COLOSSEUM/COLOSSEUM II — The Grass Is Greener

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COLOSSEUM/COLOSSEUM II - The Grass Is Greener cover
4.03 | 12 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1970

Tracklist

A1 Jumping Off The Sun 3:00
A2 Lost Angeles 5:30
A3 Elegy 3:26
A4 Butty's Blues 6:45
B1 Rope Ladder To The Moon 3:42
B2 Bolero 5:28
B3 The Machine Demands A Sacrifice 2:48
B4 The Grass Is Greener 7:31

Total Time: 38:36

Line-up/Musicians

Dave Greenslade - Organ, Keyboards, Vocals;
Dick Heckstall-Smith - Saxophone;
Jon Hiseman - Drums;
Dave "Clem" Clempson - Guitar, Vocals;
Tony Reeves - Bass
James Litherland - Vocal on "Elegy"

About this release

ABC/Dunhill Records ‎– DS 50079(US)

Recorded: London - Summer/Winter 1969

This original LP was released in the US only

Thanks to snobb for the updates

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COLOSSEUM/COLOSSEUM II THE GRASS IS GREENER reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

EntertheLemming
The Best Restaurant in Rome (If You're a Lion)

This stateside only release from 1970 has come to resemble something of a curio in the Colosseum discography. It was rushed out with rather indecent haste just a few months after the successful Valentyne Suite (presumably under the pretext of James Litherland having being replaced in the interim by Clem Clempson) Anyways, given that it features the new singer and guitarist on alternate versions of previously released numbers, plus some new and old material, it still hangs together surprisingly well as a stand alone document and not some expedient ploy designed to plunge our short arms into deep pockets. Litherland's departure is a mixed blessing for your reviewer as I prefer his guitar work but favour Clempson's lower vocal range. Tensions had been running high in the band for some time prior to Litherland being asked to leave and he cites soloist's egos, over elaborate arrangements, and a dearth of 'in the pocket groove' from drummer Hiseman as all being contributing factors to his estrangement from his colleagues. More pointedly perhaps was him discovering quite by chance that his band mates were being paid considerably more than he was as the singer, guitarist and composer. How ironic therefore that the man they nicknamed 'Butty' (after the Mancunian slang for a sandwich) was toast after claiming he received too little bread (Man)

Jumping Off the Sun - This unique song was written by the rather tragic figure of one Mike Taylor, an incredibly original and talented jazz pianist who ended up drowned in the River Thames at just 30 years old, purportedly under his own hand. It's one of the most unusual and unnerving compositions I've heard in a long while and seems in places almost to defy the trumping gravitational pull of tension and its release we crave for in diatonic music. Even the chorus type 'hook' betrays a maverick agenda by landing on a lacerating discord. There are weird jutting cadences, sly metric jesting and unresolved harmonies at play here that apart from maybe Syd Barrett and Thelonious Monk, have no precedent I can cite.

Lost Angeles - It's fascinating to hear this early run-through of a number that was given its definitive reading on the stirring Live version from '71. Greenslade's murky organ occupies a less prominent role here but his gossamer chiming vibes are captured beautifully and Heckstall-Smith interjects some bluesy strands of noirish sax to cinematic effect. Hiseman is an incredibly accomplished and technical drummer but despite Litherland's claim that his playing lost much of its visceral pulse hereabouts, I find his contributions to be unfailingly supportive of the musical materials to hand. Although Clempson is not on a par with the masterful Chris Farlowe he does a decent job and at the very least we are spared his coma inducing solo from '71 that is so odiously predictable, overlong and cliche filled it was used in torture experiments conducted from behind the iron curtain designed to break western spies during the Cold War.

Elegy - An odd name for such a funky little monkey y'all? This is James Litherland singing and his highly strung tonsils are a perfect match for material like this (it should be, he wrote it) By some weird perverse reason best known to the mental health profession I always envisage this is what Sly and the Family Stone gettin' oreo on us would sound like? Identical to the track that appears on the Valentyne Suite.

