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THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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The Greatest Show On Earth biography
Founded in London, UK in 1968 - Disbanded in 1971

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH were originally formed in 1968 by guitarist Garth-Roy and his bass-playing brother Norman. The original line-up included organist Mick Deacon, drummer Ron Prudence and three horns players, Dick Hanson, Tex Phillpotts and Ian Aitcheson. The band's first vocalist was black American Ozzie Lane but he returned to his native New Orleans a year later and was replaced by Colin Horton-Jennings, not only a strong gravel-voiced singer but also quite adept on the guitar, bongos and flute. The group's mixture of R&B soul, jazz and prog rock brought them to the attention of EMI's progressive label Harvest Records, who signed the band and issued, in february 1970, the single, "Real Cool World"/"Again And Again" which, though not a hit in the UK, gave the band a medium-sized hit across Europe where they were also an in-demand live attraction. Both tracks featured on their March 1970 debut LP, "Horizons" which was housed in a distinctive sleeve designed by Hipgnosis and coincided with a Radio One session for Mike Harding on which they played three new songs: "Borderline", "Mountain Song" and "Time". A second session for Harding, in November 1970, featured "The Leader" and "Check Me Into Your Life", the latter of which has never officially been released. "Tell The Story"/"The Mountain Song" had failed to chart when released in September 1970, and the same fate awaited the band's second album "The Going's Easy" though one track from the LP, "Magic Woman Touch" was later released by THE HOLLIES.

The lack of chart success contributed to the band splitting in mid-1971. Ron Prudence, Ian Aitcheson and Tex Phillpotts quit music altogether, whilst Horton-Jennings joined CHASER and later turned up in TAGGET releasing one self-titled album for EMI in 1974. Dick Hanson turned to session work and recorded with the likes of THE BLUES BAND, GRAHAM PARKER, DAVE EDMUNDS, KIRSTY McCOLL and SHAKIN' STEVENS. Mike Deacon joined VINEGAR JOE and then became a member of both the SUZI QUATRO BAND and DARTS. Norman Watt-Roy formed GLENCOE releasing two albums for Epic, "Glencoe" and "The Spirit Of Glencoe". He then formed LOVING AWARENESS, releasing one self-titled LP in 1976 for More Love Records, before the band eventually evolved into THE BLOCKHEADS, the backing band for IAN DURY. Today he is a member of the WILKO JOHNSON BAND. Garth Watt-Roy joined FUZZY DUCK before undertaking session work for the like...
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THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH discography


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4.05 | 77 ratings
Horizons
1970
3.73 | 42 ratings
The Going's Easy
1970

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THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Horizons by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 77 ratings

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Horizons
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Might this be The Greatest Show On Earth?

I'm always in for records from around 1970, which was a milestone for rock music and one of the first years of true progressive rock. So, I was naturally quite inquisitive to hear what was the deal with The Greatest Show On Earth - a group of which I had heard many times before, but had never heard any music of. I set my expectations high (no, not because of the band's name) after reading many positive reviews by other members. So, I had to have a listen.

The sound of "Horizons", Greatest Show's debut release brings many bands to mind. Brass rock influences, very much in vein of Blood, Sweat & Tears or If strike immediately. Colosseum-esque jazz rock parts are also present. Elements of so-called proto-prog appear from time to time. Most notably on a track "Horizons", where a theme from Bach's "Fugue in D Minor" resolves into song's main progression. Despite all that, this album is kept in a rather psychedelic fashion. Numerous folk hints, somewhat reminiscent of The Incredible String Band as well as screaming fuzzed-out guitar - these are all a legacy of a psychedelic generation.

Mick Deacon, Greatest Show's keyboardist gives the group a very interesting feel. Clearly inspired by soul and jazz organ methods as well as many of his contemporaries - Ken Hensley, Jon Lord or Dave Greenslade. Norman Watt-Roy, the bass player lays down some superb grooves, while his brother Garth and Colin Horton-Jennings (both being guitarists) provide very pleasing harmony vocals.

The pieces on this work are quite diverse. One might be a folk ballad, while the next will be an up-beat tempo, organ-driven jazz-rocker. The diversity of the album is its real atribute. Songs can go from gentle folk ballads to organ-driven jazz-rockers one after another. Regardless of the style, they are all equally entartaining, seldom exposing band's weaknesses. The best track on the album I consider to be "Horizons", the title track. A 14-minute piece goes through most enjoyable elements of the album the album - a stellar flute solo, wild fuzzed-out guitar, great organ playing and an equally entartaining bass-line. It even features a brief drum solo! This is generally the most "progressive" track of this release.

