The Class of 1970: Colosseum’s ‘The Grass is Greener’ & ‘Daughter of Time’
Any discussion of the advent of jazz-rock fusion must include Miles Davis and his disciples, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Soft Machine, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, and Colosseum. Those last four are all British exponents of the genre, often underappreciated for their contributions to the movement.
Colosseum were formed by Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophones) and Jon Hiseman (drums) in 1968. They had played together in two of the most important of the U.K.’s seminal bands: the Graham Bond Organisation and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. During 1968, they also performed on a superb one-off jazz album by Jack Bruce called Things We Like with John McLaughlin also in tow. Bruce was played in the Graham Bond Organisation.
They recruited Dave Greenslade (organ, piano, vibraphone, and vocals), Tony Reeves (bass), and James Litherland (guitar and vocals). In 1969, the group debuted with Those Who Are About to Die Salute You in March of 1969 and then Valentyne Suite in November.
1970 would see the release of two more great albums from Colosseum, followed by a superb live album in 1971, right before the group disbanded. The first of these albums was The Grass is Greener, a hybrid of sorts, with material from Valentine Suite plus new material with new guitarist Dave “Clem” Clempson; this was a U.S. and Canada release only. Daughter of Time, recorded during the summer and issued in December, had a number of personnel changes and additions.
The Grass is Greener
Personnel: Dave Greenslade, organ, keyboards, vocals; Dick Heckstall-Smith, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, woodwinds; Jon Hiseman, drums; Dave “Clem” Clemson, guitar, vocals; Tony Reeves, bass; and James Litherland, vocals (on “Elegy”). The album was issued as Dunhill DS 50079. It was produced for Hit Record Productions Ltd. by Tony Reeves and Gerry Bron. Composer titles are in (parentheses); song times in [brackets].
“Jumping Off the Sun” (Mike Taylor, Dave Tomlin) [3:00] jumps out immediately, Clempson singing. It is a rocker — with deep chimes throughout.
Heckstall-Smith shines on “Lost Angeles” (Greenslade, Heckstall-Smith) [5:30], which begins with vibes and drums. Tenor sax and vocal emerge, and Greenslade switches to organ. Reeves effects a groove change during Clempson’s solo, and Heckstall-Smith crushes, as does Hiseman.
“Elegy” (Litherland) [3:26] is a beautiful uptempo song piloted by Hiseman’s outstanding drumming. Heckstall-Smith sounds great on soprano sax, and former guitarist Litherland’s vocals here sound smooth.
As advertised, ”Butty’s Blues” (Litherland) [6:45] mines the blues depths, led by Greenslade’s organ. Clempson soars on the blues vocals, and Heckstall-Smith gets another fine feature on soprano and then tenor sax. He then plays the double sax à la Roland Kirk and George Braith, and he does it so well. The surprise here is the uncredited brass section that blows this tune up.
“Rope Ladder to the Moon” (Pete Brown, Jack Bruce) [3:42] is a song from Jack Bruce’s first (non-jazz) solo album Songs for a Tailor. This is an interesting cover, Greenslade on vibes. Clempson does an adequate job trying to match the vocal gymnastics of Bruce. Tenor sax and vibes have a nice pairing with strings (!!) behind them.
“Bolero” (Maurice Ravel) [5:28] opens traditionally, Greenslade’s organ marching to the military precision of Hiseman’s tempo. At some point, it veers toward Zappa (think Burnt Weeny Sandwich) with keyboard and soprano sax (??) very high, almost cartoonish. Then Clempson reimagines the tune with a fine guitar solo, Reeves excellent on bass.
This version of “The Machine Demands a Sacrifice” (Brown, Hiseman, Litherland) [2:48] is a minute shorter than the one on Valentyne Suite. Heckstall-Smith opens on flute. It is a fine uptempo piece with solid vocals. Greenslade’s organ solo is excellent.
“The Grass Is Greener” (Heckstall-Smith, Hiseman) [7:31] was the third section of the original “Valentyne Suite.” Heckstall-Smith introduces this fine composition. greens lade has a fine feature here, and there are more nods to Zappa. Reeves gets a nice solo before Clempson’s very restrained and delicious guitar outing. As the tempo rapidly increased, everybody is blazing before the powerful conclusion.
