When you think of the keyboardist in the history of the Prog universe in the golden-era of the ‘70s, you think of; Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Tony Banks, Mike Ratledge, and Richard Wright to name a few, who have influenced people including Jordan Rudess and Richard Barberi, to name a few, who have the maestro and wizard’s hat and cape and fly off into the sky to create some mythical and magical adventures in their sound. But there is one keyboardist that has been overlooked in the genre and that person is none other than Dave Greenslade.
Fresh from his work with the Jazz Rock band, Colosseum, after the band broke up in 1971 with the release of Colosseum Live at Manchester University, Dave knew that he wanted to carry the sounds of Jazz Fusion and touches of the Symphonic structures with his music and formed the group, Greenslade back in 1972. The band considered Dave Lawson (Web, Samurai) on Lead vocals and Keyboards, Tony Reeves on Bass (Colosseum), and Andy McCulloch on drums (King Crimson and Fields), created not just wonderful music, but more of something far more enduring to captivate the listeners with their sound. And of course, the first two album artworks done by Roger Dean.
That and their albums released on a 2-CD set reissued from Edsel, shows that while they released only four albums, shows that while they were underrated and received some positive feedback from the Music Press including DJ Alan “Fluff” Freeman from BBC Radio 1, shows that they could have gotten a huge successful career and would have knocked Yes out of the ballpark. Their sole self-titled debut album released in 1973, showed that while they had a head start, it proves that they were on the road to spread word of mouth.
With touches of Soul, Fusion, and a lot of orchestral compositions in the pieces in the music from Greenslade and Lawson’s work as keyboardists to create music for a Fantasy film, there are some wonderful tracks that would have your jaws drop. Songs like the opening mellow turn uplifting piece, Feathered Friends and the futuristic views of the Wild West from the instrumental, An English Western that goes from Ragtime to Blues to a Mellotronic finale.
Elsewhere, Drowning Man has some amazing vibes from a dance-like Organ sound to a Synthesizer to make you get up on your feet and tap to the beat while the seven minute keyboard wonder, Melange which has some challenging parts in the different levels of the time signatures, sounds almost like it could have been recorded for an epic film in the late ‘70s. At times it goes through Prog, Classical, and Jazz while Tony Reeves works his magic on the bass lines to make it out of this world.
Bedside Manners Are Extra, released in the same year as a follow up to their debut album, is a soothing and funky adventure ride, but the climatic elements are there and the arrangement is right in your face. The introductive title track is very atmospheric and persuasive as the band follow Lawson’s vocalization and creates moody scenery while the touching and musical instrumental turned on the road adventure to the countryside on Pilgrim’s Progress is a perfect anthem.
Chalk Hill and Time to Dream resembles the Herbie Hancock meets ELP’s Headhunters and Trilogy sessions that is an ode to a groupie is a powerful rocking eruption and shows Lawson and Greenslade working on some potions on the keyboard solo that is fiery and blazing hot with electricity between the two of them. With their third album, Spyglass Guest, which has a cover of a gong instead of the hooded magician, released in 1974, sees the band still carrying the Pastoral Rock sound, but going into the waters of the Mainstream.
Spirit of the Dance has this wonderful motion of the Keyboard turn to sing-along with the folk-like melody that is just beyond the structures as the band work like a team going through difficult movements in the piece while the Whimsical take of the Canterbury scene on Drive-Thru Fried Chicken places, Little Red Fry-Up, pays tribute to Colonel Sanders as if it was his theme song. But it’s the subdued acoustic touches done by Andy Roberts and the electrical sounds of Clem Clempson on Siam Seesaw, turning it somewhat Hard Folk Rock while the Soulful ballad, Red Light sees Lawson and McCulloch as a duo, writing a love song on a bad girl who had been traumatized thanks to the glamour and the destruction from Hollywood’s torture.
The Fourth and Final Album, Time and Tide, released in 1975, sees the band getting back into their Symphonic-Orchestral rock roots and knowing it was going to be their last album, and low on fuel, they decided to give it a big and final hurrah. As Tony Reeves left the band, Martin Briley replaced him for the final curtain call. Even though it was too commercial and not the direction the fans wanted Greenslade to get into, however, it is an okay album. And while Dean didn't do the cover, it was Patrick Woodruffe to bring the magician back into the cover art, knowing that they decided to give it all they got.
Not to mention four centerpieces on the album including; the Synth Brass Rock Medieval Metal touches of Animal Farm, Renaissance music going nuts like a bullet train going 100 miles per hour on Catalan featuring some crazy synths, hand-clapping rhythm, mellotron and harpischord beauty doing the Sardana in Spain as Humoristic fun comes right behind you for the Battlefield with an organ driven sound on The Ass’s Ears. But it’s the ¾ Jazz waltz time signature of their theme from the BBC TV 1975 drama series, Gangsters, which is a perfect way to close the album off.
It’s a shame that Greenslade called it a day after Time and Tide was released and it would have been great to see what would they have done next after they embark on to do other projects as Dave Greenslade would release his most ambitious solo album in 1978 at the height of Punk’s peak, The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony. Truly underrated and out of this world, Greenslade’s music is a must listen to in the voyages of obscure progressive rock.