Overall, The Greatest Show On Earth presents an original style with great musicianship and a wide plethora of influences. "Horizons" will make a great addition to a collection of every prog rock fan, especially a proto prog or even a heavy prog enthusiast. Perhaps not The Greatest Show On Earth, but definitely a very good one and well worth your listen.

 Horizons by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 77 ratings

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Horizons
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

4 stars When I go hunting records in Eugene, Oregon, I often come up with my share of surprises. In Eugene, the few record stores still remaining might not be overflowing with rare and obscure prog, but over the years I've came across a few treasures, some of them I never seen in the flesh before. Original LPs of Curved Air's Airconditioning (the picture disc), Celeste (Italian Grog pressing), Embryo's Father Son & Holy Ghosts, Latte e Miele's Papillon, Satin Whale's Desert Places are a few huge shockers I've seen in Eugene. Grant it, it's usually one or two of these type of LPs showing up in Eugene at any given time, not just tons, and I frequently come empty-handed (the more common prog I've long got years ago). Eugene record stores, in general, despite what I've found, isn't exactly prog heaven. And every time I thought was ready to give up, another one shows up, and that's The Greatest Show on Earth's Horizons.

Now I can understand why this wasn't a priority one band for me, feeling I'd probably be more interested in buying if I saw a copy in the flesh than ordering it online. Which happened. I realize this is not particularly easy to find. But it's still a very good album, but didn't quite blow me away, hence it wasn't high priority. I've long realized it was EMI, or at least Harvest Records' idea of having a British equivalent to American horn rock groups of the time like Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears, which is true. The vocalist sound undeniably like David Clayton-Thomas, but the music lacked the more commercial pop-edge that Chicago succeeded big time in, and BS&T did for a few years before vanishing into obscurity. Some of the music has a psychedelic edge like "I Fought For Love" and "Skylight Man". The latter seems to have a bit of a 1967//'68 vibe, making me think this was probably one of the first things the band wrote when they formed in '68. The title track is a bit different, an extended jam, with a drum solo, as well as letting the horn players jam later on, and even a psychedelic guitar solo. "Day of the Lady" really starts off lame, what on Earth were they thinking starting it off like some slow-paced polka? Luckily that part is short, and they get into something a bit more folk-oriented, something that would be foreign on a Chicago or BS&T album. The rest is more of that horn rock, British style that other such similar groups like IF, Web, Brainchild, Warm Dust has done. Maybe a couple of ideas I didn't quite go for, so I can't give this album five stars, but at least the music is inspired and energetic and deserving of four stars.

 The Going's Easy by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.73 | 42 ratings

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The Going's Easy
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by loserboy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After their debut album "Horizons" I did not think much could better that release and for some reason I think they just may have done this with "The Going's Easy". Another superbly fashioned album full of excellent and complex progressive elements. This albums best track is "Magic Woman Touch" and for those who are also Hollies fans will recognize this from their "Romany" album (If anyone out there honestly owns both alnums please contact me ! ). This album is simply killer from the opening number to the last track. The Greatest Show On Earth's two albums are both stunning and need to be in your growing Prog rock collection. Essentially this album is a a full bodied cup of java that never really sleeps!
 Horizons by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 77 ratings

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Horizons
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars On one hand any band that has the stones to name themselves “The Greatest Show on Earth” is bound to be a disappointment unless they can jump motorcycles over flaming trenches and skydive into shark- infested waters unharmed in addition to playing music. That would be a great show by the way, but I’m guessing these guys never featured anything like that in their live acts.

But on the flip side a group of eight young but talented musicians with roots in sixties psychedelia getting together on the fledgling Harvest label could hardly have helped but to create a memorable and eclectic sound. And that they did on this, their debut album.

Other reviews of this album have made references to Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears and these are valid considering the three prominent horn players and earthy, communal lyrical themes. This is not the sort of heavy prog that band founder Garth Watt-Roy would go on to produce with Fuzzy Duck, although future Juicy Lucy keyboardist Mike Deacon lays down some pretty heavy organ tracks on most of the songs on this album. Like Chicago and BST though, this is a band that is infused with more of a soul sound than psych or blues, and that in itself makes them stand out just a bit from some of their contemporaries.

On a few tracks like “Angelina” and “Day of the Lady” though the band takes on a little bit of the west- coast California psych sound of the latter sixties, music they undoubtedly grew up on and were influenced by.

