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Strawbs Ringing Down The Years album cover
2.72 | 27 ratings | 8 reviews | 4% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1991

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Might As Well Be On Mars (4:11)
2. The King (2:59)
3. Forever Ocean Blue (4:01)
4. Grace Darling (Live) (6:29)
5. Afraid To Let You Go (3:52)
6. Tell Me What You See In Me (6:28)
7. Ringing Down The Years (6:55)
8. Stone Cold Is The Woman's Heart (4:22)
9. Taking A Chance (3:59)

Total time 43:16

Line-up / Musicians

- Dave Cousins / lead & backing vocals, acoustic guitar
- Tony Hooper / backing vocals, acoustic guitar
- Brian Willoughby / lead guitars
- Chris Parren / keyboards
- Rod Demick / bass, lead (5) & backing vocals
- Richard Hudson / drums, acoustic guitar, lead (9) & backing vocals

- Cathy Lesurf / vocals (2)

Releases information

Artwork: Rob Castle

CD Virgin - CDV 3031 (1991, Canada)
2xCD The Road Goes On Forever ‎- RGF/WCDCD 039 (1998, UK) Remastered by Denis Blackham and bundled with "Don't Say Goodbye" album

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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STRAWBS Ringing Down The Years ratings distribution

(27 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(4%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(7%)
Good, but non-essential (52%)
Collectors/fans only (30%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

STRAWBS Ringing Down The Years reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "This one's for Sandy"

Recorded in 1990 well after their "Halcyon days" were behind them, Dave Cousins is once again joined by Tony Hooper and Richard Hudson (but not John Ford or indeed Rick Wakeman!) from the "From the Witchwood" line up. While it might be expected that with Hooper present, the band would have been steered back in folk direction, this is primarily a rock album.

Cousins does the bulk of the song writing, including an emotive "Forever ocean blue" and a countrified "Stone cold is the woman's heart". Two of the tracks are written by Demick/ Hudson/ Willoughby, but it has to be said, these are another example of democracy over quality (see Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Mardi grass" for the most obvious example).

"The King" features Cathy Le Surf on vocals along with Cousins. While she sounds more like Maddy Prior, there are distinct echoes of the Strawbs early work with Sandy Denny. It's a simple but uplifting track, with great keyboard work by Chris Parren. Appropriately, the title track later on is dedicated to Denny, telling as it does Cousins' personal recollections of the voice of Fairport Convention (not to mention Led Zeppelin's "Battle of evermore").

"Grace darling", originally from "Ghosts", is given a fresh coat of paint. Gone is the choir and church organ, to be replaced by a much starker acoustic version with an almost blues feel and excellent lead guitar. Personally, I preferred the previous version, but Strawbs fans were divided over its virtues, and many will enjoy this version more.

On the other hand, the version here of one of their first songs "Tell me what you see in me" transforms it into a heavy driving Strawbs classic which would have sounded great on "Bursting at the seams".

A hidden gem by the Strawbs this one, fans of the band will be impressed.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Ringin Down The years gets a solid three stars from me mainly for two classic tracks, the title track which relates to Sandy Denny and bygone times and ' Tell Me What You See In Me'. The latter is a thrill to watch live even to this day it makes for good stage material. Rod Demick on bass gives a refreshing boost of enthusiasm and also great to see Tony Hooper back in the fold for a brief time.Overall probably their best album since 1980 to present day.
Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars The second Strawbs period was not really the most prolific one and these Ringing Down The Years came four years later than their reunion and weak Don't Say Goodbye.

Even if the opening number Might As Well Be On Mars is close to a Springsteen song, the accent on this album is on the folk side. I would say pop folk though because a ballad like Forever Ocean Blue holds more of a syrupy tune than a true folk song.

This album holds too many weak songs IMO to be considered as a good album. Straight forward pop music is what you get here (Afraid To Let You Go): mellowish and not really inspired. Is this really the maximum that the band can achieve? I hope not.

Still, I was expecting more of this album but I can hardly be convinced by Tell Me What You See In Me even if it starts promisingly. My favourite song is the title track which offers some fine melody and a very melancholic tone. It is best listened close to the chimney with a good glass of wine (or any other earthly great stuff).

