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String Driven Thing - The Machine That Cried CD (album) cover


String Driven Thing


Prog Folk

3.45 | 48 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Feel the pain!

If you only ever hear one album by String Driven Thing, make sure it is this one. If you can only manage one track, it simply has to be "Heartfeeder". This is a truly inspired album, which opens with one of the finest, darkest, yet most uplifting pieces of prog I have come across.

"Heartfeeder" was written along with many of the songs here by Chris Adams while laid up in hospital with a collapsed lung. The song weaves it's way through soft violin and cello sections (played by Grahame Smith and his wife Claire Sealey) and loud cries of "Feel the pain" in a wonderful cacophony of melodies and sounds. The "band's official version" of the album released on CD in 1996, reveals that the track was not originally included on the album, space only being found for it through a significant trimming of the 11 minute "River of sleep" (which became about 4 minutes!).

Chris Adams dominates the album both in terms of composition and performance, his wife Pauline generally providing backing and harmony vocals. The ballad "To see you" would perhaps have suited her voice well, but is nonetheless a touching number. Likewise, "Travelling" is a reflective song with some fine violin work by Smith. "Sold down the river" is reminiscent of the preceding self titled album with a captivating, repetitive chorus. Pauline eventually takes centre stage for "Two timin' rama", surely the inspiration for a whole swathe Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac songs.

"People on the street" is one of the band's most adventurous pieces. On the face of it, it is a power ballad, but the intricate structure of the song reveals itself as it progresses through a variety of passages. The "Time shot down. . ." section builds especially poignantly.

The title track returns to the darker aspects of "Heartfeeder", but it is the restored "River of sleep" with its dramatic, swirling violin which steals the show right a the end. For those who have the original vinyl release of the album, the 11 minute version will astonish you. The beautiful closing section which was all that remained on the LP is but a part of the magnificent whole.

The CD remaster also has three bonus tracks. Little information is offered about two of these tracks, "If only the good" and "Part of the city" (titled elsewhere as "City at night") which are simply described as "Archive tracks". The former is appears to be an unfinished demo with a slightly folk feel, which could have been developed into a fine song. The latter is a rather dull uninspired song which also appears on the "Dischotomy" collection. "It's a game" was a non-album single which failed to find the success it deserved until tragically covered by none other than the Bay City Rollers, a 1970's Scottish boy band.

The "band's official version" of the album came about when they decided they were unhappy with the way their albums had been transferred to CD. They took the opportunity to restore the tracks to their full length, including the aforementioned "River of sleep" which regains its full 11 minutes. The remastering brings out the strength of the album superbly, although the pressing I have is prone to annoying screeches, presumably through a manufacturing fault. Incidentally, the cover illustration is an extreme close up of a bed bug!

Sadly, after this album, the band effectively broke up, although the name carried on in a new line up.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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