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DEJA FOU

Strawbs

Prog Folk


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kenprospero@h
4 stars Deja Fou is the first album of all new material by Strawbs in a decade, and it's nice to see that the boys haven't lost their edge.

Fans of Stawbs will undoubtedly know that the band had undergone many personnel changes over the years. Deja Fou sees a reunion of the 1974-75 line up that recorded Hero and Heroine and Ghosts. This is also the line-up that recently toured the US and Canada.

The album itself is a combination of style with some several songs being largely acoustic, and other songs more electric and rocking. Overall, the album works well. However, the album lacks the characteristically strong keyboard work that Strawbs were known for. (Hawken doesn't appear on several of the acoustic tracks, and on the others, I found the keyboard work more subdued than what we've heard in the past from this band.).

Stylistically, the album represents a definate development of David Cousins' and Strawbs' style. Several songs paint a picture and create a mood with music and lyrics and are amongst their strongest pieces. Other songs songs are in the style that fans have seen in the recent Acosutic album (Baroque and Roll) as well as David Cousins' recent collaberation with Rick Wakeman (Hummingbird)

The first two tracks on the album, Riviera Del Flori (Cousins/Lambert) and Under A Cloudless Sky (Cousins) are classic Strawbs Prog music. They are really one work (a la 'Remembering/That Was You and I (when we were Young) from Ghosts). The song has a feel that makes one feel as if one were floating through the sky on an afternoon. Similarly, Sunday Morning (Cousins/Lambert) also has this dreamy quality, and painting a perfect picture with the words and music giving you a feel of a lazy Sunday Morning. A third song where the music and words paint a picture is this Barren Land (Cousins/Lambert), which starts out acoustically, then builds to a crescendo powerfully punctuating the point of the song. This song has a lot of power, and after listening to the album a few times is my personal favorite song on the album.

Face Down in the Well is a David Cousins composition that the Acoustic Strawbs have been playing in concert for the last year. This version adds some strings, and fills out the melody, this track is the kind of ballad that we've come to expect from David Cousins. On a Night Like This (also played by the Acoustic band in concert, written by David Cousins) is a jaunty tune with a latin beat and reminiscent of La Bamba in the beginning -- (who'd have thought it!!). If there's a single from the album, this may be it. On listining to this and others, I detect a spanish/latin influence on Cousin's songwriting that was not present in his earlier work.

If and Here Today Gone Tomorrow (both Cousins) are further acoustic numbers. Both are romantic ballads.

Cold Steel, a David Lambert song takes the album in a different direction -- this a Rock song, pure and simple -- if the band had more popularity, I could see this song receiving a lot of air play. Apart from This Barren Land, it's my second favorite song on the album. When the Lights Came On, is a second David Lambert song, which starts acoustically (with a riff that seems to be inspired by Stairway to Heaven), building throughout.

Russian Front, credited to Cousins, Lambert, Cronk and Hawken, gives each member of the band the opportunity to show their musical prowess, as accompanied by bittersweet lyrics telling a story of life in communist Russia.

The final song NRG, is a melange of middle eastern sounding music, chanting lyrics and recorded street noises. In many ways this song is the most provocative on the album, marking a complete divergance from any Strawbs song that comes to memory. I suspect many die-hard fans will consider this song to be the worst on the album. I confess, I can't get the music out of my head, which I suppose says something.

Overall, Deja Fou is a strong album, with enough familiar for Strawbs fans to be able to welcome back old friends. However, the album also shows the evolution in style and innovation necessary to make it a consistently interesting.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#32310)
Posted Wednesday, September 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Order this album direct from Witchwood records off the Strawbs website and with a little luck you will get an acoustic sampler thrown in too. That was a nice surprise especially the acoustic version of ' Golden Salamander' off Nomadness. Deja Fous marks all new material which is a pleasant surprise with the classic line up of Hawkens/Cousins/Coombes/Cronk and Lambert. Primarily though Cousins and Lambert are the main influence with Chas Cronk taking more of a back seat for a change. It is not a bad album at all. Cousin's voice understandably not as strong as it was in his heyday. The best tracks for me are the more acoustic sets like the opener ' Riviera Del Flori' and ' Face Down In The Well' but ' Barren Land' and ' If' are also very strong. The only weak track for me being ' Under a Cloudless Sky'. Check out also the last track ' NRG' which marks a complete change in direction ( eastern influences).So we have a new Strawbs album in 2004. Will it be their last? I for one hope not.