Butty's Blues - Another Litherland piece which would be a rather ordinary 12 bar but for the highly imaginative and refreshingly original take on da blooz courtesy of Neil Ardley's brilliant arrangement. Neil was the musical director of the New Jazz Orchestra from 1964 to 1970 which employed some of the best young musicians in London including Ian Carr, Jon Hiseman, Jack Bruce, Tony Reeves, Barbara Thompson, Dave Gelly, Mike Gibbs, Don Rendell, and Trevor Tomkins et al. A veritable who's who of fledgling UK fusion circa the mid 60's. They recorded at least one album I know of called Le Déjeuner Sur L'Herbe which is well worth tracking down and, despite the gauche double entendre in the title, is not filled with stoned hippy jazz w.a.n.k and also contains two compositions by the aforementioned Mike Taylor.

Rope Ladder to the Moon - Almost a sister song to Taylor's Jumping off the Sun and one of Jack Bruce's finest creations which to this day, I haven't the foggiest idea what he's banging on about. It hardly matters so just enjoy this oriental inflected slice of angular 60's kitsch for what it is. Not quite as assured as the road tested version on Live from 1971 but that's to be expected with what was new material of course. Clempson struggles with some of the higher notes but on this occasion such flaws imbue his delivery with an endearing vulnerability.

Bolero - My old geography teacher perhaps put it best when he described my crammed essay on soil erosion as 'long winded graffitti that would shame even a condemned building'. Yep, Ravel is subjugated to the indignity of being rendered 'diggable' by those who should have been rendered senseless with a shovel. Clempson's flimsy Davy O'List impersonation in the middle is unbearable, unforgivable, inexcusable and credible reason enough to dispense entirely with electricity.

The Machine Demands a Sacrifice - Memorable chorus hook certainly and Greenslade's organ solo is well worth the wait but this is two good ideas stretched to breaking point.

The Grass Is Greener - I've always adored this section from the Valentyne Suite and it appears to be pretty faithful to the album version, albeit it's Clempson, not Litherland on guitar. Dave Greenslade's subtle but always commanding Hammond is a salutary lesson in how to steer a vessel without recourse to a gangplank. Once again alas, Clempson's creaking blues rock excesses are completely oblivious to the economy mirrored by Heckstall-Smith's indelible main theme and so keelhauling the insolent cur would be the only humane verdict all told.

There is some anecdotal evidence that had Colosseum been touring on the east coast of the USA in 1969 they would have been invited to perform at Woodstock. What this would have done for their subsequent career trajectory is at best speculative and at worst disingenuous. Forgive me for using a football analogy here but it's the most apt way I can think of to describe the demise of yet another delightful but doomed ensemble: Colosseum are perhaps comparable to the Dutch national football team i.e. they have thrilled audiences with their wonderful skill and technical mastery over many a lesser opponent but have won precisely zero, nada, squat with regards to trophies. Eleven brilliant players is not a 'team'
snobb
Third Colosseum studio album is a strange fruit. It was released in USA only, and formally is "Valentyne Suite" , band's second studio album's, version for US market. Even cover picture is almost the same (only darker and in a different hue). But under the cover, situation is more difficult. Half of the album (4 songs) are all new ,and don't appear on any other band's studio album ( Jumping Off the Sun, Lost Angeles, Rope Ladder to the Moon and Bolero). So this album has a full right to be counted as their third studio one. And big part music is very different from "Valentyne Suite" there due to the replacement of James Litherland for Dave 'Clem' Clempson.

In fact, there are three songs from "Valentyne Suite" side A presented, and part 3 from "Valentyne Suite", long composition, filling all side B on original "Valentine Suite " release is used as well ( under slightly different name as well - original name is "The Grass Is Always Greener ... "). But from all 4 songs, only one could be possible absolutely the same as on "Valentyne Suite" album. It is "Elegy", great song with previous vocalist Butty Litherland vocals. Three other are re-recorded with Clempson vocals.

Music on this album is generally same great early heavy jazz-rock, with massive keyboards and excellent sax of Dick Heckstall-Smith. Having its roots in r'n'b from late 60-s, Colosseum is one of great early jazz-rock band of all times. Compositions are complex, but very melodic, still with great rock tradition of songwriting ( and not main accent on musicianship technique). You will easily feel some blues rock and light psychedelic smell there.

Interesting and very competent work, but possibly not a best entrance to Colosseum. Clempson is their worst vocalist, and because of strange songs combination this album is not so representative. But absolutely must have for band's fans.

