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Strawbs - Bursting At The Seams CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.56 | 156 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars To say this album was recorded under unusual circumstances would be a colossal understatement. Tony Hooper had just left the band after they recorded two quite brilliant albums but had only made a small breakthrough in commercial terms, to be replaced by Dave Lambert. Lambert is an out and out rock player, and would push the band to a less folk, more pop/rock style. Furthermore, the emergence of Hudson and Ford as a commercial songwriting combination to challenge Dave Cousins leads to an album of wildly conflicting styles.

The opener, Flying, is a delicate Cousins track with a lot of mellotron and some nice vocal work. Hudson-Ford's Lady Fuschia is a real highlight, with nice vocal harmonies, sitar and a fine guitar motif. Stormy Down is a dull, rather conventional rock track but at least it's short. Then the real gem arrives: Down by the Sea has a riff to die for, wonderful mellotron, string arrangements and powerful Cousins vocals; the outro is one of prog's greatest moments. Metallica based the intro riff for sanitarium on this one. The River is a terrible let down; a rather dull, overdramatic folky tune with vulgar overtones in the lyrics.

Side two opens with the truly awful Hudson-Ford penned Part of the Union, a track that put me off Strawbs for almost 30 years. OK, I now realise it's a satirical look at the trades unions of the time but I will hate it till the day I die with its tacky chorus and barroom piano. Just skip it to save your sanity. But Tears and Pavan which follows is quite amazing; the first part (Tears) features dramatic vocals from Cousins overlaid with lush mellotrons and the second (Pavan) is a dance tune with twin acoustic guitars and harpsichord and more of Cousins' erotic lyrics over Hudson-Ford's music. The Winter and the Summer, penned and sung by Lambert, is one of his better efforts and is gentle and tuneful, with a delightful ending. Lay Down is Cousins' attempt at commercialisation and is far better than Hudson-Ford's effort, though it's just a pretty standard rock song. It does have a sing along chorus, lots of mellotron and a good guitar solo, so it's not all bad. Thank You I played once and will never do so again; it features a school choir and a piano and that says it all. A disastrous end by any standards.

After this, the dichotomy in the band would lead to Hudson Ford going off to be very commercial, Blue Weaver going off to seek big bucks with the Bee Gees, and Cousins and Lambert to rebuild the Strawbs into a true progressive band which made two outstanding albums.

So Bursting at the Seams is far from their best effort. There are tracks of all standards on here, from true masterpieces (Down by the Sea, Tears and Pavan) to tracks that should have been strangled at birth and everything in between. So 3* is appropriate, though you should buy the album just for those two tracks. How strange that it was their best selling album and went to no 1 in the charts when far superior ones didn't.

Hercules | 3/5 |


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