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#32311)
Posted Saturday, September 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, Cousins and co. are back and they can still cut it! From the "Ghosts"-like opener to the Arabic-influenced showstopper "NRG", DEJA FOU is an album of many delights.

Strawbs' strong points have always been eclectic songwriting and a long line of talented musicians. Here Dave Cousins is re-united with the line-up that did such classic work from 1973-75, Lambert, Cronk, Coombes and Hawken. They play well, though there aren't that many songs where they play together as a group. Hawken wasn't present during the recordings, (he lives in the US), instead he was sent the tapes afterwards to fill in his keyboard work.

On the slower numbers, there is usually only Lambert, Cronk and Cousins performing, as in the beautiful, stark "Face down in the well" and the wistful ballads "Sunday morning" and "If". (with a string quintet arranged by Robert Kirby. another Strawbs alumni) "If" is already becoming a live-favourite on the Strawbs many tours around the UK and US/ Canada. It's not prog, but it's a lovely tune like nothing else made in this day and age.

The group rock out on Lambert's fine "Cold steel", the poppy "On a night like this" (not my favourite) and "Russian front", which is the most progressive number on the CD. Meanwhiile, "Under a cloudless sky" is reminiscent of Strawbs from the era of "Hero and heroine", with a slow build-up, built around a hypnotic guitar-line and then a cracking finish.

The weakest thing about DEJA FOU is the production, which I think is 'nt nearly as dynamic as it should have been. The sound is sometimes muddled during the heavier moments. Otherwise the CD doesn't disappoint. And Dave Cousins still writes lyrics and tunes as no- one else. Good one.

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Send comments to brainway (BETA) | Report this review (#32312)
Posted Sunday, February 06, 2005 | Review Permalink
soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I'm afraid that it may be time for David Cousins to hang it up. I just could not get past the fact that he sounds like an old man on this album. Previous albums showed that his voice was getting weaker, but here it has gone past the point of redemption. Musically, the album is a mixed bag. The scales tip more towards folky than prog, at least in terms of loudness. Most of the melodies and chord progressions are familiar to the point of mediocrity, and the lyrics seem uninspired. And what a crappy cover! Yes, the last song IS a real departure, but it's probably there only because Rod Coombes had a bargaining chip or two to play. And where's John Hawken? Missing In Action for most of the album... Two stars, but only for completionists and those who have an overwhelming need for more Strawbs product.

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Send comments to soundsweird (BETA) | Report this review (#32313)
Posted Monday, April 04, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Shine on silver (haired) sons

Over the years, the Strawbs have become more of a family than a band, with numerous members coming and going while Dave Cousins remains the father of the house. So it was that in 2004, the line up which recorded the fine "Hero and heroine" album some 30 years previously reconvened to record this release. It should be said though that while Chas Crock, Rod Coombes and John Hawkin all make significant and valuable contributions, this is primarily an Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert project.

We open with a brief instrumental introduction featuring chromaharp which leads into one of the highlights of the album. "Under a cloudless sky" sets out as a soft reflective number but builds quickly through some fine vocal harmonies. The track has welcome echoes of "The vision of the lady of the lake" from the band's earliest days in both sound and structure, Cousins voice retaining all the passion and drama it had way back then. Robert Kirby's orchestration of the track is dynamic but sympathetic.

The string quartet who grace the album come to the fore for the first time on "Face down in the well", a melancholy soft ballad of the type Cousins delivers so well. The tracks tend to alternate between up tempo songs and gentle ballads. Dave Lambert takes on occasions lead vocals such as on his self composed "Cold steel", one of the upbeat numbers.

"Russian front" is another major highlight of the album, the 7 minute track cumulating in a frenzied instrumental. This contrasts starkly with the following "Here today, gone tomorrow", which sees Cousins delivering a delicate prose, accompanied only by piano.

