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Strawbs Heartbreak Hill [Aka: Starting Over] album cover
2.77 | 45 ratings | 11 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1995

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Something For Nothing (7:23)
2. Another Day Without You (2:57)
3. We Can Make It Together (4:18)
4. Heartbreak Hill (7:31)
5. Starting Over (10:48)
6. Two Separate People (2:55)
7. Desert Song (4:19)
8. Let It Rain (4:04)

Total time 44:15

Bonus track on 2006 Witchwood CD:
9. Something For Nothing (The Whiplash Mix) (7:23)

Line-up / Musicians

- Dave Cousins / vocals, acoustic guitars
- Jo Partridge / guitars, mandolin, vocals
- Andy Richards / keyboards
- Chas Cronk / bass, vocals
- Tony Fernandez / drums, percussion

- Dave Lambert / guitar (1)
- Miller Anderson / guitar (3), vocals (3, 8)

Releases information

Recording from 1978, initially and for years only available on MC under the title "Starting Over"

Artwork: Rod Green

CD Road goes on Forever - RGF/WC CD024 (1995, UK)
CD Witchwood - WMCD 2033 (2006, UK) First master from original studio tapes, with 1 bonus track

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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STRAWBS Heartbreak Hill [Aka: Starting Over] ratings distribution

(45 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
Good, but non-essential (40%)
Collectors/fans only (16%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

STRAWBS Heartbreak Hill [Aka: Starting Over] reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Heartbreak Hill for me is Strawbs lowest point musically. Constant line up changes and constant gigging never managed to provide enough inspiration to create new excellent material. Some of the material on Heartbreak Hill has been around a long time but not ever having been written to studio output. The songs are not strong. On a negative point ' Two Seperate People' has to be Strawbs at their very worst. On a plus side songs like' Something For Nothing' and ' Heartbreak Hill' give the album a shred of credibility.For completionists only.
Review by soundsweird
1 stars An attempt to recapture their mid-70's prog magic that fails miserably. Mimicry alone does not a good product make. The recipe: write some generic songs and dress them up in overly-familiar, proggy arrangements. Add an unlistenable production job that makes you think something's wrong with your stereo (a slightly tinny, canned sound with little presence). Cousin's voice was still intact, but it doesn't matter. This one's a stinker.
Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars "Heartbreak Hill" seems to make the unanimity amongst prog reviewers.

This album sounds purely rock during the opener "Something For Nothing" but I far much prefer this type of music that some country oriented one like they have released earlier in their career. Fine keyboards are an asset (but there will be more later on). There are also some pop-rock oriented songs like "We can Make It Together" but at the end of the day, my feeling is that "Strawbs" released musch poorer tracks than this one.

The question is of course if there is a room for such "Strawbs" album in 1995.given the fact that it was recorded in .1978.

One of the best song from this album is the title track. There is a more complex structure involved, and the extensive use of bombastic keys provides a definite prog feeling (even if it is on the rocking side). IMO, this song is one of the best from the band.

Some fine piano even adding some Renaissance touch! A highlight of this album. Dave Cousin is particularly good in his vocal duties.

"Starting Over" is the longest Strawbs song (for four seconds): it sounds as a collection of pieces put together, but in an intelligent manner. Upbeat and mainstream rock at times, it features a quite nice and proggy intro and there are sections throughout the song (especially during the second part) which convey a spacey and melodic mood which is welcome. The fact that the keyboard player co-wrote the song with Cousin should not be alien to this prog orientation.

IMO, this is another nice moment of music. A mini-rock opera on its own. Cousin is again passionate and convincing. There is even a "Gentle Giant" vocal sounding exercise before the finale which is upbeat again. I consider this song as one of the top ten ones from "Strawbs". It is fully in line with their symphonic period (which was also the one I preferred). An excellent track really.

There are of course blunders as well, like the pitiful "Two Separate People" and the popish "Desert Song". The closing track is of the same vein, unfortunately.

It is true to say that this album is not consistent, but three long songs (which are good for twenty-six minutes or two-third of this album) range between three (the opening track) or four stars ("Heartbreak Hill" and "Starting Over"). Only one third are one star worth.

