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Greenslade, Dave: Cactus Choir

With the band Greenslade grinding to a halt in 1975 due to more of a lack of business nous than musical inspiration, Dave Greenslade decided, during the next year, to branch out on his own. Gathering a talented group of friends and session performers around him, the keyboard man set about recording a batch of songs he’d prepared for what he’d previously thought would be the next album by his now defunct band.

As Cactus Choir is revealed (the title track being about the colonisation of the American West (Dave debunks the idea that the whole album revolves around this concept in the jovial liner notes)) so that link would become more obvious; the musical themes and structures in play very similar to those Greenslade had specialised in. With Dave’s ex-bandmate Tony Reeves happy to be involved when he could, he and Dave Markee handled bass, while the up and coming drummer Simon Phillips would feature throughout. Singer Steve Gould (Rare Bird) would round out the core band with a tremendous vocal performance, although a large proportion of what’s on offer would prove to play to Greenslade’s instrumental strengths. The man himself, however, would also add his only vocal ever to the second half of the two part “Swings And Roundabouts/Time Takes My Time”, which is also augmented by Lissa Gray’s more cultured voice.

As Dave alludes in the liner essay, in the end Cactus Choir didn’t manage to capture the public’s imagination, with little commercial success coming its way, but with a mix of Rick Wakeman like themes and something similar to what Vangelis would offer in years to come sprinkled across much of the album, it makes for an interesting footnote to the Greenslade discography. However, with punk just about to explode, the timing of the release was unfortunate at best, the likes of the jaunty and forceful “Country Dance” and gently meandering “Forever And Ever” doubtless seen as dinosaur rock at the time. As would the album’s strongest piece in the shape of the closing “Finale”; a more grandiose, but still deeply melody based and intricately constructed piece becoming the most driven track on show.

Having previously been asked, along with the rest of Greenslade, to score the music for a one off TV show, Gangsters, Dave would go on to write and record the theme tune for future episodes when a series was commissioned. It’s inclusion here, with Colosseum’s Chris Farlowe on vocals, is welcome, even if it is completely disconnected in tone, feel and sound with the album itself. It would however open the door to this type of work for Dave and until 1994, TV music became his main focus.

This is an interesting and welcome reissue of an underrated album, albeit one which appears to have come from a vinyl source, with some pops and crackles audible as the CD wears on. However, the sound is good overall and there’s still a vibrancy here that some overly remixed albums can lose. Featuring the original, stunning, Roger Dean artwork, Cactus Choir stands up well to scrutiny some forty-plus years after its initial release. Although with the era it originally came from being embarrassingly rich with progressive jewels, it’s equally easy to understand why it never quite rose to the top.

Track Listing
1. Pedro’s Party

2. Gettysburg

3. Swings And Roundabouts-Time Takes My Time

4. Forever And Ever

5. Cactus Choir

6. Country Dance

7. Finale

8. Gangsters

Added: May 18th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Cactus Choir at Angel Air
Hits: 880
Language: english

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