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STRING DRIVEN THING

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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String Driven Thing picture
String Driven Thing biography
Scotland's contribution to progressive rock may appear rather minute, but the role the Scots played in the development of folk rock (and by the same extent progressive folk)is simply enormous. After Donovan, the Incredible String Band, the Pentangle and a few more, came this Glaswegian trio called String Driven Thing in 67, composed of Chris Adams and his wife and guitarist John Mannion. While they stayed rather unsuccessful for a long while, with their debut album completely unnoticed on a independent label. By 71, the group had seen Mannion leaving, but he was replaced with violinist Grahame Smith and bassist Colin Wilson. Soon they got signed to the Charisma label and with Shel Talmy producing two excellent albums, encountering a certain kind of success in Continental Europe, but staying close to unknown in the Isles. After health-related problems in a tour founder Chris Adams quit with his wife leaving Grahame Smith reforming the group from scratch for two further albums. Neither of these albums will have the charm or adventure of the two earlier albums, developing a more AOR rock that had no real distinction except for a violin sound and the group folded in the mis-70's.

SDT reformed in the mid-90's under Chris Adams' instigation releasing a live album. SDT still plays now and again as the millennium is well under way.

:::: Bio written by Hugues Chantraine, Belgium ::::




Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
Great folk prog on the Charisman label



Discography:
String Driven Thing - 70
String Driven Thing - 72
The Machine That Cried - 73
Please Mind Your Head - 74
Keep Your' And On It - 75

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STRING DRIVEN THING discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

STRING DRIVEN THING top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.32 | 10 ratings
String Driven Thing
1970
3.15 | 21 ratings
String Driven Thing
1972
3.45 | 48 ratings
The Machine That Cried
1973
2.63 | 17 ratings
Please Mind Your Head
1974
2.74 | 15 ratings
Keep Yer 'and On It
1975
3.86 | 5 ratings
Moments of Truth
2007
3.00 | 3 ratings
Songs From Another Country (as String Driven)
2009

STRING DRIVEN THING Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.67 | 3 ratings
$uicide - Live in Berlin
1995

STRING DRIVEN THING Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

STRING DRIVEN THING Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Dischotomy / Rarities 1971-74
1992
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Early Years (Mark Two)
2004

STRING DRIVEN THING Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

STRING DRIVEN THING Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 String Driven Thing by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.32 | 10 ratings

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String Driven Thing
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by Psychedelic Paul

4 stars STRING DRIVEN THING were a Prog Folk contraption who were first assembled in Glasgow, Scotland in 1967. The two vital cogs in the machine were husband and wife duo Chris Adams and Pauline Adams with added power provided by Graham Smith on electric violin. The band were apparently lacking inspiration for album titles in their early years as their first two albums released in 1970 and 1972 were simply titled "String Driven Thing". There were three further album releases in the mid-1970's:- "The Machine That Cried" (1973); "Please Mind Your Head" (1974); and "Keep Yer 'and On It" (1975). The machinery then ground to a halt and the band took a VERY long hiatus before cranking it up again over thirty years later with two comeback albums:- "Moments of Truth" (2007) and "Songs from Another Country" (2009). Their first album - reviewed here - featured twelve songs on the original album with another five bonus tracks added on the CD re-issue.

It's time to wake up and smell the coffee for the album opener "July Morning", which is no relation to the rowdy Uriah Heep classic. No, this is an altogether Folkier tune. It's an upbeat feel-good song which is positively bursting with the joys of summer. There's enough joyous optimism here to inspire you to make an acrobatic leap out of bed in the morning, instilled with energy and enthusiasm as you bathe in the warm glow of the vibrant music. Yes, this exuberant song has more Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go energy than a steaming mugful of cappuccino latte coffee. We're travelling down country roads next for "Say What You Like", which is very reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds. This is a virtually unknown "lost classic" which could potentially have been a big hit, given enough radio airplay at the time. Sadly though, this first independently-released album by String Driven Thing disappeared without trace and the original LP album is now like gold dust to record collectors. It's rumoured there were only around a hundred pressings made of the original album, making it about as rare as finding a diamond in the dust. "Magic Garden" is the next song on our musical adventure. This is an all-round good Pop song with a touch of String Driven magic, featuring a driving chug-along beat and an energising electric guitar. It's a wonderful fifty year trip back in time to the days when everything was fabulously hip and groovy, which inevitably brings to mind the old cliche:- "They don't make music like this any more!" - and more's the pity too. Continuing with our wonderful nostalgia trip comes "Wonderful Places", which features a truly heavenly chorus from Pauline Adams. This gorgeous song includes the lyrics "Wonderful places I'm taking you to" - and this lovely song will indeed transport you back to wonderful places where the birds were always singing and everything in the garden was lovely. There's no chance of getting the Bell Bottom Blues listening to this lively piece of music. This is without doubt, a flowers and beads late 1960's sun-drenched summer of love song, so put on those mini-skirts, culottes and go-go boots and get up on the groovy dance floor - and maybe the girls can join in too! The following song "I Don't Wanna Wake Up" will have to be put quietly back to bed, as it's not currently available on YouTube, so we'll move swiftly onto the next song, which is: "City Man". This exhilarating Folk-Rock number about a man making big money in the big city could quite easily have been a "Greed is good" tribute to Gordon Gekko of Wall Street fame. And on the subject of big money, this incredibly rare debut album from String Driven Thing is now worth a Fistful of Dollars, and For a Few Dollars More, you can buy their second self-titled album too!