Members reviews

Miler72
There are so many occasions when the British and US releases differ, sometimes drastically, Colosseum is a perfect example. The debuts released in the UK and US are not the some. The Fontana version of Those Who Are About to Die Salute You is the original album, the US version of ABC/Dunhill replaced some of the songs with material from their forthcoming Valentyne Suite (not released in the States, at least not in that form or title). The Grass is Greener is what the American public got instead of Valentyne Suite. By this time, the group featured new guitarist Dave "Clem" Clempson who later replaced Peter Frampton in Humble Pie. So what you get is brand new studio cuts, reworking of Valentyne Suite material with the new guitarist (and vocalist), and one cut from Valentyne Suite left along, complete with previous guitarist and vocalist James Litherland. "Jumping off the Sun" is a fantastic piece, and it was too band the British never got to hear this studio version. "Lost Angeles" features lyrics that were no doubt about Los Angeles, calling it a shanty town, even for the millionaires. "Elegy" is exactly the same as on Valentyne Suite, but the other Valentyne Suite songs had vocals replaced by Clem, and sometimes rerecorded. The trippy outro of "The Machine Demands a Sacrifice" has been totally removed. Then material exclusive (in the studio, that is) to this album includes also a cover of Jack Bruce's "Rope Ladder to the Moon" and "Bolero". The former features probably the only time a Mellotron was featured on a Colosseum album, and probably the inspiration for Dave Greenslade to use a Mellotron much more in the future, particularly his next band, Greenslade. To me, you really need both Valentyne Suite and this one to get everything from this period in the band's career. Their best material can be found on both.
Sean Trane
Fifth article in a series of five

This hybrid album is a North American release only and a sort of bastardised products with a mix of tracks released elsewhere but in a different version and a different line-up. It even takes the artwork from the Valentyne Suite album, and an almost similar inner gatefold also. Yet in my eyes, this album is much deserving many attention from fans (and even almost the right to be an full-blown studio album in their discography) as there are two completely new tracks , two more that were to be featured on the double Live album, and from the four remaining tracks, three are a different version than the ones you can get on the two UK releases. As this album states, Clem Clempson is now the guitarist and Butty Litherland only appears on one track, the superb Elegy. But clearly Clempson is not a good lead vocalist, although he is fine back-up vocalist), and it is no wonder the Colosseum will be hiring Chris Farlowe for the next full release.

Jumping Off The Sun is a very interesting tracks loaded with vibes and bells and great time sig, but Clempson’s voice can do no match to what Litherland or Farlowe would’ve done for this track. Lost Angeles is yet another very interesting but not well exploited idea, and if you compare to the extended live version of Colosseum Live, it will pale in comparison, but it is still superb on this vinyl, as you can hear the greatness of the Greenslade/DHS composition. Elegy might just be the only tracl present on this album that might come in the same previously available one, although slightly shorter. Butty’s Blues is another track from Valentyne Suite, but stick with the previous version, as Clempson’s vocals are no match for Litherland’s and there is a full blown big band on the other .

The Jack Bruce-track Rope Ladder To The Moon is the first of a few tracks that will have Pete Brown lyrics and if the instrumentation is great (especially Greenslade’s percussions) the greatly expanded-live version with Chris Farlowe is more impressive. Bolero is is unavailable-elsewhere track and might just be the first example of Ravel’s piece with rock instrumentation, a few months before Crimson’s and two full years before ELP’s. It is probably the best version of all three because it is the one straying farthest from the monotony of Ravel’s piece. Machine is a shorter version of the track on Valentyne Suite. The last track is the third movement of the Valentyne Suite that hat had been released in North America as The Ides Of March on the first UK release. Did you say confusing? ;-(

Although this album is a bit lost in the jungle, it was never released as a CD on either side of the Atlantic, but recently new expanded re-issue of Valentyne Suite with the tracks from both album was issued. I can only warmly recommend it if you do not own the album yet, and if you do already and you are a major fan of Colosseum, you might just have to dip in your pocket again.

Ratings only

  • Fant0mas
  • KK58
  • Lynx33
  • nebol
  • Ponker
  • joe
  • darkprinceofjazz
  • TALIESYN

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