Only the closing "NRG" lets the side down. This electro pop number may have simply been a fling at chart success, but the strange combination of Oriental and Celtic influences with a thumping beat and trite lyrics all adds up to a track too many on the album.

In all though, this is a fine Strawbs album which incorporates some of their old prog inclinations with lighter songs and delicate ballads. The sun continues to shine on the Strawbs.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#186392)
Posted Sunday, October 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I was quite interested to listen to the line-up who released one of the best Strawbs album. It was back in '74 with Hero & Heroine. In the meantime, my feeling is that when you listen to this work is that the great inspiration of those remote days has gone away and that this album sounds rather flat.

Some good folk tunes, no doubt (If). The ones who were expecting some return to a more symphonic side of their work won't get it. No mellotron, very little keyboards in general and a lot of acoustic guitar.

The country-rock Cold Steel brings some rhythm to the whole which is seriously lacking of diversity. Some songs being really on the minimalist side like Sunday Morning. This Barren Land reminds me seriously Jerusalem (from ELP) during the vocal parts. The whole melody is just reproduced; but on a lower tone. Not a bad song after all.

Highlights are difficult to find. The rocking Russian Front could have been one of those, but both the intro and the closing parts are weak. It should work pretty good on stage though. The last ballad of this album is one of my fave: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is quite melancholic and moving. It is a very delicate piece of music which contrast with a very, hum, special closing track.

I believe that a great opportunity have been missed here. Sometimes, such a reunion leads to a very good album (as Kansas did for instance). Two stars for Already Crazy - Déjà Fou.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#187196)
Posted Monday, October 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Where is the NRG?

Deja Fou opens with a very subtle and mellow instrumental that perfectly sets the mode for the album, or at least the first half or so of the album. This instrumental leads directly into the first proper song, Under A Cloudless Sky. This is an excellent (semi-) ballad, of the type of which this album has many, but a strange choice to open the album, I think. Face Down In The Well continues in the same style, it is an acoustic ballad based on guitar, cello and with some female backing vocals. Yet again this is an excellent song.

On A Night Like This is the first up tempo song of the album and unfortunately it falls completely flat. This is easily the worst track on Deja Fou and possibly the worst in the whole Strawbs discography! This is pretty much the same type of music to which very old people in my country likes to dance! It is very light-weight and completely lacks punch.

The song If returns once again to the mellow mood of the first two songs. Cousins sounds very much like Cat Stevens on this song. And this is yet another excellent mellow ballad song with a subtle string section, acoustic guitar and vocals. Cat Stevens would envy Cousins for this beautiful song! Banjo features heavily in Cold Steel, which is otherwise a very conventional and ordinary rock song. Nothing special here.

Sunday Morning is yet another song in the slow, mellow mood. Once again, this is primarily based on acoustic guitar and vocals. At this point it almost doesn't matter how good the song is, because it feels like more of the same anyway. There are simply too many songs of this type on Deja Fou. But judged on its own merits this too is a very nice tune.

The greatness of The Barren Land cannot be ignored, however, even if it too starts out as a song in the acoustic ballad mood all too familiar by now. But it develops into a full on Strawbs attack with some electric guitar soloing and marching drums. Finally! I hesitate to call this Prog, but it is the closest thing on this album so far.

When The Lights Came On is pure pop song that would have fitted perfectly on Deep Cuts. I kind of like it! And it is at least a different type of song from the majority of this album and that alone deserves some credit.

Russian Front and NRG are the only two tracks on the whole of Deja Fou that really rocks. Strangely (and unwisely, I would say) these two songs are put towards the very end of the album. These songs are also the only two that could be said to be a bit progressive. However, these songs - at least - have a more full on band sound, with more keyboards, drums and electric guitars. Just the type of thing this album would need more of, really. NRG is very different from the rest of the album and feels a bit as if it was just tagged on at the end, while really belonging somewhere else. It is a great song though with a Far Eastern sound. Strange way to close the album. In between Russian Front and NRG we find a very good piano ballad called Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.