The Side Two opener "Another Night in This Old City" sounds as lively and colourful as a busy London street filled with trendy Carnaby Street fashions. It's a typically joyous 1970's Folk Pop tune that could have come straight out of The New Seekers songbook. The 8th song "That's My Lady" sounds like a Folk Rock classic that could well have been written and sung by Bob Dylan, even though the song is barely known by anyone other than ardent fans of String Driven Thing. It's another sparkling crystal of a song in an album that's turning out to be a marvellous nostalgia trip. The 9th tune "Catch As Catch Can" appears to be the one that got away as it's not currently available on YouTube, so we'll quickly skip that elusive song and move onto Song No. 10 which is: "No More You and I". The song title implies the sad break-up of a relationship, although the music itself turns out to be the complete opposite. It's another pleasant Folk Pop song with a cheerful vibe that chugs along nicely on a wave of exuberant String Driven energy. Just like the album as a whole, it's a celebratory song imbued with radiant happiness and the joys of being alive. The feel-good vibe continues with "Lie Back and Let It Happen", so just lie back and think of England (or Scotland) and let this glorious sunny music happen to you. This is cheery music designed to brighten up the dullest and darkest of days and it's just the tonic we need right now in our troubled times. We're slowing the pace right down now and ending the album on a sad note with "One of the Lonely People", a melancholic and thought-provoking song about those of us who are unlucky enough to end up spending the rest of our lives living Home Alone.

Take a nostalgic trip back in time to 1970 with the (mostly) cheerful Folk Pop of String Driven Thing. Just wind it up and let the music play!

 The Machine That Cried by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.45 | 48 ratings

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The Machine That Cried
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Dubbed as a classic in some circles, STRING DRIVEN THING's chief claims to fame seem to be their tenure on the "Famous Charisma Label", and their novel use of violin in a rock context, as a lead instrument rather than faux classical accompaniment, and somewhat before "mainstream" prog bands had adopted it.

Let's look at Charisma first. Formed by the manager of VAN DE GRAAF GENERATOR so he could release "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other", their 1970 album, ultimately they made their mark in the 1970s by providing a hearth for GENESIS and its offshoots. It is thus surprising how many of their signings were barely on the periphery of progressive rock. In particular, in 1970 they rewarded LINDISFARNE with a deal. The Geordie folk rockers outsold the ROLLING STONES for a brief time in the UK, and a year or two later, STRING DRIVEN THING was signed, perhaps in the hope that they could replicate that success.

It turns out that STRING DRIVEN STRING bears a strong resemblance to a hard rocking LINDISFARNE (Chris Adams sounds like ALAN HULL, although his dutiful spouse is more like a CHAKA KHAN-CHRISTINE PERFECT hybrid) with a fiddle on performance enhancing steroids. Unfortunately the augmentation does not seem to impart inspiration, and after a few single note solos and vibratos one has heard the entire repertoire, only to be subject to it again over and over. It's an aural assault that has little to do with prog and even less to do with folk, the taxonomy apparently due to something about the strings. So, when all is said and done, STRING DRIVEN THING's classic album is notable for, oh yes I said that already!

The first couple of tracks are probably the strongest, with "Heartfeeder" and "to See You" displaying the heavy and balladic sides of the band at their peak. "Two Timin' Rama" is the best of those pieces sung by Pauline Adams. The 11 minute "River of Sleep" is a typical prog collage offered up during the genre's halcyon days by band's lacking any serious credentials, its disparate pieces taped together like fragments from three different photographs all shredded simultaneously, until we realize why we shredded them in the first place.