To my surprise, I come with a rating closer to the three stars than anything else for this album...

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars Apart from the obvious "I don't like it", what constitutes a "bad" album in one's eyes? Is it fair to say that an album is bad because I have no appreciation for the genre? I may dislike something and give it a low rating because I don't like the style, but I am more likely to shun it completely than spend much time trying to give a perspective in which most readers would be uninterested. I submit that a "bad" album is one that pales considerably when compared to others of its ilk. All the ingredients are there but the master chef was AWOL, and neither food nor music can endure apathy and self-pity. "Heartbreak Hill" is such an album.

That this record came even close to contemporary release (by Rocket Records) in 1979 is testament to STRAWBS by then declining reputation. The attempt to rock hard is ill-advised, as in "Something for Nothing", but we had seen it before in dribs and drabs, normally reined in, but not here. We had also been privy to more than a few unctuous ballads, although "Two Separate People" plumbs hitherto unexplored depths. It is the progressive tracks here that have the most to answer for - the title cut has repetitive headbanging verses and arrangements, broken only by a keyboard section by newcomer Andy Richards that can only have us pining for even the just departed Robert Kirby and John Mealing. Even Cousins' most emotive expressions sound hollow with such banal material. "Starting Over" is unfortunately the longest track in Strawbs history, but it is otherwise ignominious. Yes it is an epic, with several static parts. The first sounds like JOURNEY on steroids, and the middle part like PINK FLOYD on downers. In between, Richards plays quickly but with no sense of purpose. None of it sounds like Strawbs.

A couple of cuts - "Desert Song" and "Another Day without You" - show the folk rock blend that we have come to demand from this group. Neither is outstanding, but the mandolin and harmonies on the latter do merit special mention. It is worth noting that three of the HH tracks were reworked for the 1987 comeback album "Don't Say Goodbye". Since HH did not see any official release until 1995, the DSG versions were the first that most of us heard, and in every case they are superior, but more about that later.

It was a show of mercy for broken hearted Strawbs fans that Dave Cousins opted to leave the music industry before this album could be released. Rounded up to 2 stars for historic value only, and because time is a great healer.

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars The 'Heartbreak Hill' CD artwork bears a 1995 copyright date, but these tracks were actually recorded in 1978. The band was coming off a disappointing few years with none of their previous four albums producing any hit singles despite the Dave Cousins/Chas Cronk songwriting duo's concentrated focus on trying to produce radio-friendly tunes. The gamble of back-to-back studio sessions for 'Burning for You' and 'Deadlines' backfired when neither garnered much attention or radio play, and by 1978 Cousins was vacillating between being in or out of the band and both part-time keyboardists (John Mealing and Robert Kirby) were gone. Cousins managed to sign a young Andy Richards to fill the 'permanent' keyboard slot long vacated by John Hawken and the group returned to the studio but scheduling conflicts with guitarist Dave Lambert led to his departure almost immediately and even Cousins split before a record deal could be cut, and in the end it would be seventeen years before the final product would find its way to release.

Besides Richards the group also invited another young up-and-comer in guitarist Jo Partridge, fresh off a tour supporting Elton John's 'Blue Moves' album which like many Elton John albums was produced by Gus Dudgeon, who had also produced the first Strawbs studio record. Small world. Partridge provided the lead guitar tracks for most of the songs on this album except the opener which Lambert played on before leaving.

The musical style of most of this album is a radical departure from the commercially- oriented stuff the band had been cranking out for most the few prior years. There are definite hints of the electric folk-rock sounds of their early seventies work, and more than a little comparison to bands like Jethro Tull around the same period (eg., heavier electric guitar mixed with ambitious keyboard forays and haunting, story-telling lyrics). "Something For Nothing", "Starting Over" and the title track are exquisitely bombastic works that just about any progressive rock fan would find appealing, and most of the shorter, more subdued songs like "Another Day Without You" and "Two Separate People" are thick with acoustic instrumentation, layered keyboards and lilting piano passages.

