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Colosseum - The Grass Is Always Greener
 

Colosseum - The Grass Is Always Greener

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Genre: progressive
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  The Grass Is Greener
Company: Dunhill
Catalog: DS 50079
Year: 1970
Country/State: UK
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 305
Price: $40.00

Best time to play: Sunday morning before anyone's gotten Up (headphones strongly suggested)

As far as I can tell, 1970's "The Grass Is Greener" was basically an American-ized version of 1969's "Valentyne Suite". Released in the States by ABC Dunhill (it never saw a UK release), the album featured four songs from the earlier LP. Curiously new singer/guitarist Dave Clempson apparently rerecorded his vocals over original singer James Litherland's performances on three of the four selections ('Butty's Blues', 'The Machine Demands a Sacrifice', and 'The Grass Is Greener'). The fourth track 'Elegy' featured the original Litherland vocal. Those "remakes" were rounded out by three new studio numbers: 'Jumping Off The Sun', 'Lost Angeles', 'Rope Ladder To The Moon', and 'Bolero'. Musically the album offered up an engaging mixture of blues-rock and jazzy moves. Think along the lines of John Mayall when he was working with an extended horn line-up and you'll have a feel for much of the album. For what it's worth, Clempson was a decent guitarist (check out his solo on 'Lost Angeles'), but in the vocal department he wasn't nearly as good as Litherland, or the forthcoming Chris Farlowe. Exemplified by tracks like 'Jumping Off the Sun', 'Lost Angeles' and 'Butty's Blues' his voice has always struck me as being tight and scratchy - very much like Jack Bruce's instrument. One of the standout performances, 'Elegy' served to showcase how good Litherland had been.

"The Grass Is Greener" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Jumping Off the Sun (Mike Taylor - Dave Tomlin) - 3:00
Yeah, it's progressive (always liked the opening bells), but courtesy of Dave Clempson's roaring guitar, had a distinctive rock edge. Actually the track's always reminded me of a Cream song with Clempson's lead vocal sounding very much like a Jack Bruce effort. You'll have to decide if that's a good thing or not. rating: *** stars
2.) Lost Angeles (Dave Greenslade - Dick Heckstall-Smith) - 5:30
'Lost Angeles' had an interesting jazzy edge , before Clempson's killer fuzz guitar solo kicked in. The overlooked heroes on this one were actually the Jon Hiseman and Tony Reeves rhythm section. rating: **** stars
3.) Elegy (James Litherland) - 3:26
The album's most commercial offering and the lone track featuring the original Litherland vocal, 'Elegy' was also one of the album highlights. A smooth and slinky bluesy-rocker, hearing this one you were left to wonder why the band elected to go with Clempson on vocals ... rating: **** stars
4.) Butty's Blues (James Litherland) - 6:45
A conventional bluesy track, the first half of 'Butty's Blues' basically served to showcase Dave Greenslade's organ. Then Clempson's vocals and the horn arrangement really kicked in and things went downhill. This one's always reminded me of something out of Brian Auger's catalog. rating: *** stars

(side 2)
1.) Rope Ladder to the Moon (Pete Brown - Jack Bruce) - 3:42
Another one that's always reminded me of a Jack Bruce track (yes, I know he co-wrote it), 'Rope Ladder to the Moon' had a memorable melody that found a nice niche between catchy and experimental and some of the eccentric lyrics Pete Brown and Bruce were so fond of. rating: **** stars
2.) Bolero (instrumental) (Mauriece Ravel) - 5:28
Apparently pulling a page out of The Nice recording catalog, their cover of Ravel's 'Bolero' was mildly entertaining. The first half of the song didn't stray too far from the original melody, but then Clemson's guitar solo kicked in and the song essentially abandoned the original melody in favor of a rock jam ... and then back to the main theme. rating: *** stars
3.) The Machine Demands a Sacrifice (Pete Brown - Jon Hiseman - James Litherland) - 2:48
As mentioned, 'The Machine Demands a Sacrifice' was one of the re-recorded tracks off of "Valentyne Suite"; reflected Clempson's vocals and included in a heavily abbreviated version. In spite of those adjustments, it was worth hearing. rating: *** stars
4.) The Grass is Greener (instrumental) (Dick Heckstall-Smith - Jon Hiseman) - 7:31
Perhaps the album's prettiest performance, the instrumental 'The Grass is Greener' showcased a wonderful melody that gave each member a shot at the spotlight - Reeves turned in one of the most melodic bass solos I've ever heard. rating: **** stars

I won't try to convince anyone it was a great album ('cause it wasn't), but it's one of those strange sets that I find myself drawn to from time to time. Maybe due to the fact it is pretty far outside the mainstream, but still listenable ... beats me.
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