Thursday, 14 July 2011

“Spyglass Guest and Time And Tide” by GREENSLADE. A Review Of The 2011 2CD Reissue.

"…Inner Space…"

Like many longhaired spotty-teenagers in the early to mid 70's, I was completely drawn in by PROG ROCK and its mind-expanding themes. I’d be sat there on a Saturday morning (before Alan Freeman's Rock Show on Radio 1) with my Garrard SP25 turntable, Dustbuster and Emitex Cleaning Cloth all on the go - whilst I devoured the graphically drawn lyrics on Genesis and Yes albums. It wasn’t long before my sensitive addiction spread to Uriah Heep, Gentle Giant and Badger – in fact anything with a Roger Dean album cover on it. It was therefore a natural progression to stumble on Dave Greenslade's keyboard vehicle – GREENSLADE. I thought the first two albums "Greenslade" and "Bedside Manners Are Extra" (both 1973 on Warner Brothers) had good moments, but their 3rd LP "Spyglass Guest" saw a level of sophistication that was undeniably better – and in places – even rather beautiful. Which is where this timely reissue comes in…

Released May 2011, Rhino/Edsel EDSD 2098 contains Greenslade’s 3rd and 4th studio albums on two CDs:
Disc 1 is “Spyglass Guest” - originally released August 1974 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56055 (38:49 minutes)
Disc 2 is “Time And Tide” – originally released April 1975 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56126 (32:33 minutes)

The 20-page booklet is much better than I thought it would be – all the original album artwork is here including the lyrics and inner gatefold pictures; there’s a knowledgeable history on the band and the albums by ALAN ROBINSON and best news of all is the hugely upgraded sound. PHIL KINRADE has done the remastering at Alchemy Studios in London and a superlative job it is too – far better than the dull Eighties CDs I’ve had for years just to have the music. Speaking of which - the music is keyboard-driven Prog Rock with sophisticated Jazz rhythms, chord changes and a lyrical lightness of touch that was even fun at times. Bandleader Dave Greenslade played a huge array of instruments - ARP Synthesizers, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet, Harmonium and Mellotron. The band also featured Dave Lawson on Guitars and Keyboards, Tony Reeves on Bass and Lead Vocals with Andrew McCullock on Drums. Ace sessionman and guitarist Martin Briley replaced Dave Lawson for "Time And Tide".

To the music - no matter how much affection I once had for these albums - in 2011 they sound horribly dated. Tony Reeves vocals still feel strangulated to me. But there is still wonderful stuff on here nonetheless - in particular the instrumental that ended Side 1 of "Spyglass Guest" - "Siam Seesaw". Alan Robinson’s liner notes describe it as "…thoughtful, elegant and a real gem…" and he’s right. I’ve waited decades to hear it sound this good – and I’ll admit that at 52 – a little Proggy tear of joy came out of my eye on rehearing it.
“Little Red Fry Up” has the guitar of former Colosseum axeman Dave “Clem” Clemson, while Andy Roberts of Liverpool Scene and Plainsong did acoustic guitar on the lovely “Siam Seesaw”. “Joie De Vivre” is excellent (lyrics above) – featuring Violin work from Graham Smith (String Driven Thing) trading off keyboard codas with Greenslade. “Red Light” is the nearest they ever got to a single track – clever lyrics with the keys aping the melody. “Rainbow” opens with rainfall and a sinister piano lead-in – it’s then added to by treated drum and cymbal patterns, which fades into a prettier piano passage halfway through that is beautifully produced by Jeremy Ensor. It’s very Prog, but it’s actually very good. “Spyglass Guest” ends on a cover version of Cream’s “Theme For An Imaginary Western”. In fact the album saw their only chart action in the UK - 3 weeks - peaking at Number 34.

1975’s “Time And Tide” saw collaboration with Patrick Woodroffe on the album artwork (they would work later on 1978’s double “The Pentateuch Of The Cosmogony”) – Woodroffe’s art bearing more than a passing resemblance to Roger Dean’s iconic work. While it might have looked the part, the opening “Animal Farm” is awful while “Newsworth” isn’t much better. The Treverva Male Voice Choir lends itself to “Time” which segues into a full-on Mellotron “Tide” which is very good. “Doldrums” is nice (like an outtake from “Wind And Wuthering”), but most of it sounds wildly out-of-place for 1975 and even tedious.

1976 would see the arrival of PUNK which would blow away all this Hippy nonsense – and rightly so. But for a brief moment back there, to me and many others - who held this band and that period of music in great affection - a 25-minute Mellotron solo seemed like the most natural thing in the world – and even beautiful somehow…

To sum up – this 2CD set is a five-star reissue of three-star material – making available again two rare vinyl LPs with enhanced packaging and really great sound. And at less than a fiver, if you’ve any affection for even parts of them - it’s a deal.

I’m off now to get a haircut and find a real job…

PS: their first two albums “Greenslade” and “Bedside Manners Are Extra” are also reissued May 2011 on Edsel as a 2CD set for under £5.


Anonymous said...

i think these are excellent recordings and the price on Amazon UK is unbeatable, cheaper than anywhere else. Of course these "masterings" have something weird, it seems a bit louder when i listened to it on my headphones, but anyway is worth the investment.

Mark Barry said...

They are superb soundwise.

I acquired the "Greenslade" and "Bedside Manners Are Extra" 2CD set too from May 2011 - and again - great sound (even if the material is hard to take in places).

Mark Barry

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