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Strawbs - Ringing Down The Years CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.70 | 24 ratings

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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.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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