Colosseum – Valentyne Suite (1969)

frontcover1Valentyne Suite was the second album released by the band Colosseum. It was Vertigo Records’ first album release, and reached number 15 in the UK Albums Chart in 1969.[1]
Though the song “The Kettle” is officially listed as having been written by Dick Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman, a credit which is confirmed by Hiseman’s liner notes for the album, bassist and producer Tony Reeves later claimed that it was written by guitarist and vocalist James Litherland. (by Wikipedia)
One of England’s prime jazz-rock — or, more accurately, rock-jazz — outfits, most of the members of Colossuem had apprenticed in blues bands, and it shows very strongly on some of the material here. Both “The Kettle” and “Butty’s Blues” are essentially tarted-up 12-bar blues, although they work well in a grander context; in the latter case much grander, as a brass ensemble enters for the last part, drowning out everything but the guitar, an indication that this recording is in dire need of remastering. “Elegy” is a fast-paced, minor-key blues that stretches guitarist James Litherland’s vocal abilities. Things do get far more interesting with “The Machine Demands a Sacrifice,” which offers solo opportunities to organist Dave Greenslade and sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith before re-emerging in what can only be called a proto-industrial style, all heavily treated clattering percussion.
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The album’s real joy comes with “The Valentyne Suite,” which takes the band out of their bluesy comfort zone into something closer to prog rock. Bandleader Jon Hiseman is a stalwart throughout, his busy drumming and fills owing far more to jazz than the studied backbeat of rock. Greenslade proves to be a largely unsung hero, his only real solo in the suite something to offer a challenge to vintage Keith Emerson, but with swing. As to criticism, bassist Tony Reeves has very little flow to his playing, which severely hampers a rhythm section that needs to be loose-limbed, and Litherland’s guitar playing is formulaic, which can be fine for rock, but once outside the most straightforward parameters, he seems lost. In retrospect this might not quite the classic it seemed at the time, but it remains listenable, and for much of the time, extremely enjoyable. (by Chris Nickson )
Without any doubts: This is one of the finest jazz-rock albums ever recorded and this is one of my most favourite Albums.
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Live at the Bath Festival, June 28th, 1969
Personnel:
Dave Greenslade (keyboards, vibraphone, background vocal on 03.)
Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophones, flute)
Jon Hiseman (drums, percussion)
James Litherland (guitar, vocals)
Tony Reeves (bass)

+
Neil Ardley (conductor)
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Tracklist:
01. The Kettle (Heckstall-Smith/Hiseman) 6.46
02. Elegy (Litherland) 3.14
03. Butty’s Blues (Litherland) 3.28
04. The Machine Demands A Sacrifice (Litherland, Heckstall-Smith/Brown, Hiseman) 3:55
05. Valentyne Suite Theme One: January’s Search (Greenslade) 6.20
06. Valentyne Suite Theme Two: February’s Valentyne (Greenslade) 6.57
07. Valentyne Suite Theme Three: The Grass is Always Greener (Heckstall-Smith/Hiseman) 3.37
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