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String Driven Thing - The Machine That Cried CD (album) cover


String Driven Thing


Prog Folk

3.45 | 48 ratings

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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.

kenethlevine | 2/5 |


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