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Strawbs - Live At Nearfest CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.68 | 9 ratings

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3 stars A chronicle of the band's 2004 headline appearance at the North East Art Rock festival in Pennsylvania, USA, "Live at Nearfest" represents a coveted performance by the exact same 5 members who were present for "Hero and Heroine" 30 years earlier. Not surprisingly, it accentuates that album and the new release "Deja Fou", but the selections otherwise span the 1972-1977 peak period of the group.

The sound quality is excellent and the sequencing of tracks was well chosen in the concert and adhered to in the compilation. For instance, the album begins with up tempo cuts before a quieter middle phase, yielding to some serious rocking (probably more so than any other band at the event) and a quiet finale. John Hawken's keyboards and Dave Lambert''s guitars both achieve nuances that are uncommon on live recordings, especially in "Autumn", "Burning for me", and "Down by the Sea". The acoustic guitar undercurrent reminds us from whence the band came, even laying a base for "Out in the Cold", the synthetic and acerbic "Round and Round" and the angry "New World" and its sequel "This Barren Land".

But Cousins' voice starts rustily and occasionally just can't reach the notes, particularly on the latter, even if his performance on "New World" is as fresh and fiery as ever, and the understated "You and I" seems to have been written for his "old voice". Considering the lineup was the same for the 1975 "Ghosts" album, we might have demanded more than one track, or at least one of its epics, while "Benedictus" has an unfortunate tendency to appear on the set list but not make it onto disk.

This might not be the best place to start, since Strawbs albums tend to flow as units, the individual tracks here orphaned, albeit sometimes in pairs. But for fans near and far, this is a significant live document, especially given John Hawken's subsequent retirement.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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