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Strawbs - Bursting At The Seams CD (album) cover

BURSTING AT THE SEAMS

Strawbs

 

Prog Folk

3.56 | 106 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars I've picked up a few Strawbs albums over the last year or so, and it's been a bit of a shock to discover that they all sound wildly different from each other! From the rough-around-the-edges medieval pomp of `Antiques...', to the near power pop and angry stomp of some of `Deep Cuts', I really haven't known what to expect with each new album - except plenty of musical variety, inventive playing, evocative lyrics and charmingly wounded vocals full of character.

On it's first play, what a frustrating and wildly inconsistent album `Bursting At The Seams' is! It all comes across as a bit of a mess of country, psych, folk and prog-rock, with a pinch of honky-tonk novelty rock and even a childrens sing-along choir thrown in! Don't worry too much, if you have the patience to give it a few plays, the albums reveals quite a lot of fragile charm and beauty.

Side A begins with `Flying', which sounds very much in the style of the spacey psychedelic country of the later Byrds album. If that band's music from that period was as consistently good as this, those albums would be more fondly remembered! Warm country harmonies, with Dave Cousin's instantly recognizable voice singing a drifting melody. Terrific acoustic and dramatic middle enhanced by smatterings of Mellotron and commanding drum-work, and outstanding group vocals all round. Very accessible and catchy track, a real Strawbs classic. That same late Byrds vibe is present again on `Lady Fuscia', with a psychy country and folk feel, effective low-key sitar and lovely lyrics. Gorgeous multi-tracked harmonies, with a melodic electric guitar solo in the middle of this dreamy and hazy romantic piece. `Stormy Down' is upbeat country rock that's a bit lightweight, but pleasant enough. `Down By The Sea' has a moody electric intro and washes of choir Mellotron, then lots of feedback and angry moments with unhinged vocals, back and forth between acoustic passages and electric aggression. There's also a grand and pompous stirring string drenched finale. `The River' is a reflective acoustic and string driven lament, with orchestration and a passionate final verse. Shame about the very abrupt ending! All up, the first side of the album is really rather good!

Side B starts badly with the hideous novelty rock of `Part Of The Union'. A stomping beat, it tries to be a sing-along, but it's cheesy and inane, with a crowd singing the chorus in the background. Probably clever lyrics, but I certainly don't relate to any of it. Worst track by far on the album! `Tears and Pavan' has a moody percussive intro, very majestic Mellotron waves throughout, with longing and haunted vocals from Cousins that become comforting in the second half. There's a tasteful electric guitar melody throughout the whole track. A medieval middle and end section, with some baroque acoustic guitar and warm handclaps, it's a very romantic section, on an evocative and moody piece. `Winter and the Summer' has sweet vocals from Dave Lambert, with some wonderfully pretty and heartfelt lyrics without being schmaltzy. Warm acoustic guitar and gentle percussion, with a strangely plugged in moment during the second half that kind of ruins the mood! `Lay Down' has an upbeat stomping beat to it, very Byrds-like with ragged but warm chorus harmonies, a life-affirming Mellotron choir in the third verse, before a energetic and clean electric guitar on the fade-out. Deeply spiritual lyrics on this very accessible and catchy pop-rocker, if a little repetitive, but sure to get your foot tapping in approval. Then the album crashes with the awful gospel track `Thank You', sung by a wonky kids choir backed by piano. Lovely gesture, but...why?! The lyrics themselves on the album sleeve are nice, though.

Hugely underwhelming at first, before repeated plays show how good most of the material on `Bursting At The Seams' is. There's a few missteps along the way, but the majority of the album features heartfelt vocals, warm playing and simple but sophisticated accessible folk/country rock with intelligent progressive elements. It also shows a very admirable humanity.

Three and a half stars really!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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