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Dave Greenslade: Cactus Choir

Welcome reissue of the keyboard great’s solo debut.

After serving with British jazz-prog-fusioneers Colosseum and dissolving his own eponymous band, Dave Greenslade went solo with Cactus Choir in 1976.

Mostly instrumental and largely guitar-free, it demonstrates what a quietly talented keyboard player Greenslade was (and is), utilising a wide range of the then-available analogue sounds, from Moog to Mellotron, and clavinet to Hammond organ. Although no full-blown concept album, there’s a (very) loose connecting theme of the history of the American West. That is evident occasionally, but harder to discern in tracks like Country Dance or Time Takes My Time (with Greenslade himself providing lead vocals of, it must be said, dubious quality). Opener Pedro’s Party is a bright, clean shuffle with merest hints of Spaghetti Westerns and mariachi bands. With lyrics from Colosseum compatriot Jon Hiseman, Gettysburg is a strangely upbeat number, about a visit to that battlefield site, and it’s vaguely reminiscent of Alan Parsons. Much of the material here had been sketched out for inclusion on a full Greenslade band album, and many parallels can be heard in tracks like Swings And Roundabouts with its strange sounding middle section, the atmospheric Forever and Ever and Country Dance, although it all tends to be more gentle and measured than much of his previous work. Finale is arguably the prog highlight here, with its suite of tunes/themes, exciting 68 variations and combinations of modern classical sections and jazzy workouts. Included as a bonus track is Gangsters, which Greenslade had written as instrumental theme tune for a BBC drama of the same name, and then recorded this updated and slightly menacing version for a second series, with Chris Farlowe on vocals. Cactus Choir may not be a landmark album, but it’s sad this Greenslade relic has been unavailable since its original release – it contains some interesting ideas, and great playing.