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Dave Cousins - The Bridge (with Brian Willoughby) CD (album) cover

THE BRIDGE (WITH BRIAN WILLOUGHBY)

Dave Cousins

 

Prog Folk

2.18 | 3 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars With STRAWBS having been relatively active in the last decade and a half, one might not realize that from around 1980 to 2000, the band barely existed, a few limited releases and tours notwithstanding, largely because of Dave Cousins full time career in UK radio. In 1991, the archival label Road Goes on Forever re-issued the 1980 Cousins and Willoughby album "Old School Songs", and for the next few years encouraged the two gentleman to concoct a sequel. The result was "The Bridge", a now all but forgotten and virtually obsolete Strawbs related release. It's so obscure that an Ebay and discogs.com search yielded nothing, and it has certainly not been re-issued by Strawbs Witchwood label, but it assuredly exists and has been in my possession over 20 years.

First of all, its near obsolescence can be attributed to the fact that the Strawbs 2003 release "Blue Angel" included most of these tracks in barely altered form, in addition to a few other worthwhile tunes. Even before being repackaged as a full band release, it included some time and erstwhile band members Blue Weaver, Tony Fernandez, Chas Cronk, Rod Demick and Richard Hudson as guests, so muddling up personal filing systems wherever it appeared.

"The Bridge" was intended as a hybrid between the more painstakingly produced Strawbs albums and the entirely unplugged and lo-fi Cousins and Willoughby work, but, since most Strawbs albums admirably straddle that line.... Only 2 tracks didn't make the leap to the "Blue Angel" release, presumably because of their entirely acoustic nature, those being the opener "You Never Needed Water" and the finale "Song for Alex". Of the first, while Strawbs and Cousins have occasionally dabbled in C&W styles, this one is a full fledged finger picking good tune that hearkens back to the band's bluegrass beginnings and is emblazoned with Willoughby's fretting skills throughout. The lyrics are at once saucy and bitter, Cousins at his lovelorn best. Given the price that this CD is likely to command, I wouldn't say it's worth the price of admission for this song alone, but it's certainly worth your consideration if the description is to your taste. The wistful closing number "Song for Alex" has a clearer older lineage, dating back to the band's very early days. It's similar in tone to "Beat the Retreat" which appeared on "Don't Say Goodbye" in 1987, and, like the opening tune, includes splendid work by Willoughby.

Omitting the repeat exposure on Blue Angel, the other highlights here are the gorgeous "Further Down the Road" with its succinct verse and one line chorus, and the mini epic "The Plain", which could have fit on almost any album from the group's heyday, with Cousins' ponderous lyrics and a sense of dread. Several rockers are included, never the man or the band's strong suit, but "Rhythm of the Night" is a fair approximation to a Springsteen stomper. The vocal collaborations with Mary Hopkin are so-so, being a bit light by any measure, while "Strange Day over the Hill" is another country-ish shuffle with typically provocative and obtuse lyrics.

Overall, I can't really recommend this except to Strawbs fans and those who find the descriptions of the acoustic pieces to be irresistible. For the rest, I suggest the "Blue Angel" CD which also includes several more proggy tracks like "Blue Angel" itself and "There will Come the Day". It's not a great album either but definitely offers more value even ignoring the likely market prices for "The Bridge". 2.5 stars rounded down.

kenethlevine | 2/5 |

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