Warner Bros 1976 / Angel Air 2014
The Hermit of dreams sails out in the open – solo but not alone.
With COLOSSEUM and GREENSLADE behind him, both bands’ founding member Dave Greenslade found himself in a free agent position where he could do anything he wanted – and it wasn’t the Rick Wakeman kind of grandiosity that the keyboardist had on his mind. Melodic ideas lingering on from Dave’s last ensemble effort and new ones floating in, Greenslade didn’t chart an entirely instrumental on his first-name-included debut, so “Cactus Choir” rolls out a curious melange of voiceless pieces, singing for themselves, and vocal-led cuts.
The three-part title track runs its “How The West Was Won” theme through variety of paces and demonstrates the whole expanse of the main man’s talent – from organ-shaped prog to the barrelhouse piano swing to chamber passages and vibe-spinkled jazziness – while opener “Pedro’s Party” picks up the Mexican theme on ARP synthesizer to spice it up with handclaps and, thus, nicely complement the exquisite groove courtesy of Tony Reeves‘ bass and Simon Phillips’ drums. There’s sunny translucence to “Gettysburg” that finds RARE BIRD’s Steve Gould inhabiting Jon Hiseman‘s joyous lyrics before the leader’s ivory orchestra offers a highly cinematic solo. Yet Greenslade had started writing music for TV back in 1975 and, when BBC decided to expand the “Gangsters” series which he’d scored, the composer jumped at the chance to turn its theme into a song and asked Chris Farlowe to deliver it; the COLOSSEUM warbler does a roaring job on this one, a bonus track here.
Another kind of visual playfulness defines the coupling of “Swings And Roundabouts” with its tentative reggae undercurrent and an improvised fair atmosphere, and “Time Takes My Time” where Dave’s dry pipes are wetted with Lissa Gray’s crystal soprano before PROCOL HARUM‘s Mick Grabham chimes in with a fantastic bluesy wail weaving it into Greenslade’s clarinet and piano fabric. And there are real strings and brass, conducted by Martyn Ford and arranged by the PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA’s Simon Jeffes, on the epic “Finale” that sees its writer deploy all his black-and-white machinery to create a tapestry of a high cosmic order.
Here’s an advent of heavenly choir, a natural progression from “Valentyne Suite,” a choir whose openness Dave Greenslade has never returned to, so it remains a glorious reminder of his most fantastic era.