guest basis.

This album certainly does not have the feel of a band bidding farewell, indeed it is generally hailed as their best. The Roger Dean gatefold sleeve offer folks from these parts the firm hope that the contents will be of a similar quality, and the opening "Starbright starlight" immediately reassures us that this will be the case. There are distinct echoes of Uriah Heep in the high vocal harmonies, and while the synthesiser sounds may now sound a little dated, they add some fine colours to a superb opening song.

Things get even better on the following power ballad "Bring my life on back to me", a song full of emotion and strength, with delightful guitar and gospel style choruses. The 7˝ minute title track retains the softer, more melodic style, the high vocals alternating with harsher rock ones. The track features some fine lead guitar work and delightful flute playing by JD Hughes. This song above all others really is a delight, with high harmonies uplifting us towards its conclusion.

The relatively brief "Evening of my life" is a soft piano ballad featuring a superbly emotional vocal. It leads into the final song "Busted in Schenectady", an 8 minute burst of blues rock.

There are a few more prosaic numbers, such as the blues rock "Never wanted you", but even here we find some decent mellotron phases and Arthur Brown like screams. Likewise, the non-band composition "Going for a quick one" reflects its rather tacky title.

Overall, it is difficult to argue with those who cite "Staircase to the day" as the band's best album. Yes, things can occasionally dip, but by and large the songs here are of a high quality, with excellent arrangements and fine execution. The album does indeed warrant the "forgotten gem" tag it so often carries.

Report this review (#171090)
Posted Thursday, May 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Forth release of this discrete heavy prog band named Staircase to the day from 1974. A little better then the predecesor Second birth and maybe at same level with their most mature work from all 4 albums A peacefull men,but less captivating, this album brings nothing new in their sound, same hard rock combined with heavy prog moments and some folk traces here and there. Only new thing is that the trusty Barry Davenport is out and officially replaced by Russell Cordwell at the drums. While the album as a whole is not bad, too many times is mid tempo, with out many bursting moments, too monotonous in places, saving the great flute play and the guitar who realy shine son couple of pieces, in the rest same old formula, who in the end didn't work for them, they disbanded next year, all members understand that tehy will never make it big in prog scene. The cover art painted by the famous Roger Dean didn't save the album to become a lost one in the shelf of progressive rock music. The inprovements over previous albums are not obvious, same rockier numbers interplayed with more progressive ones, some couple memorable pieces like Starbright starlight or the longest track from here Busted In Schenectady, great musicianship here and Climb around the gravy train with a touch of Cockney Rebel atmosphere, the rest are from good to mediocre. As I said as a whole the album is a good one, no really bad moments, but very vague puted in contrast with other albums of that period, even less exciting then their classic A peacefull man. I will give again 3 stars, nothing groundbreaking or over the top, but plesent and most of the time sincere and well played. One of the forgotten bands from early movement of prog, while thier sound is not so progressive in musical terms, they has some truly amazing moments on all 4 albums. I don't think this is their best album, I remain to A peacefull man to be their most mature work and thier most intristing one aswell. Although long gone they should never be forgotten.
Report this review (#250462)
Posted Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Funkier, rockier and more confident than this group's first two releases, 'Staircase To The Day' finally sees this Lancashire group blooming into something approaching the real deal. Gone are the Jethro Tull-lite musical passages and shredded guitars; in come synthesizers, funky bass riffs and more expansive song-writing. This change of direction is evident on the album's fist-pumping opening track 'Starlight, Starbright', which positively blows the listener away in an orgy of swirling, feel-good keyboards, powerful guitar riffs and blazing synth runs, fulfilling the group's obvious potental at long last. Elsewhere, the synth-bass funk is pushed to the fore on the epic 'Busted In Schenectady', whilst the uplifting prog of 'Going For A Quick One' fills out the album's mid-section. This is, by a country mile, easily Gravy Train's most accomplished album, though, considering both 'Gravy Train' and '(A Ballad Of) A Peaceful Man', it's actually no great feat. Still, 'Staircase To The Day', despite it's slightly dodgy title, does show a group learning from their mistakes and producing genuinely enjoyable prog-rock. Good, but non-essential. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Report this review (#282830)
Posted Thursday, May 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Make that 2.67. The buzz on the street on Gravy Train's fourth album Staircase to the Day is that it represents the band's finest hour. I certainly do not think so and am prepared to explain why. In a nutshell, it is too funky, frolicking and diverse for my tastes. I prefer a rockier, more somber sound. This I found on Gravy Train's first album. That work has the additional advantage of weaving together unusual instrument combinations, strange moods and trippy jams, little of which surfaces on Staircase to the Day.

'Starlight Starbright' does have a rarified melody and a pageant of instrumental activity grooving in the background. I can't help finding the choruses of 'yeah' and the uttering of the words 'Starlight, starbright' corny. Yet on this track the band has made a considerable achievement; they have captured the spirit of Yes in a slightly harder, more driving fashion with a lower-register vocal. I actually have met Jon Anderson haters, who unlike devotees like myself, find his sweet countertenor sickening rather than angelic. (Even the best vocalists have their detractors; a few people find Bruce Dickinson annoying, as well.) Gravy Train's biggest claim to notoriety could very well be their uncanny ability to emulate Yes without parroting, not an easy feat.

On a couple tracks Norman Barrett's voice seems a bit gravelly and hoarse. This is just simply irritating. Furthermore some tracks seem lightweight and contrived. This is the case, for instance, on 'Bring my life on Back to Me.' Here liberal use of a piano contributes to a mood of frivolity. I have always thought piano is difficult instrument to integrate into prog. rock and rock and general. Beckett and Journey succeed marvelously in my estimate. 'Bring my Life back to Me' borders on the ridiculous. Too bad because its message is pretty grave, it appears from a peak I was finally able to take at the lyrics. 'Evening of my Life' here on Staircase to the Day is as piano saturated and no less odd.

Some tracks capture the blues-based escapades of the debut but don't fully reach that level of mood and nuance. 'Never wanted You' fits this description. 'Going for a Quick One' occasionally delivers a very juicy chord change or pattern but altogether is so funky to be dated sounding and with a completely overcooked vocal. 'The Last Day' reminds me of a lighter Grateful Dead 'Fire on the Mountain,' replete with an obnoxious vocal.

Some tracks like the title piece have the complexity, introspection and build of tension I look for in a prog. record. By all measure 'Staircase to the Day' is a remarkable, intricate epic, the likes of which most bands would be pressed to achieve. Gravy Train brews up a cauldron of spellbinding instrumental magic in the jam following the main theme of 'Busted in Schenectady.' The first part of this song is the whimsical musical throwaway I have come to expect from this album after the several largely uninspired cuts. Then suddenly at the eleventh hour, this record goes places and how! And just when it's getting good and really grooving, it ends! The band could have run with that rollicking vibe another couple minutes.

Report this review (#1942670)
Posted Sunday, July 1, 2018 | Review Permalink

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