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Dave Cousins - Secret Paths CD (album) cover


Dave Cousins

Prog Folk

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3 stars This review is certainly for the old guard and Strawbs/Cousins fans in particular.

I'm not going to be coy by avoiding the fact that Cousins can pick up a few pence for later indie releases like these. However, this solo studio outing (don't be fooled by the cover) gives fans a chance to actually hear and absorb some of Dave Cousins best compositions on this compilation. Joined only by Melvin Duffey on pedal steel and Dobro, it's uber producer Chris Tsangarides that really makes this mellow outing shine. Particularly with his remarkable treatment of Cousins vocals, which haven't sounded that good in 20 years. And Tsangarides' unique 'shimmering but just on the boarder of sounding shrill' production sound works well for Duffy's pedal steel soundscapes. Cousins also wisely avoids some of the Strawbs' wailing numbers which also helps greatly.

The song selection of older Strawbs material is stellar. (When is it not?) With a few different solo Dave Cousins albums circulating right now, this one is a keeper.

Report this review (#1318436)
Posted Monday, December 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Beautiful Renditions with pedal-steel slide.

On this album, Dave Cousins re-records a number of his songs from the Strawbs as well as recording some new tunes he wrote more recently, with just himself and Melvin Duffy in the room (Melvin playing pedal-steel slide). I am so glad he did, as not only are these versions excellent, but the slide guitar playing is beautiful and adds a layer to the music here that is not on any other Dave Cousins or Strawbs album. Perhaps most enjoyable are some tunes that had only been recorded using 80s (over-)production values on previous albums. The key one here is the wonderful "Ringing Down the Years" that Dave wrote in memory of Sandy Denny. Earlier it only appeared on the horrid late-80s Strawbs album of the same name ("Ringing Down the Years") but (as I note in my review of that album) it is so awash in bad 80s production (loud synths, snare drum with tons of reverb, vocals hardly audible, etc) that you can't tell how great a song it is. But here it is allowed to shine. Another example is "Beat the Retreat", originally recorded on the mid-80s album "Don't Say Goodbye", with again, horrid 80s production (loud synths, etc). The 80s versions sound like over-done commercial AOR singles (that they were). The versions here are delicate and touching acoustic ballads, with beautiful ethereal slide sounds. This album makes the music real and vibrant, what was missing on those original recordings. There are some brand new songs here too. "Plainsong", "Sheppard's Song", "Falling in Love Again", and (close to my heart) Dave's ode "Canada", are wonderful additions to the Cousins discography, and all very worthy songs. Finally, the it is true the re-recordings are mixed. Some, like "I Turned My Face into the Wind" I find unnecessary, as I think the original for that song is better, but others like "Josephine, For Better or For Worse", "Song of a Sad Little Girl", and "How I need You Now" are just as good, if not better, than the originals. On the whole, a very enjoyable album, and one I would recommend for fans of Dave Cousins and Strawbs. I give this album 7.4 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to high-ish 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1697970)
Posted Thursday, March 2, 2017 | Review Permalink

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