Mike Prete    3-November-2001 Greenslade and Bedside Manners Are Extra


Greenslade's debut elicits a style that was similar to many symphonic bands of the time, sometimes leaning towards the earlier sound of the British proto-prog bands. The lineup featured dual keyboards, no guitar and a strong rhythm section. As can be expected, the music here is highly melodic and symphonic, dominated by the keyboards of Greenslade and Lawson, which produced a predominately instrumental sound. The vocals here are sure to rub some the wrong way, with Lawson's shrill and whiny vocals delivered in a fairly overwrought style. Thankfully, all the vocal songs have extended instrumental sections, and there are a few totally instrumental tracks.

The keyboard work is fairly reminiscent of early ELP/Egg with a hammond-driven sound. The rhythm section is quite strong as well, with Reeve's bass taking the place of the guitar, and McCulloch's strong, somewhat jazzy percussion creating a nice backdrop for the keys. The two standout tracks on the album, the instrumentals "Melange" and "Sundance" showcase this the best. The former has some nice multi-tracked bass and great keyboard playing, along with a good sense of dynamics. The latter is a great show of keyboard work, with plenty of beautiful piano, driving hammond and powerful mellotron.

After a few listens, the vocals become easier to handle, and are not nearly as distracting as before. There is plenty of great keyboard-dominated instrumental music here to recommend this album to any fan of symphonic progressive.

[Bedside Manners Are Extra]

Bedside Manners Are Extra is a slightly more focused work than its predecessor, but still contains all the components that made the first album successful. There's plenty of great keyboard work here, and especially of note is the added mellotron presence which increases the overall symphonic sound. There are also passages where the keys are distorted to sound like guitar, most notably on "Time To Dream". Lawson's vocals are much more restrained on this effort, much less irritating, and I actually enjoyed them most of the time. The tracks here are half instrumental, half vocal with great instrumental passages.

"Drum Folk" is pretty much the bane of many prog fans, containing not one, but two extended drum solos. Despite this, there is some great drum and mellotron/synth work in between. A lot of the songs have a darker edge, with a more aggressive and heavy bass sound, such as "Sunkissed You're Not" and "Time To Dream". There are also the great trademark instrumental songs in "Pilgrims Progress", another great keyboard dominated track, and the closer "Chalkhill". This album would make an excellent introduction to the band, and is an easy recommendation for those who already enjoy the group's work.

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