There are indeed several great songs on this album and only a couple of not so good ones. But there is very little in terms of Prog and there are too many ballads of the same type and sound to keep it interesting for the listener throughout. The instrumentation is often too minimal for my taste with only occasional electric guitars, drums and keyboards. The keyboards are also not varied at all, staying mainly with a brass-like sound. Another minor problem is that the vocals of Cousins are often slightly too loud in the mix.

For Strawbs fans this album is very welcome and, indeed, very pleasant. But for the average Prog fan this is just a good, but non-essential release.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#198554)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Hyped as the reunion album for the classic lineup of the mid 70s, "Deja Fou" delivers nothing like that product, not even allowing for the passage of 3 decades and a host of technological improvements. Instead the first Strawbs album to include all new material since the 70s is more like an Acoustic Strawbs effort with keyboards and drums occasionally added in. It also suffers from a variety of production missteps, from the mismanagement of Dave Cousins aging voice to inconsistent volumes, that even in the 70s would not have been tolerated.

Yet "Deja Fou" delivers on so many other fronts that, if regarded on its own rather than by comparison, it succeeds brilliantly. The opener "Riviera Del Flori/Under A Cloudless Sky" is reminiscent of "Flying" off "Bursting at the Seams", with plenty of mellotron that unfortunately does not surface enough elsewhere, and some excellent vocal harmonies that almost compensate for Cousins' obvious straining. A preponderance of delicate string laden ballads like "Face Down in the Well", "If", and "Sunday Morning" threaten to bring down the proceedings, but the lyrics and/or melodies are so strong that they pass by as a story read by a cherished parent. The strings themselves arranged by ex-Strawb Robert Kirby are simply sumptuous.

A few more rocking numbers do provide contrast, such as the banjo-driven Dave Lambert tune "Cold Steel", the well constructed "Jerusalem" re-adaptation "This Barren Land", and even the rollicking cold war throwback "Russian Front", cheesy synthesizers notwithstanding. Unfortunately, the closer "NRG" is just too much novelty song to effectively showcase Cousins' increasing interest in Moorish influences. The following album would succeed much better in this regard. The real gem, after nearly 5 years of reflection, is "Here Today Gone Tomorrow", a delicate and wistful ballad featuring mostly just Cousins and Hawken, and one that should rightfully have ended the proceedings.

"Deja Fou" can be seen as Strawbs floating the idea of a full fledged band effort, which would come with "The Broken Hearted Bride" a few years later. It is worth approaching if you enjoyed their acoustic albums and concerts but want a little more muscle. It is an alluring mix of the sanity and the madness of all the group's incarnations.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#210118)
Posted Saturday, April 04, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Deja faux? I have a hard time trying to figure out why this so called reunion album by the Ghosts era Strawbs is so enganging. It's has none of the bombastic prog of Hero and Heroine (or it's thick production) or the sweeping melodies of the songs found on Ghosts. Most of the songs are acoustic based with hauntingly beautiful string arrangements by David Kirby enhanced with touching piano by the great John Hawkin, especially on the songs If, Sunday Morning and Face Down In The Well which has chilling counter vocals from Chas Cronk alongside the melancholy lead from Dave Cousins as well as an erie violin reminiscent of the theme from the movie Schindler's List. Even the Dave Lambert penned song Cold Steel rocks hard despite the fact that the only electric instrument played on the track is the bass played by Chas Cronk with drummer Rod Coombes doing his best Bonhan immitation. It's not a far reach to suggest, as others have, that Cousins and company were so infuenced by their acoustic work that acoustic folk themes dominate this album. And why not? After all, the Strawbs were always folk-rock band at heart with 1967's unheralded Sandy and the Strawbs album All Of Our Own Work being, IMHO, the equal to anything produced by the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds and even Fairport Convention at that early folk-rock era. Perhaps that is the reason why this unassuming album works so well on so many levels. What this album may lack in ultra slick production value is more than compensated by the qualtity of it's material. Four stars to the old chaps.

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Send comments to SteveG (BETA) | Report this review (#1160648)
Posted Saturday, April 12, 2014 | Review Permalink

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