Colosseum, like Fleetwood Mac, was a band that evolved out of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. While Fleetwood Mac started off as a blues band, then eventually evolved in to your typical, multi-platinum corporate rock band by the mid 1970s, Colosseum went for a more adventurous path by combining the burgeoning prog rock scene with blues and jazz.
The band consisted of saxist Dick Heckstall-Smith, guitarist and vocalist James Litherland, bassist Tony Reeves, organist Dave Greenslade, and drummer Jon Hiseman. Heckstall-Smith, Hiseman, and Reeves all come from Mayall. Valentyne Suite is their second album, originally released in 1969 on Vertigo Records (same label that gave us Gentle Giant, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Jade Warrior, Kraftwerk, etc.). It was the very first album ever released on that label, and is highly regarded as Colosseum's finest achievement, and I won't argument about that.
The album starts off with "The Kettle" which is a rather heavy rock category, in which Litherland's guitar is the most predominant thing about this song. The next song, "Elegy" is a jazzy piece with sax, and is definately one of my favorites here. "Butty's Blues", is, as the name suggest, a rather bluesy piece, with a horn section that makes one think of Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears. "The Machine Demands A Sacrifice" is another bluesy rocker which ends with some strange psychedelic effects.
The album ends with the title track, which is the album's centerpiece. It's a side length, three movement suite which showcases Dave Greenslade talent on the organ and Dick Heckstall-Smith's saxes. A lot of this piece is just simply mindblowingly intense, especially the last movement, "The Grass Is Always Greener".
I could hardly believe what I was hearing when I heard this album. I really can't think of another album this mindblowingly intense, aside from Il Balletto di Bronzo's YS (1972), that is. Valentyne Suite was Colosseum's last album to feature Tony Reeves and James Litherland. They would be replaced by vocalist Chris Farlowe, future Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson, and bassist Mark Clarke. Litherland would form Mogul Thrash with future Family, King Crimson, U.K., and Asia bassist John Wetton, and Reeves would latter join with Dave Greenslade and form Greenslade. If you want to hear some mindblowingly intense progressive bluesy jazz rock, you owe it to yourself to get Valentyne Suite, you won't regret it.
Colosseum: Valentyne Suite (1969) Posted by Mike Goodrich on 2006-10-02 23:28:07 My Score: Bought the US version of "Those Who Are About ..." which includes the Valentyne Suite as all of side B. That was in 1970. Was very moved by this LP and this wonderous mix of Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Classical motifs. Have never really recovered nor found anything that could really match it. I miss that Colosseum, and can only wish for that very free open era of what we called "underground" music in those days, because it was played on then new and little know FM stations that avoided playing pop stuff. Oh, for the good ol' days ...
Colosseum: Valentyne Suite (1969) Posted by Bibi on 2005-11-24 11:10:19 My Score: I'm sick of all modern songs and I was looking for really good music. A friend of mine lent me Valentyne Suite. Well, I just had to listen to it once and I completely fell in love with it. Never heard such a talented group who could mix jazz and prog rock in such a marvellous way. Love it.
Colosseum: Valentyne Suite (1969) Posted by princesstastebud on 2005-09-29 04:14:26 My Score: If Cream were a prog band, they'd sound like Colosseum. The title track is one of the first sidelong suites in prog history, and I must admit I was not prepared for how INTENSE it is! Crazy saxes and the best keyboard soloing this side of ELP. Also don't miss the psychedelic blues "The Kettle" (excellent) and the jazzy "Elegy". A forgotten classic! Seek it out!
Colosseum: Valentyne Suite (1969) Posted by Lemongait on 2005-06-13 03:04:47 I admit, I've only heard the title track off of this album, but what a track! It's really a pity that they didn't last longer than they did...
Colosseum: Valentyne Suite (1969) Posted by Pete Marriott on 2005-02-21 18:05:24 My Score: Having seen the band in concert, and witnessing "Valentyne Suite". This album is fantastic, but in my opinion every Colosseum album is fantastic. Especially "Colosseum Live" from 1971, dont be put off that it is a live album, just listen to it and be amazed at the musicanship.