Most songs featured aren't really thrilling nor moving; Basic rock ballads is the main stream. I was not able to distinguish any great songs on this work. Average music. Two stars.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Only one album per decade, and yet they needed to include remakes!

Strawbs took four years to come up with another album after the previous comeback album, Don't Say Goodbye. That album had been the band's only 80's release, and the present album would be the sole new 90's release from the band (not counting Heartbreak Hill that had been recorded in 1978). Still, they seemed to have found themselves short on new material!

Ringing Down The Years starts with a cover song. Cousins is one of the best song writers of all time, so why record covers? The King is a good song but the female lead vocals make it sound a bit out of place on a Strawbs album. Forever Ocean Blue is a typical Cousins ballad, based on piano and vocals. Good song with nice guitar solos, but nothing really outstanding. Grace Darling is, of course, a song that we have heard before. It was originally featured on Ghosts in 1975. It is a great song and this is not a bad version of it, but it adds very little to the original and leaves us wondering what the point is of re-recording songs that the large majority of fans have already? Also Tell Me What You See In Me is an older song, originally on the band's debut album from 1969.

The title track is a really beautiful song about Sandy Denny. The first time I heard this song was on the live DVD Strawbs - Classic Rock Legends. I much prefer the live version, simply because it is livelier and has (even) more emotion. In addition, on the DVD Dave does a really moving introduction to the song, telling the story of Sandy's tragic death. While listening to this album I get the feeling that they were a slightly tired band - a band on auto pilot. There are indeed a couple of very good songs and no really awful ones at all, but there are too many mid tempo songs that are too similar to each other and too many non-original compositions.

Personally, I prefer Don't Say Goodbye over this one. There is more energy and freshness in Don't Say Goodbye. I would recommend this only for fellow fans of the band.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars If "Don't Say Goodbye" saw Strawbs drawing on 9 years of accumulated but unreleased material, "Ringing Down the Years" is both named and presented as the sort of "greatest hits" collection even fans don't care for, especially when starved for new selections. It reworks songs going back to 1969 and even throws in a cover from another group, such that the quotient of "new" originals is less than half, and half of those are not written by Cousins.

While this follow up to "Don't Say Goodbye" is generally considered to be superior, I consider it to be the lesser effort for the aforementioned reasons and also for a generally burned out vibe. Most of the glory that can be bestowed is courtesy of the tearful tribute to Sandy Denny that is the title cut. Even the polished sheen cannot contain the emotion of Mr Cousins getting the news of her death in a "Cleveland hotel room", probably the loneliest place in the world. Willoughby succeeds in coaxing weeping waves out of his guitar as the song approaches its climax.

"Might as well be on Mars" was a minor hit for Canadian group "Pukka Orchestra" in the mid 1980s and Strawbs hoped to take advantage of Canadian content radio play rules to parlay the song into their own hit. Regimented by the arrangements of its time, the quality still shines through. "The King" is a Cousins religious tune with plenty of olde Englishe flourishes, and accompaniment by the Albion Band's Cathy le Surf.

Both "Grace Darling" and "Tell me What you see in Me" offer different takes on the originals but ultimately lack their freshness, while "Forever Ocean Blue" and "Stone Cold is the Woman's Heart" are lackluster ballads. The contingent of Hudson, Demick, and Willoughby contribute two tracks that don't sound much like Strawbs and aren't very noteworthy, the better being the closer "Afraid to Let You Go".

"Ringing Down the Years" is a hodgepodge effort with plenty of quality but not much originality or cohesiveness. It is perhaps not surprising that it was to be the last Strawbs studio album for over a decade.

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars For the most part whenever the Strawbs album 'Ringing Down the Years' is brought up it is either in the context of the Sandy Denny tribute title track or the band's prior (1987) studio release 'Don't Say Goodbye', or both. The connection with 'Don't' makes sense since the two albums were released as a two-disc CD set in the late nineties which is about the only way anyone is going to hear these tracks unless they happen across the original CD in a cutout bin somewhere. Which isn't likely since the CD was only released in Canada and with virtually no promotion it didn't move many copies there.