The bonus material actually proposed a more reasonable way forward for the group, as blues balladeers. I have not heard their other albums so cannot comment on whether this approach was followed earlier or later, The prog quotient is even lower than on the original disk but these tracks do possess a certain period charm.

Mostly uninteresting and frequently irritating, THE MACHINE THAT CRIED might be the sort of work that unwittingly inspired a reverse reaction in the form of ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA's silly fiddly bits, which is almost enough to move me to tears.

 String Driven Thing by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.15 | 21 ratings

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String Driven Thing
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars Scottish band,which started as a pure folk act in 1967 in Glascow,led by husband and wife Chris and Pauline Adams.They were joined by guitarist John Mannion and released an eponymous LP in 1968.1970 sees the band moving to London along with a turn to a more rock sound.This would led to the departure of Mannion and the arrival of violinist Grahame Smith and bassist Colin Wilson.String Driven Thing signed with Charisma and recorded a new (again) eponymous album in 1972,produced by The Who's and The Kinks' producer Shel Talmy.

The album is half-acoustic,half-electric,definitely far from the progressive sound of rock, and offering among others heavy vocal content.The acoustic tracks have a strong rural feeling,featuring often the Classical-influenced playing of Grahame Smith and the acoustic guitars of Chris Adams with strong British Folk influences and more in a ballad style.On the electric ones,Graham Smith's violin is again on the front,but this time accompanied by Chris Smith's groovy guitar playing and the distinctive bass of Wilson.Unfortunately this specific style sounds rather dated,despite the ambitious approach of the band by mixing British Folk and Rock music.What actually is quite great are the nice vocals of the Smith pair with Chris alternating between a crying style on the electric ones and dreamy,sensitive chords on the acoustic ones and Pauline having always an ethereal voice.Still these cant save the album of not growing well through the sand of time.

For 1972 ''String driven thing'' might have been a decent work,but listening to this album nowadays one recognizes its magic is lost.With no significant surprises,a standard sound throughout and a rather secure overall style,the album heads only to Folk Rock collectors of this world.

 The Machine That Cried by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.45 | 48 ratings

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The Machine That Cried
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars I picked up this CD, the "band official version", a year or so ago, when I found it very cheap in a used CD store. I'm glad I didn't pay more fore it.

I don't know any of this group's other albums, but to me this album is barely progressive. The majority of the tracks are sixties style psychedelic rock, similar to the early Jefferson Airplane albums. To make it worse, Chris Adams too often sings in a faux Bob Dylan style (it's bad enough when Dylan himself does it).

The only prog track is the last one on the original album, River Of Sleep, a tune that meanders through some spacey territory. Another good track on the album is Heartfeeder. While not terribly progressive, the primal scream aspect makes it interesting.

The three bonus tracks on my CD are okay, but spoil the mood after the origuinal album ending, the aforementioned River Of Sleep.

Not bad for a psychedelic album, but not a favorite of mine.

 Please Mind Your Head by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1974
2.63 | 17 ratings

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Please Mind Your Head
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by arachnophobiac

4 stars I'm not a proghead like the previous reviewer, but I have been a fan of String Driven Thing since the early seventies and have all of their vinyl. I rate any given album based on the amount of time it sat on my tuntable being listened to. Of all the group's album's, this was by far my favorite. Kim Beacon's vocals combined with Graham Smith's violin and some catchy tunes made this a step up from the previous offerings featuring the Adamses. Don't get me wrong, I thought parts of the previous album's were quite good--especially the songs carried by Smith's violin work--but I prefer the sound of the revised lineup. The Stevie Wonder cover that closes out the album is one of my all time favorites. For anyone interested, this album (along with "Keep yer 'and on it") is finally being released in the U.S. on CD in March 2010. I've been wanting to replace my scratchy vinyl for a long time.
 Moments of Truth by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.86 | 5 ratings

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Moments of Truth
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by alextorres2

4 stars This is surprisingly good! For those who remember this band from the days of the classic "The Machine That Cried", then gone are the electric violin and the female lead vocal singing so the soundscape is quite different but the songsmithing is first class and this is a very enjoyable album to listen to. What we have here are excellent songs, guitar based and with plenty of melody, beautifully sung, played at a slowish tempo - time to enjoy the lyrics, written by and to be enjoyed by those of us, at a certain stage in life, when there is much to reminisce about. This is classic rock - intelligent, well arranged and played songs. Not very proggy, or it would get an easy 5 stars, it feels churlish to give it only 4. Well recommended!
 Keep Yer 'and On It by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.74 | 15 ratings

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Keep Yer 'and On It
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Stand back in amazement

"Keep yer 'and on it" was the second album by the radically transformed line up of String Driven Thing led by Grahame Smith; it also proved to be their last. After the disappointing "Please mind your head", the band came back with a fine collection of rock based songs featuring strong compositions and excellent performances all round.

