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Strawbs - Access All Areas CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.00 | 1 ratings

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3 stars Taken in 1990, this video of Access All Areas' Central TVs series televised concert of the Strawbs is a very good sounding and looking live outing of the Strawbs on both CD and DVD. I wish it had been from a happier and more productive era of the band, but as an historical document, it shows just how low the band sunk creatively in 1990.

All of the songs are very much by the numbers and offer nothing new except for an all rock approach to Dave Cousins' much loved "Grace Darling". The more modern, for the era, sounding lead guitar of Brian Wiloughby and the thin sounding synths and treated electric piano of Chris Parren give the songs a subtle new wave edge. But again, just subtlety. Cousins is still in good voice at this juncture and he's able to pull off the higher register vocals in the concert's only prog epic "Down By The Sea", that was sung by Dave Lambert in the old halcyon days. It's good to have returning co-founding member Tony Hooper and new bassist Rod Demick harmonize with Cousins in tune, something that was always impossible with the previous line up that included guitarist Dave Lambert and bassist Chas Cronk, so that chorus heavy songs like "Lay Down" and "Part Of The Union" really shine on this disc. It may contain the best live versions of those two songs that I've ever heard with the group actually doing an acapella section in "Lay Down", a first. Cousins does a rare lead vocal on "Part of The Union" which he pulls off quite well. "Cut Like A Diamond" and "The Hangman And The Papist" are done well and are tight versions. This is also the first recording of Cousins' ode to the late Sandy Denny titled "Ringing Down The Years". Cousins' emotional intro really helps to sell the song. C

It's also nice to hear drummer Richard Hudson clearly for once, as he sounds like a lot better player than on past studio albums where he was always down a bit in the muddy rhythm track mixes on the 70's album recordings. And the band sound quite polished and enthusiastic overall.

So, despite Cousins and company in fine concert form, it's sad that this group was at a creative low with Cousins (by his own admission) writing no more that 13 songs since the break up of the group in 1978, when he literally wrote hundreds. This 2 disc CD and DVD set does have a few good things going for it so a rating of 3 stars seem about right.

SteveG | 3/5 |


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