For many listeners, Procol Harum’s legacy centres around their first three albums (1967’s ‘Procol Harum’, 1968’s ‘Shine On Brightly’ and 1969’s ‘A Salty Dog’) and the evergreen classic single ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. Indeed, that would have been enough to secure them a place in the rock history books, but the ever prolific band released a further six albums between 1970 and 1977. While these albums were destined to only be heard by the more faithful fan, each one provided a selection of highlights, and while 1975’s ‘Procol’s Ninth’ doesn’t seem too inspirational in terms of either title or sleeve art, it is certainly no exception.
Greenslade’s self-titled debut from February 1973 introduced the world to an intricate world of double keyboard led prog, peppered with occasional elements of jazz fusion. It was by no means a perfect record – some of the tracks seemed over complicated for the sake of it and the production wasn’t as crisp as it could’ve been – but it gave the band something solid on which they could build, and just nine months later they returned with a follow-up. Released in the November, ‘Bedside Manners Are Extra’ is superior at almost every turn. Keyboard player/singer Dave Lawson mightn’t have the best voice in the world and occasionally the lack of guitar can be jarring, but the arrangements throughout the album are enough to make it stand up. Decades on, it’s easy to see how ‘Bedside Manners’ is a landmark recording for Dave Greenslade and really helped to make a name for the band in progressive rock fan circles.
Of all the second division prog bands of the 70s – those who never quite made it to household name status with Yes and Camel – Greenslade are, perhaps, the band who’ve most been relegated to history. Despite a few high profile BBC appearances and four albums released between 1973 and 1975, they’ve never quite been given their full dues. If Greenslade get mentioned at all, it’s for their second album ‘Bedside Manners Are Extra’, released at the tail end of 1973. ‘Spyglass Guest’ – released the following year – is arguably a much better album.
For those of you who don’t know, neil (often written in lower case) was a hippie character, played by Nigel Planer in the alternative comedy series The Young Ones. After that programme came to an end, Planer reprised the character and recorded this album, full of late 60s/early 70s hippie classics, interspersed with spoken word comedy pieces. What’s of greatest interest here though are the musicians involved – the cast list (in addition to a few of Planer’s comedy chums) features a handful of musicians from the early 70s Canterbury Scene. Dave Stewart (the Hatfield and the North man, not to be confused with the beardy one from the Eurythmics) has the greatest impact, playing lots of instruments as well as handling production duties. The first big question which needs asking is exactly how did Planer get these musicians involved? Did he know them personally? Planer, unfortunately, has never gone on record to discuss the roll-call of famous faces and they almost certainly never met him at the recording sessions, but there they are. It almost seems like a minor miracle.