Other than a slightly gratuitous drum solo on “I Fought for Love” this is a pretty solid album, with none of the tracks standing out especially but all of them full of plenty of rich sounds thanks to the various horns, congas, flute and funky bass, and Deacon’s hard organ providing a strong foundation (you just can’t add adjectives to the word ‘organ’ without unfortunate results).

The title track surely became the band’s “Freebird” at whatever live shows they managed to book during their brief existence, or if it not it should have been. The fourteen minute organ, saxophone and flute heavy dirge is unlike anything you’ve likely ever heard before. The music here isn’t original by any means, but the blend of instruments the band employs is rather innovative. This is another one of those highly unusual and unique bands that would never have gotten a recording contract after about 1974 thanks to the more cookie-cutter commercial marketing music approach most labels were taking by then.

This isn’t “The Greatest Show on Earth” (despite their name), but it is a pretty decent album. Four stars because I find the sound ear-pleasing and because it reminds me of a sound that is long gone yet doesn’t resort to sounding particularly dated (except for that closing track). The members of the band that stayed in the music business would go on to other projects that reflected more of the heavy organ parts of this music than the soul stuff, but that in part was probably more a product of the seventies musical tastes and record industry than it was the individual member’s actual musical preferences. Recommended to eclectic and heavy prog fans alike.

peace

 The Going's Easy by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.73 | 42 ratings

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The Going's Easy
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

The second album of TGSOE, released fairly shortly after their debut, is a bit different than the brass-heavy debut. The group is now only a sextet as the Repertoire reissue of the album mentions indicates as only Hanson is mentioned from the brass band, but we get some sax from one other blower. The train-artwork is much tamer, which is wise regarding the band's name and the album still out on Harvest and reissued by Repertoire in the early 90's, but I find the sound a bit poor>> remastering needed.

The album is definitely more appealing to hard prog rockers, especially after an intriguing distorted intro of the 9-min opener Borderline promises and they convince in the UK proto-prog realm. The other lengthy track Love Magnet is definitely in the JR/F territory with some almost-perfect lines and might sound at times as Van Morrison's Young Lovers and at other excellent Chicago

But the group was still trying to pump some potential hits like Magic Woman Touch (with some very unwise/ill-advised sound effects), or the energetic Story Times, the rocking- rolling Leader and the album closer piano-dominated sing-along (no doubt it was designed as such in concerts) Tell The Story, which was on the accompanying single's B- side. As a bonus track comes the single A-side non-album track Mountain Song, which doesn't really add much.

The band would tour until the half of next year before disbanding, domestic lack of success being the main reason. Indeed in the mid-70's, their record company gave the band another try at success by reissuing both albums together, mostly on the band's strengths and The Hollies' successful cover of Magic Woman Touch. But as far as this writer is concerned, TGSOE was not destined to become a long running group, but this second album seems a better effort than their debut as it is much more even and progressive. But none are essential to a proghead, and unless you have a knack for brass-rock, they will stay that way.

 Horizons by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 77 ratings

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Horizons
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars When thinking of English brass rock, one usually thinks directly of If in the role of the Chicago Transit Authority, but if you want to think of BS&T, you'd have to look at The Greatest Show On Earth; which was probably not a good idea for a name especially when it isn't. That should be it for the hits below the belts, especially when the protagonist probably didn't have any to put up on the charts. Oops!! But seriously their brand of brassy RnB mi Ex with some of prog's traits does remind the ultra-commercial US combo. This octet - the usual prog quartet (including founding pair of Watt-Roy brothers plus a three-man brass/horns/wings section (you choose) and bandleader singer/flauter Colin Horton- Jennings - released two albums the same year on the adventurous EMI-label called Harvest and disappeared quickly from the scene.

The debut has a striking Hipgnosis Eye gatefold artwork, but one can only be a tad unimpressed as the pair of eyes staring at you back its inside gatefold artwork and the standard track format, bar the showpiece. Indeed after a very promising Hammond- drenched Sunflower Morning (which might have inspired a certain July Morning, until its chorus anyway), it turns out that TGSOE fails right away to confirm (or keep the pace) with commercial stinker Angelina (the track, not the girl, unless it's the one from Golden Earring ;-), the uneventful Fought For Love and the light hearted Skylight Man. But with Day Of The Lady (with its dumb bar roll-out-the-barrel intro and slightly Gabriel/Brooker vocal delivery) and the semi-classic Real Cool World (a hit in some Continental countries) where the band shows a great potential, they managed to pull it through the net of discerning fans of Brass-rock.

