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Strawbs - Hero And Heroine CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.16 | 303 ratings

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4 stars 'Hero and Heroine' as well as 'Ghosts' are a pretty remarkable pair of studio albums released by the Strawbs in the mid-seventies. Both are well-written and arranged, musically progressive and reflective of the advanced level of the band's technical skill and professionalism. What makes them remarkable really is that they were ever even made.

Dave Cousins became the sole remaining original member even before 'Hero and Heroine' when Tony Hooper left in 1972 over 'artistic differences' with the more commercial (and therefore less folksy) direction Cousins and the former Velvet Opera rhythm section duo of Richard Hudson and John Ford were taking the band. Following a successful though stress-filled year long tour supporting 'Bursting at the Seams' Cousins once again found himself at odds with his band mates and the result was basically dissolution of the band, although in later years Cousins has characterized this period rather more charitably. Given the band's popularity and brand-name value though Cousins and Dave Lambert decided to carry on and form a new Strawbs lineup. Hudson and Ford found success right away as the creatively titled Hudson Ford, while Blue Weaver found a home with Mott the Hoople, another band that has just gone through a bitter breakup at the pinnacle of their career. Weaver would cash in on Mott's worldwide tour supporting 'All the Young Dudes' and even more so later as keyboardist for the Bee Gees during their late seventies disco run.

The lineup in the studio for 'Hero and Heroine' included two keyboardists, former Renaissance member John Hawken, and Chas Cronk who would remain with Cousins thereafter. Former Juicy Lucy drummer Rod Coombes replaced Richard Hudson on the heels of Coombes' own breakup story as a member of Stealers Wheel. Despite being rather thrown together the group sounds like a true band, at least based on this studio work. Everyone contributed to the content including songwriting chores, even Hawken with his penning of the somber opening instrumental "Heroine's Theme", a rather Alan Parsons Project-sounding bit of music. Cousins of course wrote most of the lyrics and much of the music but the loss of Hudson and Ford's writing skills seems to have not impaired the band much.

Musically this may be the best Strawbs album ever, and it is certainly among their most popular especially in the U.S. where it was released even before A&M launched it in the UK. Though the overall vibe is unmistakably British and still showing remnants of the band's folk-rock heritage, a group as cerebral and measured as the Strawbs didn't really stand much of a chance of making a huge splash in the U.S. mainstream market although the album did manage to break just inside of the Billboard Top-100. Songs like "Autumn" and "Midnight Sun" show the band was still capable of progressive arrangements, but given their tour billings and vaguely glam persona at the time made it tough for American audiences to connect.

Not to say the band didn't try, and the more rocking "Sad Young Man", "Just Love" and schizophrenic "Round and Round" surely held their own on FM radio long play sessions throughout the Midwest alongside more conventional rock groups.

The single "Shine on Silver Sun" would be the last hit for the band, and its easygoing blend of keyboards, choral vocals and measured tempo proved to be appeal to audiences back home while still being accessible enough to attract some singles play in U.S. markets.

Personally I much prefer 'Ghosts' to 'Hero and Heroine' but must admit Cousins and Dave Lambert did a masterful job of crafting a very solid band out of the ashes left in the wake of 'Bursting at the Seams'. While I'm going to give this album a four-star rating, I'll do so with the note that 'Bursting' and 'Ghosts' more easily achieved that rating. An excellent album nonetheless and recommended for all Strawbs fans.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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