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Strawbs - Blue Angel CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.75 | 32 ratings

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3 stars During most of the 1990s, Strawbs were a band largely in name only, a revolving cast of members rallying around Dave Cousins when full blown tours were in the offing. In 1995, he and longtime associate Brian Willoughby produced "The Bridge", which commands quite a price among collectors these days. It included the expected quotient of acoustic numbers showcasing Willoughby's adept fingering with a graft of hard rock, never a strong suit for Cousins. In the meantime, he had written several other songs but hardly enough to make an album on its own. While Strawbs aren't exactly a big name anymore, they remain a bigger draw than any of their individual parts, hence the marketing idea of Witchwood records to dress up "the Bridge" with more typically multi-layered new arrangements and a few new songs, along with the reworking of a true classic (the title cut) and call it Strawbs.

Did it work? Well, yes and no. It's hard to improve on the epic "Blue Angel", originally from Dave Cousins' 1972 solo album, but the decision to make the arrangement far lusher than before was a good one, even if it drags a little towards the end. Some who heard both versions at roughly the same time prefer this one, so who am I to argue? Elsewhere, "There will Come the Day" is a standout, coming close to the glory days of the 1970s. "The Plain" is a suspenseful Cousins folk rock ballad, and "Further Down the Road" boasts a divine melody. But the collaborations with Mary Hopkin sometimes come off as effete and yet glossy, as on "Cry no More" and "morning Glory". The rockers don't work too well, the best of these being "Rhythm of the Night", which Springsteen could have turned into a hit in his day. The remake of "Lay Down" is unnecessary, but bonus "The King", featuring Maddy Prior, actually dates back to 1979 and is a fine holiday song.

Hard to place stylistically and chronologically, "Blue Angel" is at turns soaring and fallen, so averages out to good but hardly heavenly.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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