Both sides of the album open with similar up tempo numbers with strong hooks and a rich sound. "Starving in the tropics" has a pragmatic but sensitive message, while "But I do" is a nicely twisted love song. Kim Beacon, who was the principal vocalist on Tony Bank's first album "A curious feeling" (but sadly is no longer with us), is on fine form throughout. His voice may be something of an acquired taste, being somewhere between John Wetton and Tom Jones(!), but for me he was one of the best in the business.

The songs are generally straight forward, the exception being the superb interpretation of the Beatles "Things we said today". Here the band allow themselves a little more latitude, developing the instrumentals aspects, and briefly exploring psychedelic territories.

The ballad "Ways of a woman" may be schmaltzy, with weeping violin, but it is performed tenderly and Beacon offers his most soulful performance of the album. The melancholy mood continues on the reflective "Part of it", a song which would have suited the previous line up well. The subtitle of "Chains (I wanna be just like Stan Bowles)" will mean little to younger members, but think early 70's British football.

"Stand back in amazement" and "Call out for mercy" are excellent pop rock songs, certainly not challenging, but enjoyable nonetheless. And that pretty much sums up the album. "Keep yer 'and on it" may have a silly title and a poor sleeve design (Grahame Smith's name is even misspelled throughout) and it will certainly never win any prog awards, but seen for what it is, it is an accomplished and enjoyable album.

Worth a listen.

 Please Mind Your Head by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1974
2.63 | 17 ratings

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Please Mind Your Head
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

2 stars Going Free

When Chris and Pauline Adams left String Driven Thing after the release of "The Machine that cried", the heart of the band essentially went with them. To his credit, Grahame Smith rebuilt String Driven Thing from scratch, but the truth was that this was a completely different band using the same name (per Fleetwood Mac). The new line up recorded two albums together; unfortunately this was the poorer one.

Vocal duties were taken on by Kim Beacon (here referred to as Kimberley) who was the principal vocalist on Tony Banks' first solo album. Beacon's vocals represented a fundamental change from those of the Adams family, implying an immediately apparent change of sound for the band. This, combined with a general move towards a more orthodox pop rock direction alienated many of SDT's original fans. In fairness though, the songs here are not that good to start with.

Things start off brightly enough with "Overdrive" a mid-paced pop song with a fine harmonic chorus. Unfortunately, that's about it. Songs such as "Without you" try to be more adventurous, with Smith's violin and viola contributions at least moving the songs on from being totally average rock, but ultimately even the best performances cannot disguise a poor song.

Personally, I find the late Kim Beacon to be one of the finest rock singers of his day, his voice being a cross between Paul Rogers and Rod Stewart. Indeed, this album is probably best described as a second rate FREE album. Even he though cannot breath life into the decidedly average "Josephine", the playful but dull pop of "Mrs. Reilly", or any of the other anonymous compositions here.

Apart from "Overdrive", only "Timpani for the devil" offers anything different or mildly interesting. This instrumental piece draws in brief classical influences as Grahame Smith gets loose on his violin while drummer Colin Fairley expresses himself. In truth, the workout is mediocre, but it is at least a change.

Fortunately, String Driven Thing would come good again with their final album "Keep yer 'and on it", but this one can be safely passed by. Silly sleeve too, with a tennis rackets theme.

 The Machine That Cried by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.45 | 48 ratings

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The Machine That Cried
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Feel the pain!

If you only ever hear one album by String Driven Thing, make sure it is this one. If you can only manage one track, it simply has to be "Heartfeeder". This is a truly inspired album, which opens with one of the finest, darkest, yet most uplifting pieces of prog I have come across.

"Heartfeeder" was written along with many of the songs here by Chris Adams while laid up in hospital with a collapsed lung. The song weaves it's way through soft violin and cello sections (played by Grahame Smith and his wife Claire Sealey) and loud cries of "Feel the pain" in a wonderful cacophony of melodies and sounds. The "band's official version" of the album released on CD in 1996, reveals that the track was not originally included on the album, space only being found for it through a significant trimming of the 11 minute "River of sleep" (which became about 4 minutes!).