Coming to the title track, it is a bit of clumsy affair, that starts out well enough with classical hints, but sinks into the almost-obligatory drum solo (one of the era's unfortunate flaws) but when the track dies pick-up again the prog elements are stronger, the W-R brothers fuzz guitar and bass giving them a very exhilarating string attack over an Hensley organ. This was certainly meant to be the track where the musicians could unleash in their concerts, but it is only half convincing in its studio version. Closing off the album was the single's B-side Again And Again, which another strong track that would resurface on a different single much later in the decade.

One of their distinctive traits is that the horn section did contribute to all kinds of percussion during the lengthy breaks, but failed to really be adventurous in that department, at best making them sound like a poor man's Santana. One of the problems is that outside the lenghty title track, the album is made of standard verse chorus track that allowed too few interplay and just sounded a bit too formulaic. TGSOE 's debut shows some promise, but unfortunately it was riding the closing years of the genre's peak period and they certainly did not have their US counterpart's talents in songwriting or were "prog" enough to match the nationals of If.

 The Going's Easy by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.73 | 42 ratings

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The Going's Easy
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by kingdhansak

5 stars The 2nd LP from one the best acts of the early 70's. Same 'big band' line up as the 1st LP (please check reviews out for that one). This album offers a heavier and more progressive side. Tracks are lengthy, more solos and time changes are evident. Lots of percussion used as well to give the band a sound not unlike early CHICAGO or SANTANA. Had many debates with people who have heard the band, about which LP of the two is better. Many think that this a step down, but I like both of them equally. Such a shame they didn't make more.

Like the 1st LP, an album you should not be without.

 Horizons by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 77 ratings

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Horizons
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by Frippertron

4 stars I have got this album (the 2 on 1 CD.. coupled with their 2nd album)

Having never heard the album version of "Horizons" (My version is editted, as one of the folk call it "the horrible version".) The single version as its called sounds great.. This album as a whole is just pure real music! Cannot be faulted, at the time I had bought this I was going through a terrible bad time in my personal life, and this album really cheered me up.. I have played GSOE to death, I just love it!

There are no turkeys on this album at all.. Each song flows perfectly, and a true treat! Just a shame they disbanded after the second album (which is also a real gem!)

If you love your prog rock to have that classic edge to it, you will love this! If you find the 2 on 1 CD buy it (as its worth the money.. rather than purchasing 2 seperate albums)

Bass player went on to play with The Blockheads.. the vocalist had a single in the charts in 1988 as part of Star Turn on 45 Pints "Pump Up The Bitter" (hmmm... I bought it.. and .. moving on quick!)

 Horizons by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 77 ratings

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Horizons
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by kingdhansak

5 stars One of my favourite bands of all time. Have owned this LP for many years and its been played to death. The great thing about the GSOE is the wide variety of instruments used. Being an 8 piece outfit, this is inevitable I suppose. Featuring a the usual guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, the line is boosted with a 3 piece brass/woodwind/percussion section. Each musician has their own solo spot here, however the tracks on this LP are still kept to a fairly short and easily structured format. Quality of the compositions are high throughout, every one stands out on its own merits. The one lengthy compostion here is the title track. Featuring lots of sections, atmospheres and individual solos, this alone will appeal to and fan on early 70's prog. A truly brilliant LP from start to finish, not to metion a stunning cover!

Word of warning - anyone purchasing the CD version, should seek the single Repertoire version rahter than the 2 on 1 re-issue with their 2nd LP. The title track on this 2 on 1 has been horribly edited to fit the CD.

 Horizons by GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 77 ratings

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Horizons
The Greatest Show On Earth Eclectic Prog

Review by loserboy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The Greatest Show on Earth were originally formed in 1968 by guitarist Garth Watt-Roy and his bass-playing brother Norman. Garth would later form write and record the famous sole "Fuzzy Duck" album which I also love. "The Greatest Show On Earth's" unique mixture of Rock R&B, soul, jazz and prog-rock got them signed to EMI's progressive label Harvest Records in 1970. The folks at Repertoire have done a masterful job in re-mastering this glorious album which offers excellent speaker separation and great dynamic tones. In addition to the guitar, bass, drum standards, this band added Harpsichord, flugle horns, trumpets and saxes. The music on this album is amazing and I love the psychedelic-like structures and progressive punches these guys play. Talk about a great album that needs to be discovered by all. Essentially this album is organ/guitar driven with excellent bass, percussion support and clever vocalizations. Best way to describve this music might be to blend Canterbury's Caravan's early albums with Pink Floyd and traces of Procol Harum. Go get this album !
Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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