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Strawbs - Déjà Fou CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.15 | 34 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Hyped as the reunion album for the classic lineup of the mid 1970s, "Deja Fou" delivers nothing like that product, not even allowing for the passage of 3 decades and a host of technological improvements. Instead the first Strawbs album to include all new material since the 1970s is more like an Acoustic Strawbs effort with keyboards and drums occasionally added in. It also suffers from a variety of production missteps, from the mismanagement of Dave Cousins aging voice to inconsistent volumes, that even in the 1970s would not have been tolerated.

Yet "Deja Fou" delivers on so many other fronts that, if regarded on its own rather than by comparison, it succeeds brilliantly. The opener "Riviera Del Flori/Under A Cloudless Sky" is reminiscent of "Flying" off "Bursting at the Seams", with plenty of mellotron that unfortunately does not surface enough elsewhere, and some excellent vocal harmonies that almost compensate for Cousins' obvious straining. A preponderance of delicate string laden ballads like "Face Down in the Well", "If", and "Sunday Morning" threaten to bring down the proceedings, but the lyrics and/or melodies are so strong that they pass by as a story read by a cherished parent. The strings themselves arranged by ex-Strawb Robert Kirby are simply sumptuous.

A few more rocking numbers do provide contrast, such as the banjo-driven Dave Lambert tune "Cold Steel", the well constructed "Jerusalem" re-adaptation "This Barren Land", and even the rollicking cold war throwback "Russian Front", cheesy synthesizers notwithstanding. Unfortunately, the closer "NRG" is just too much novelty song to effectively showcase Cousins' increasing interest in Moorish influences. The following album would succeed much better in this regard. The real gem, after nearly 5 years of reflection, is "Here Today Gone Tomorrow", a delicate and wistful ballad featuring mostly just Cousins and Hawken, and one that should rightfully have ended the proceedings.

"Deja Fou" can be seen as Strawbs floating the idea of a full fledged band effort, which would come with "The Broken Hearted Bride" a few years later. It is worth approaching if you enjoyed their acoustic albums and concerts but want a little more muscle. It is an alluring mix of the sanity and the madness of all the group's incarnations.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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