Chris Adams dominates the album both in terms of composition and performance, his wife Pauline generally providing backing and harmony vocals. The ballad "To see you" would perhaps have suited her voice well, but is nonetheless a touching number. Likewise, "Travelling" is a reflective song with some fine violin work by Smith. "Sold down the river" is reminiscent of the preceding self titled album with a captivating, repetitive chorus. Pauline eventually takes centre stage for "Two timin' rama", surely the inspiration for a whole swathe Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac songs.

"People on the street" is one of the band's most adventurous pieces. On the face of it, it is a power ballad, but the intricate structure of the song reveals itself as it progresses through a variety of passages. The "Time shot down. . ." section builds especially poignantly.

The title track returns to the darker aspects of "Heartfeeder", but it is the restored "River of sleep" with its dramatic, swirling violin which steals the show right a the end. For those who have the original vinyl release of the album, the 11 minute version will astonish you. The beautiful closing section which was all that remained on the LP is but a part of the magnificent whole.

The CD remaster also has three bonus tracks. Little information is offered about two of these tracks, "If only the good" and "Part of the city" (titled elsewhere as "City at night") which are simply described as "Archive tracks". The former is appears to be an unfinished demo with a slightly folk feel, which could have been developed into a fine song. The latter is a rather dull uninspired song which also appears on the "Dischotomy" collection. "It's a game" was a non-album single which failed to find the success it deserved until tragically covered by none other than the Bay City Rollers, a 1970's Scottish boy band.

The "band's official version" of the album came about when they decided they were unhappy with the way their albums had been transferred to CD. They took the opportunity to restore the tracks to their full length, including the aforementioned "River of sleep" which regains its full 11 minutes. The remastering brings out the strength of the album superbly, although the pressing I have is prone to annoying screeches, presumably through a manufacturing fault. Incidentally, the cover illustration is an extreme close up of a bed bug!

Sadly, after this album, the band effectively broke up, although the name carried on in a new line up.

 String Driven Thing by STRING DRIVEN THING album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.15 | 21 ratings

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String Driven Thing
String Driven Thing Prog Folk

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars One last blue yodel then guys

Boy, does this album take me back. It is not so much about the music for me, as the memories it recalls. It is about sitting with friends listening to new and exciting albums by bands we had never heard of. The strange and original names of those bands only served to enhance the mystique which surrounded them. We are talking decades before the internet here, when finding out any information about a band was all but impossible, until they were featured in one of the weekly music publications.

String Driven Thing originated in my home town of Glasgow in Scotland, but I'm proud to say I discovered their music before I discovered their origins. Their history is chequered, and although they achieved a certain level of success, including touring as more or less equals with Genesis, they never truly gained the recognition they deserved.

The parallels with Genesis continue with this album, in that while it is generally regarded as their first, there was in fact a previous releases for another record label which failed to secure any recognition whatsoever. Recording was completed in just two weeks, the stylish sleeve illustration reportedly costing more than the making of the album.

The dominant features of the band are male and female lead vocalists plus frequent violin passages. When the male and female vocals sing in harmony the effect is very like that which Fleetwood Mac went on to perfect.

The album opens with a magnificent slice of loud rock. "Circus" has soaring violin, incisive lead vocals, and great harmonics. "Take me to the circus? I want to see the chimpanzee? the chimpanzee wants to see me", you really had to be there. They even have the audacity to sing "I'm going home to my mama, to listen to some String Driven Thing" (perhaps though without the capital letters!).

It is though the sheer diversity of the tracks on the album, if not within the tracks, which makes the album so irresistible. Right after "Circus", we are thrown into a Sandy Denny like lilting vocal performance by Pauline Adams on "Fairground" (also referred to as "Fairground at night"). Grahame Smith's violin work here is simply sensational, never dominating Adams vocal, but offering the perfect counterpoint.

The rock orientated songs and the softer ballad orientated numbers tend to more or less alternate. Tracks such as "Hooked on the road" (with wah wah violin!) and the magnificent "Jack Diamond" (the most progressive track on the album) are invigorating, they are exciting, damn it why did this band not conquer the world?

"Easy to be free" and "Very last blue yodell (sic)" may initially seem lightweight, even whimsical, but listen awhile and you discover perfectly written folk songs with eloquent lyrics and melodies which will intertwine themselves in your memory till they are totally embedded. Only midway through side two do things dip slightly, with a ubiquitous pop rock song ("My real hero"), and a late night drunken smoothy ("Regent Street incident").

After this album, SDT went on to record their finest album. Do not however allow that to overshadow this magnificent offering. This is a superb work.

Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition. and to Fitzcarraldo for the last updates

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