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Strawbs - Painted Sky CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.83 | 15 ratings

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4 stars The announcer: - "...and so Crosby, Stills and Nash are back and they are better than ever!" ... *whispering in the ear*... -"What's that?!?" ... *more whispering* ... -"It seems that we had a last minute replacement, but be assured that this trio will knock your Folk Rock socks off!"

Following the release of Deja Fou the Strawbs got rid of their backing band and did a series of live-in-the-studio stripped down acoustic performances that have been compiled on Painted Sky. Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk began their collaboration with the release of Hero And Heroine, in 1974, and so it comes as no surprise that 30% of this live album's material comes from that classic release. There are of course quite a few surprises here as well, like the gorgeous rendition of the debut album's Oh How She Changed, concert favorite The Antique Suite, b-side Grace Darling and Benedictus from Grave New World. On top of that we get two new songs from Deja Fou and a very professional live session from the trio.

I know that these kind of stripped down acoustic live performances are very common in Folk Rock but since I'm generally not a big fan of the genre I found my first encounter with Painted Sky to be quite extraordinary to say the least! Yes, I've heard albums like Simon & Garfunkel's The Concert in Central Park and a few of the early Bob Dylan records, but non of those experiences struck me as genuine and instead came of as just another of the genre's innovators marking their territory for everyone to behold. This is definitely not the case here since I doubt that the Strawbs have anything to prove to the world of today and they just do the things that they do because they really love doing it.

The biggest surprise of the show comes towards the end with a magnificent performance of Deja Fou's If. Unlike its studio version, this take has a much more enthusiastic performance from Dave Cousins with almost no signs of his age coming through the vocals, as it regrettably did in the studio. I also wasn't keen on the whole string arrangement that was added in the studio and so this stripped-down acoustic take almost feels like a gift sent from above!

The only minor disappointment that I experienced here was the very insipid version of my all-time favorite the Strawbs composition Autumn. The vocals begin to drag and the extensive acoustic intro just comes off sounding very similar to Eagles' take on Hotel California from Hell Freezes Over --- i.e. a lot of buildup, but no satisfying punch to it. Of course I have other minor nitpicks like the slightly dissatisfying vocal arrangements on Shine On Silver Sun and Midnight Sun, but that probably bothers me because I'm so used to the originals and can't help but feel that they were better in comparison.

Overall, this is definitely a must have live album for all fans of the Strawbs and acoustic music in general. It might not always blow the studio versions of these tracks out of water, but a new perspective on the band's music is never a bad thing when it comes straight from the source!

***** star songs: Oh How She Changed (4:47) If (4:54)

**** star songs: Grace Darling (5:58) Shine On Silver Sun (3:25) The Antique Suite (14:06) Benedictus (3:50) Midnight Sun (5:04) Cold Steel (4:42) Autumn (9:17)

Rune2000 | 4/5 |


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