Even the one rocker ("Desert Song") is very much in the Strawbs style with a cheeky tale of a young lass being seduced by a Bedouin prince and left savoring the memory in his empty tent. Love 'em and leave 'em indeed!

This is a much better album than its belated release and non-existent promotion would suggest. Were it not for the upheaval in the band and its management at the time one has to wonder if this would have been the record that reinvigorated the band and their fans and led to future success as the seventies wound to a close. We'll never know, but at least the music is around to enjoy and reflect on today. These tracks were remastered in 2006 and released on Witchwood Records as a 'platinum' edition with a bonus version of "Something for Nothing". That edition is a bit pricey, but there's also a stripped-down ('non- platinum') version of the remastered album as well as several other CD reissues of dubious origin available today. For any Strawbs fan this is a must-have, and for anyone even remotely interested in the band it definitely falls into the highly-recommended category. I'm going to go out on a limb with four stars here. While these tracks don't reach the depth of complexity and vibrancy of the classic Strawbs studio releases, they do show what they were still capable of even as the group and their support structure (management and record label) crumbled around them. Well worth the investment of both your time and money.


Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars The one that didn't meet the deadline

Heartbreak Hill was recorded in 1978 and was intended as the follow-up album to Deadlines. However, due to problems with the record company and management (and eventually the demise of the band), the album was not released at the time. Not until 1995 did the original Heartbreak Hill recordings see the light of day on an official release. In the meantime the reformed band had released two further studio albums in the 80's and early 90's, one of which featured re-recorded versions of three of the songs from the then unreleased Heartbreak Hill sessions (Let It Rain, We Can Make It Together, and Something For Nothing). According to the band's official website, the 1995 CD version of Heartbreak Hill were not taken from the original master tapes, but instead from some inferior source. The 2006 "Platinum Edition" of Heartbreak Hill (on which this review is based), on the other hand, was taken from the original master tapes which by then had been retrieved.

For Prog fans the seven and a half minute title track and the 11 minute Staring Over are of special interest. These two tracks qualify among the most progressive ones since the Ghosts album from 1975. The former is an excellent piece of music! Though (partly) more progressive than most of the stuff they did during the second half of the 70's (from Nomadness to Deadlines), most of rest of Heartbreak Hill consists of the same type of rather conventional Rock with only slight touches of Folk Rock and Prog Rock.

Better than some of the albums that actually got released by the band during the second half of the 70's!

Latest members reviews

4 stars Much better than their other late-70s albums This album is not well known, because the record company refused to release it when they recorded it (or rather more complexly, their management refused to allow them to release it to the record company and to continue managing them, which led to a si ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697738) | Posted by Walkscore | Wednesday, March 1, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I don't quite get all the negative reviews for this album. To me it was the antithesis of the of previous "poppy" late 70's albums just prior to it. We need to remember that this one was recorded in 1978 and then it sat unreleased until 1995. So it's a great snapshot of what was happening just b ... (read more)

Report this review (#1358594) | Posted by Anglophile | Saturday, January 31, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The Strawbs literally climbing a heart breaking hill. Most Strawbs fans will be familiar with the circumstances surrounding this album. Recorded with multiple players in 1978 and never released until 1995, this is not one of the best loved Strawbs' albums from the 70's but it is hands and feet a ... (read more)

Report this review (#1161041) | Posted by SteveG | Sunday, April 13, 2014 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Nothing technically or musically wrong with this album, it`s just that it comes off as a Dave Cousins solo outing, relying on session musicians to complete as Dave Lambert was leaving to pursue a solo career himself and makes only a marginal contribution on one track, Something For Nothing. As a ... (read more)

Report this review (#191829) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Thursday, December 4, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Originally planned as the follow up to Deadlines but kept in the archives until 1995. This is a fine album, which could have revitalized the band's fortunes, but it was not to be. Ironically, the Strawbs disbanded in the throes of making this album, days before getting an offer from Elton John ... (read more)

Report this review (#62991) | Posted by brainway | Tuesday, January 3, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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