What more can one say about Colosseum? Their place in the history of jazz rock fusion is well known and deserved. Esoteric Recordings continue their re-releases of classic albums with Colosseum’s highly praised second album, Valentine Suite; re-mastering the main album with an added bonus track, but also adding a second disc of the U.S. released version. Both discs are contained in a jewel case with a twenty page booklet containing some useful notes by Malcolm Dome, photos and track information.
The original album was released in November 1969 on the then newly established Vertigo label, initially doing very well. I have a copy of the 2006 Sanctuary Records release of this album and in comparison this new version is definitely sharper, a more defined sound which has cleaned up the individual instruments. Ben Wiseman’s 24-bit digital re-mastering, at Broadlake Studios in Hertfordshire, has clearly done a very good job.
The first CD, which contains the original album, sounds very good across the five main tracks, the title track, The Valentyne Suite, particularly so as the re-mastering does justice to this classic three part track, a near perfect example of how to make a cohesive and important piece of work.
The interest for this release could centre on the second disc; The Grass is Greener is the U.S. and Canadian version of the album. This release mirrored the original U.K. release as far as the cover went, it being the same but with a blue/green tint applied. That is where the similarity ends, as the track listing is different with only four tracks appearing in different mixes, along with four new tracks recorded in the winter of 1969. Of the original songs Buffy’s Blues, The Machine Demands A Sacrifice and The Grass is Always Greener featured new guitar and vocal parts by Clem Clempson. There are differences between the versions of these four songs across the two albums, but these do appear to be subtle to my ears. The oddest thing is why they chose to extract The Grass Is Always Greener from the Valentyne Suite trio of tracks and present it on its own; I am guessing that this may well have been a record company decision. The four new tracks offer some interest, they are what you would expect from the group at this time, but overall these along with the original four do not sit together as well when compared to the original U.K. release.
This is an excellent version of an important release from Colosseum’s back catalogue with a sound quality superior to previous copies; with the inclusion of the second disc containing the U.S. release this makes it an interesting package. As always Esoteric have continued to do an excellent job at giving important releases a new lease of life, which hopefully will encourage new listeners to investigate these albums. If you don’t have a copy of this album and have been tempted, this is the version you need.
CD One – Valentyne Suite
01. The Kettle (4:28)
02. Elegy (3:14)
03. Butty’s Blues (6:46)
04. The Machine Demands A Sacrifice (3:55)
05. The Valentyne Suite (16:58)
– Theme One: January’s Search (6:25)
– Theme Two: February’s Valentyne (3:38)
– Theme Three: The Grass Is Always Greener (6:55)
06. Tell Me Now (3:40)*
*Recorded at Lansdowne Studios, London 22nd April 1969
Time – 38:44
CD Two – The Grass is Greener
01. Jumping Off The Sun (3:36)
02. Lost Angeles (5:33)
03. Elegy (3:13)
04. Butty’s Blues (6:46)
05. Rope Ladder To The Moon (3:42)
06. Bolero (5:29)
07. The Machine Demands A Sacrifice (2:51)
08. The Grass Is Greener (7:37)
Time – 38:10
Total Time – 77:42
Dave Greenslade – Hammond Organ, Piano, Tuned Percussion, Vibraphone, Backing Vocal (on The Machine Demands A Sacrifice)
Dick Heckstall-Smith – Soprano, Tenor Saxophones, Flute (on The Machine Demands A Sacrifice)
Jon Hiseman – Drums
Tony Reeves – Bass
James Litherland – Guitar, Vocals
Dave “Clem” Clempson – Guitar, Vocals (CD Two, except track 3)