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Strawbs - Bursting At The Seams CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.57 | 160 ratings

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Italian Prog Specialist
2 stars Being an album with a very weak introduction and a horrible lack of direction, Bursting At The Seams isn't likely to write itself in to history as either a great prog album or a great Strawbs album. Confusion and plain boring commercial songs mixed with some sugary sweetness, and deep down under all the negative points - hints of greatness.

Yes, Strawbs fifth album isn't a sunshine story on any level. Just like the equally disappointing Nomadness this feels like one of those desperate calls for a wider audience and mainstream appreciation. Some may be successful, but this is just a strange brew of songs that don't work very well together. It's annoying. Strawbs is one of those talented bands that deserve a lot more attention and praise for a couple of albums, and that show much promise on most of the others. I don't know if it's the many line-up changes and a constant search for that perfect sound that unfortunately hinders Strawbs from achieving a real masterpiece. I haven't found one yet, even if Hero and Heroine is pretty close.

What we got on Bursting At The Seams is a lot of inoffensive tunes. Often positive and catchy with tendencies of folk and passages heavy on Mellotron. An equal use of acoustic and electric guitar, many sweet melodies and carefully applied intricacies. It doesn't sound like a catastrophe, but the more I listen, the vaguer it gets, and that's what brings this album down. It lacks integrity.

Flying, with its rich sweetness and refrain dripping with an overdose of that same sweetness, Lady Fuchsia with a pseudo-folky progression topped with misplaced AOR-ish guitar licks. Stormy Down, which invites Creedence Clearwater Revival in to the mix, the perhaps alien, but still working classic rock number that is Lay Down and another saccharine chock in Thank You; nothing but piano, a soft-singing Dave Cousins.and a full children's choir. Is my point at least somewhat clear? If not, we have the abomination that is Part Of The Union, with it's lovely political naivety and left-wing association. A nice flash from the '70s, but musically an utter disaster for these ears. It's a song that doesn't have a home on ANY album.

On a more positive note, that intriguing potential naturally shows itself on Bursting At The Seams as well. Perhaps that fact is even more annoying than the album's faults.

The combination of The River and Down By The Sea creates an excellent middle part of the album. The first one crafted from the early, folkier material of the band, gradually developing into a lamenting, melancholic orchestrated piece. Incredibly rich, with strings that sends shivers down my spine. Being only two and a half minutes long, it almost feels like a prelude to the longer Down By The Sea. This song has a strong, slightly foreboding theme, with triumphant choir sounds, a light-symphonic-light-folk first verse and then a surprisingly powerful part, with a riffing guitar taking the lead role. All this is followed by variations and repetitions on previously used theme, and develops into a dramatic, film-score-like crescendo. It is the most memorable track on the album, and a proof that all the various influences actually could be moulded together with great result.

There are actually more bright spots to be found here, and based on the proportion of those, Bursting At The Seams would get three stars. But as this is hardly a working ALBUM, where the downsides weigh heavily, and where everything is tried; only fans should get this album.

Strawbs might be bursting at the seams with energy and future plans, but the end results looks and feels more like wearing a way too big suite.

2 stars.


LinusW | 2/5 |


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