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Strawbs - Bursting At The Seams CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.57 | 155 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
5 stars Bursting at the Seams represents the Strawbs at the peak of their powers both artistic and commercial. Grave New World was a great concept and piece of work, but really didn't have all that many great "songs", given the number of very short pieces. Hero and Heroine was sheer genius but, like much genius, a bit insane, and Ghosts, while vying for the title of Strawbs' most well rounded album, lacked the commercial clout to truly conquer American audiences, which was the goal. Bursting at the Seams is an incredibly consistent, musically diverse, and very accessible album of song oriented folk-rock with strong progressive overtones.

The album begins with a Strawbs classic, "Flying", with narrative verses, harmonic choruses and even a gorgeous instrumental break featuring a banjo/mellotron combination. Lady Fuschia is a lovely soft rock track featuring the vocals of Hudson and Ford and even some sitar. Stormy Down is one of two country-flavoured could have been a hit but for the use of the phrase "God the Father". Great lead guitar by the newcomer Dave Lambert, in tasteful small doses. Next are the perennial favourites "The River" and "Down by the Sea". Plenty of dramatics, sweeping contrasts, soft reflective vocals and agonized wails. Even a moving orchestral section. Next is the big hit "Part of the Union". Commercial yes, but also catchy and instrumentally bright, especially Blue Weaver's honky tonk piano solo. "Tears and Pavan" introduces one of the earliest "Goth" pieces, with echoed vocals, stately mellotron, and great sadness, followed by a Greek sounding dance. In terms of contrasts on the theme of melodic prog and folk, this album knows no peer. But it's not over. Dave Lambert's first and best songwriting contribution is the emotional "The Winter and the Summer", quiet with mellotron/organ and a heavy middle 8, with an intense ending leading into one of Cousins' greatest songs, the hard proggy country rock song "Lay Down". From the opening chords you know you are in for something awesome, sort of the way "Benedictus" opened Grave New World. The use of mellotron choir is one of the first of its kind. While Bursting at the Seams uses mellotron heavily, do not be misled into thinking that these songs are nothing without it. The recent acoustic revival of the group bears witness to the power of these songs in an unplugged setting. Having said that, the presence of Blue's organ, piano, harpsichord and mellotron does augment the tunes to celestial heights. The original closer was the rather silly "Thank You" with a children's choir.

While other Strawbs A&M album rereleases featured mostly mediocre bonus tracks, the ones here are among the best, again reflecting the confidence and panache of Cousins and company at this point in time. "Will ye Go" is a nigh traditional piece that is given the Celtic rock treatment, accent on rock, with Blue filling in on accordion. "Backside" features impressive atmospherics and lead guitar in its treatment of the Spiders from Mars personae. Cousins pulls off the vocals impressively as well, with their fairly explicit sexual messages. Finally, the original single version of Lay Down is provided for completeness sake.

Bursting at the Seams is probably the first real rock album by the Strawbs, and is the most essential album from that period. Prog fans note it is not their most progressive - that title might go to one of the other 3 "big 4" albums - but prog fans with an interest in folk will find much to enjoy here.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |


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