Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Greenslade - 1973 - Bedside Manners Are Extra

Bedside Manners Are Extra

01. Bedside Manners Are Extra (6:16)
02. Pilgrim's Progress (7:12)
03. Time to Dream (4:46)
04. Drum Folk (8:44)
05. Sunkissed You're Not (6:27)
06. Chalkhill (5:24)

- Dave Greenslade / keyboards
- Andy McCulloch / drums & percussions
- Tony Reeves / bass
- Dave Lawson / keyboards

I have been aware of Dave GREENSLADE for some time now. Like his work with COLOSSEUM, such as "Valentyne Suite" (1969) which is truly a must have album for those who enjoy bluesy progressive jazz rock. And let's not forget his next band, simply called GREENSLADE. "Bedside Manners Are Extra" is their second album, released later the same year as their debut. Cover artwork is by Roger Dean, and the band logo was also created by Dean as well (which isn't hard to tell). All four members had been in established bands. We all know Dave GREENSLADE himself and his involvement with COLOSSEUM. Bassist Tony Reeves was also of COLOSSEUM (and appeared on their first two albums, "Those Who Are About To Die Salute You" and "Valentyne Suite"). He also played in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (in which another COLOSSEUM member, Dick Heckstall-Smith had played in). Andrew McCulloch was a brief member of KING CRIMSON, and had appeared on their album "Lizard", and keyboardist/vocalist Dave Lawson was a member of WEB during their final album ( I Spider from 1970, the previous two WEB albums, "Fully Interlocking" and "Therphosa Blondi" featured John L. Watson instead), and the one album from 1971 when WEB changed their name to SAMURAI.
Anyway, GREENSLADE's music tended to much more conventional progressive rock, those who aren't too keen on the jazzy/bluesy COLOSSEUM would have less problems here, but then the high-pitched vocals of Dave Lawson (he definately sounds a lot different than on I Spider) is an acquired taste and might throw off many people. You won't find much trace of that old COLOSSEUM sound here, despite the presence of two ex-COLOSSEUM members. Only half the songs on "Bedside Manners Are Extra" have vocals, the rest are instrumental. This album is also packed with Mellotron, I never imagined Dave GREENSLADE being a tron user, mainly because his works with COLOSSEUM were obviously dominated by organ and piano, but this album is loaded with it, and a good reason to buy this album, to fill a hole in your Mellotron collection. The title track starts off deceptively like soft rock, but most of the rest of the piece tends more to the Romantic prog spectrum. Most of the rest of the album has a more bombastic keyboard-dominated style of prog, but much more restrained than say, Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman. "Pilgrams Progress" is an instrumental piece with a recurring theme played on tron flute. There's the occasional ELP-like passage too. "Time to Dream" has an almost GENESIS-like feel to it, especially the use of Mellotron. "Drum Folk" gets frequently criticized for the use of drum solos twice, but the great passages (including more wonderful use of Mellotron) makes up for it. The final cut, "Chalichill" is an all-instrumental piece with a great jam at the end with a wonderful Moog solo. This is truly an underrated prog rock album (likely because of Dave Lawson's singing), and aside from CURVED AIR, one of the greats found on the Warner Bros. label (a label you can't get more mainstream than that, it's nice to see GREENSLADE and CURVED AIR on a label too full of overly-commercial crap).

I can't get over the photo of Dave GREENSLADE you find in the gatefold of the LP and that expression on his face.

No doubt, like RARE BIRD, this band also had two keyboardists and no guitarist, even if the music sounds nothing like RARE BIRD. It's an interesting fact that Dave GREENSLADE's first solo effort, "Cactus Choir" (1976) featured ex-RARE BIRD vocalist Steve Gould.

This is Greenslade's apex, and I'm not alone in thinking this way. Some of the most prominent Greenslade numbers ever written are right here, and even the interplaying between all four musicians is tighter and more cohesive than in their impressive debut album. There is also a productive expansion of Greenslade's sonic pallet, due to the inclusion of synth (by Lawson) and an enhancement in the role of mellotron, a role that proves quite relevant in many passages trhoughout the album. Things get started quite smoothly with the namesake prog ballad, whose first lines on piano are almost exactly the same as the ones that marked the final passages in the debut album's closing epic 'Sundance'. Well, 'Beside Manners.' is less epic and more reflective, with an unmistakable touch of irony in both the lyrics and Lawson's singing, particularly the sing- along choruses. The main basis played on grand and electric pianos is craftily adorned by mellotron orchestrations and successive solos on synthesizer and RMI electric harpsichord - not amazing precisely, but an attractive opener. Things really start to get typically Greenslade-esque from track 2. 'Pilgrims Progress' is one of the most emblematic instrumentals in Greenslade's career, and also one of the finest Dave Greenslade compositions ever: its various effective motifs and contrasting moods fluidly interconnected, the powerful performances of a well adjusted ensemble, the colourful keyboard resources that are displayed with total splendour and excitement, never getting too obtuse, always keeping a clear focus on the melodic lines - all these things make 'Pilgrims Progress' the most outstanding number in the album. But the other two instrumentals are nothing to be dismissed, not at all. 'Drum Folk' gives room for an excellent two-part drum solo masterfully delivered by McCulloch (shouldn't this guy be mentioned more often in prog forums and polls?), but there's more to it than that. The introductory ethereal organ/mellotron layers prepare the path for an effective prog- jazzy main motif in which the Hammond organ and the electric piano complement each other beautifully, while the rhythm section keeps an immaculately pace for the complex time signatures. Between both parts of the drum solo, comes a captivating Pink Floydian slow section: the mellotron flute intro is simply delicious (somewhere I read that the mellotron flute is perhaps the most beautiful keyboard sound ever, and I do tend to agree every time I listen to this brief part of 'Drum Folk'), and so are the organ harmonies added soon after, as well as the amazing RMI solo that emulates a bluesy guitar. The brief reprise of the main motif that serves as a coda ends the track with a proper sense of energy evidently developed in McCulloch's featured interventions. While not being as cohesive as the aforementioned instrumental, its epic orientation is certainly well accomplished. The last instrumental is 'Chalkhill', written by Lawson and Reeves: similar in structure to 'Pilgrims Progress', it also captures the prototypical Greenslade sound at its best. The remaining sung tracks are also very effective and powerful. The blues- rock infected 'Time to Dream' and the jazzier 'Sunkissed You're Not' are based on catchy melodies which are given an added touch of complexity through the use of clever arrangements and the layout of rooms for soloing.



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