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Strawbs - Don't Say Goodbye CD (album) cover

DON'T SAY GOODBYE

Strawbs

 

Prog Folk

2.99 | 29 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Debut albums are often considered the best by a band. This may sometimes be due to the fact that, at least in the bygone era of big studios and labels, by the time an initial release was in the offing, the band may have accumulated quite a repertoire from which to choose. Does the same hold true for reunions after a long absence? In the case of "Don't Say Goodbye", Strawbs did draw upon almost a decade of material, which may explain why, over a two decade period, it was the strongest Strawbs album.

Ignoring the occasional period synthesizers and drums. most of the album is vintage Strawbs - vital folk rock with progressive touches, by a hodgepodge lineup of past members, associates, and newcomers. In particular, Richard Hudson is behind the kit and shares two writing contributions: the beautiful instrumental "Tina dei Fada" and the jaunty "Big Brother", which, given its Thatcher-era pedigree, suggests that his political orientation was not as entirely to the right as might have been assumed.

Brian Willoughby had long been an associate of Cousins and had recorded an acoustic set "Old School Songs" with him previously, in which he generated quite dexterous and melodic "twiddly parts" from the guitar. Here he exhibits more technical prowess in mere seconds than Dave Lambert could have done in a 40 minute disk. Just listen to the solo at the end of "Boy and His Dog", or the aforementioned "Tina..." if you want emotion as well.

If "Boy and His Dog" smells strongly of the 1980s, it also shows Cousins had lost no bite lyrically, and his rollicking meter somehow augments the whole effort. "Let it Rain" is a return to lush pastoral balladry rarely seen since the early days. As in the compact mid tempo rocker with the great ending, "We Can Make it Together", and the acousto-electric "Something for Nothing", these versions so best those that appeared on "Heartbreak Hill" that they are essentially different songs.

Original member Tony Hooper's main contribution is his gentle vocal on the poetic Cousins' ballad "Evergreen", only marred by an unnecessary lead guitar intrusion. The album's closers are to the country side of folk in different ways, the slyly melodramatic "That's Where the Crying Starts", and the autobiographical "Beat the Retreat", both showing a playful and reflective side to this incarnation of the group and to Cousins' state of mind.

As unlikely an event as a Strawbs album in 1987 must have been, it is even more surprising that, taken individually and as a whole, it captures the indomitable folk-rock spirit of the group and, with a gentle brush of the hand, bids the upstarts retreat temporarily to the wings.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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