The Denny connection is real, Denny having made her professional band debut with the Strawbs more than twenty years prior to this release, and given the intimacy of Dave Cousins' lyrics one has to assume he had remained close to her until her unexpected death in 1978: "I was in a Cleveland hotel room when they telephoned the news; I drowned my sorrow all night long in Southern Comfort blues. The show went on to great applause and choking back the tears, as every word you ever sang came ringing down the years". The song was first recorded in 1979 but as far as I know was only released as a quickly- deleted single. The song is a poignant tribute to an incredible talent and gives insight into the depth of the Strawbs connections to early British progressive and folk-rock music.

As for the rest of the album it's a mixed-bag, much like its predecessor 'Don't Say Goodbye'. The opening "Might as Well Be from Mars" is a fairly disposable New-Wave leaning rocker not really in keeping with the Strawbs body of work, although the lyrics do speak to a fractured relationship which has certainly been a regularly recurring theme for the band. The song was included only because Canadian law at the time required native artistic talent to be included in order for the record to be released there. The song comes from Neil Chapman and Graeme Williamson of Pukka Orchestra, a fairly obscure Canadian New-Wave band of the early eighties.

Cathy Lesurf of the Albion Band provides the lead female vocals on "The King", a very Strawbs-like baroque-folk tune which had originally been the b-side of "Ringing Down the Years" with Maddy Prior providing the vocals back then. "Forever Ocean Blue" boasts sweeping strings and nice vocal arrangements as well as a rich Brian Willoughby guitar solo but in the end comes off a bit sappy in my opinion, a bit like some of the too-sincere stuff Chris DeBurgh was cranking out in the eighties and nineties. Good if you like that sort of thing but I tend to prefer Cousins' acerbic wit to his sentimental side. And best to combine the two if possible.

"Grace Darling" originally appeared on the 'Ghosts' album and while this version is considerably longer and more electric I mostly prefer the original's slightly off-kilter feel to the highly-processed studio version here. Don't get me wrong though, it's a solid song and both versions are good; it's just that the 'Ghost' one is better.

The other retread is "Tell Me What You See in Me" which dates back to the early days of the band, and in fact appeared on the Sandy Denny-fronted demo tracks that became the 'All Our Own Work' release. Cousins also included this on the first A&M studio release for the band in 1969. This is a good version but of course Cousins can't carry a candle vocally to Denny's version. It is interesting to compare his voice in 1991 to the 1969 'Strawbs' version though, and despite all those years he still had quite a rich character to his singing well into the nineties (and beyond). The sitar and tabla from a group guest Arab musicians on the 1969 version are replaced with Willoughby's guitar and Chris Parren's keyboards here.

Bassist Rod Demick makes a rare songwriting contribution with his collaboration on "Afraid to Let You Go", yet another love song and one on which he also sings. This is a soft-rock number but not a bad choice for an early nineties album. Demick also co-wrote the closing "Taking a Chance", another soft-rocker that features drummer Richard Hudson on lead vocals.

The band hearkens back to their Oyster/Arista days on "Stone Cold is the Woman's Heart", yet again a soft-rocker but this one drafted by Cousins and a pleasant, slightly country- tinged number with some bluesy guitar that sounds a bit like something he wrote as a solo piece but again a good choice here.

This is a fairly forgotten album in the vast Strawbs discography, and I wouldn't suggest it to anyone as a prototypical introduction to the band. But it's a decent record nonetheless, and three stars fits pretty well. If you can find the version bundled with 'Don't Say Goodbye' it would make a nice addition to your collection.


Latest members reviews

3 stars With the release of Dave Cousins' new Strawbs outing The Magic Of It All, with its replacement musicians, I decided to backtrack on other Strawbs albums with musical chairs and found this album in my collection originally released in 1991. Ringing Down The Years finds Dave moonlighting from his ... (read more)

Report this review (#2954547) | Posted by SteveG | Wednesday, September 27, 2023 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Best Avoided. I am a huge Strawbs fan (indeed, saw them live just a few months ago - they are still great!), and have virtually everything they ever did (even the five-CD 'Taste of Strawbs'). I will start my reviews of their albums with their two least-known. This one was originally only relea ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697735) | Posted by Walkscore | Wednesday, March 1, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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