This Spotify playlist contains the original album Valentyne Suite and The Grass is Green.
Daughter of Time
Personnel: Dave Greenslade, organ, keyboards, vocals; Dick Heckstall-Smith, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, woodwinds, spoken word on Track 1; Jon Hiseman, drums percussion; Dave “Clem” Clempson, guitar, vocals (lead on 3); Tony Reeves, bass; Mark Clarke, bass guitar (on 1,5,7); Chris Farlowe, lead vocals (on 1,2,4,5,7); Louis Cennamo, bass guitar (on 2,3,4,6); and Barbara Thompson, flute; alto, soprano, tenor, and baritone saxophones, backing vocals (on 1,2,3,4).
Arrangements for tracks 2 and 4 were by Neil Ardley, who directed: Derek Wadsworth, trombone; Harold Beckett, fluegelhorn, trumpet; Jack Rothstein, 1st violin, Trevor Williams, 2nd violin; Nicholas Kramer, viola; Charles Tunnell, 1st cello; and Fred Alexander, 2nd cello.
Gerry Bron produced the album at Hit Record Productions Ltd. It was recorded during the summer of 1970 at Lansdowne Studios London with engineer Peter Gallen. “The Time Machine” was recorded live at Royal Albert Hall 07.02.70 (or 02.07.70 in logical U.K. speak). It was issued as Dunhill DSX-50101.
The title is an abbreviated version of: THE DAUGHTER OF TIME IS TRUTH.
The album opens with a powerful rocker, Hiseman at the controls. ”Three Score and Ten, Amen” (Clempson, Greenslade, Hiseman) [5:38] soars with Clarke’s bass line and Farlowe’s powerful vocals. Clempson rips a fine wah-wah guitar solo before spoken word from Heckstall-Smith ends the song.
“Time Lament” (Greenslade) [6:13] begins as a ballad, strings in the background. Heckstall-Smith has a nice sax solo before he duets with the string section.
Greenslade’s beautiful bouncy piano opens “Take Me Back to Doomsday” (Clempson, Greenslade, Hiseman, Heckstall-Smith) [4:25]. Cennamo on bass is impressive. The tune rocks out, then is graced by Thompson’s flute, and finally flute and Heckstall-Smith’s tenor dancing. Clempson sings this one.
“The Daughter of Time” (Barry Dennen, Greenslade, Heckstall-Smith) [3:33] is an explosion of genres, very Zappa-like. There are strings and a stinging guitar solo during this short, heavy outing.
“Theme for an Imaginary Western” (Pete Brown, Jack Bruce) [4:07] is another superb composition from Songs for a Tailor, with Bruce’s awesome voice in charge. Hiseman played on the original. Mountain also recorded a great version with Leslie West. This one pales by comparison, vocally. Farlowe simply cannot match either of those icons. The band — guitar, bass, and drums — sound great, but…
“Bring Out Your Dead” (Clempson, Greenslade) [4:20] is a fine nod to The Nice’s “Rondo,” which in turn was homage to Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” Organ and bass romp through the song, very uptempo. Clempson has a brief wah-wah explosion before Greenslade on vibes shines. The song almost winds down to a halt before reemerging with fine organ and guitar.
The first minute of “Downhill and Shadows” (Clempson, Hiseman, Tony Reeves) [6:13] highlights Heckstall-Smith, who deserved more space on this album. It includes his double-sax playing before guitar introduces Farlowe, and it turns into a fine blues, despite the fact that Hiseman’s last stanza says:
From now on I’m not searching
I’ve got nothing now to lose
I had a dream that told me everything
I’ve got nothing now to choose
It’s all downhill and shadows
But this song hasn’t been a blues.
The live track is “The Time Machine” (Hiseman) [8:11], which opens with Hiseman displaying his superb percussive talents. This will remind you of Ginger Baker, whom Hiseman replaced in the Graham Bond Organisation eight years earlier. The track opens as the band turns Hiseman loose. They join him for the coda.
This Spotify playlist also contains a bonus track.
Colosseum were in the vanguard of jazz-rock fusion, and we are ever grateful!