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Strawbs - The Broken Hearted Bride CD (album) cover

THE BROKEN HEARTED BRIDE

Strawbs

 

Prog Folk

3.50 | 38 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars It is rare to find a band from the 1960s or 1970s that can not only produce music that is near the equal of their heyday, but augment it with the maturity of the years, such that it scarcely sounds like retread. Strawbs have come close to this ideal with their last 2 albums, "Deja Fou" and now, "The Broken Hearted Bride". The main improvement over the 2004 release is that this is far more of a band effort. It sounds like everyone is participating all the time as opposed to just hearing the Acoustic Strawbs with a few embellishments. BHB is also of more interest to prog fans, largely because of two tracks, but then even in the mid 1970s the Strawbs were only known to include a couple of full blown epics on any given release.

Let's go down the list. Production A+ thanks to Chris Tsangarides who has helped out big acts like Malmsteen. Vocals A if you have acquired the taste for Dave Cousins, and if you haven't by now, God help you. Lyrics A+, can this sexagenarian write or what, and Dave Lambert has dramatically improved in that department since the 1970s. Arrangements A, with Rod Coombes being a powerhouse drummer even on a lovely ballad like "Too Many Angels", Lambert injecting much needed musical (if not lyrical) levity into his Cat Stevens-like "You Know as Well as I", and Chas Cronk trying out some new lite funk in his bass playing, and judicious keyboard embellishments by John Hawken throughout. The addition of Ian Cutler on fiddle bolsters one of the two epics, "Call to Action", with suitably middle eastern nightmarish motifs.

So we are looking at a 5 star masterpiece, right? Well, no, primarily because Strawbs have sacrificed their trademark melodic skill in the service of the above, some of the choruses are just a bit to repetitive and simplistic, otherwise interesting tracks like "Christmas Cheer" lack a real instrumental break, the title cut is clunky to the point of embarrassment (albeit lyrically brilliant), and the best track, "Aphrodite's Eyes", has a main riff that is more than reminiscent of Down By the Sea, even if the sung parts are the equal of any classic from "Hero" and "Ghosts", and perhaps the Strawbs best blend of ancient English folk and progressive rock yet attained. That is saying a lot, because few other bands can boast to even minimal success in this realm. I'm not talking "From the Witchwood" here, but full blown progressive Strawbs at their best.

Probably the weakest aspect is the inclusion of "We'll Meet Again Sometime" as the retro track in a hayseed C&W treatment, and the remaking of "Deep in the Darkest Night" (albeit a fine song) in a version inferior to that which featured Rick Wakeman on the 2003 "High Seas" collaboration between Cousins and Conny Conrad. That said, "Call to Action" also appeared on "High Seas" and the version here totally rocks like the Strawbs rarely have. Indeed, the band seems more confident instrumentally here than on "Ghosts".

It will never be the 1970s again, and many of us are grateful. The circumstances which made the Strawbs one of the most unique, even accessible, proponents of progressive rock have long slipped past, and with maturity has come more melodic complexity to shroud the simple beauty of their work on gems like "Bursting at the Seams". At the end of the day, this new Strawbs effort does far more to heal the musical heart than could legitimately be expected by any random reunion of wizened bespectacled proggers. 3.5 stars rounded up, for obvious reasons.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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