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Strawbs - Blue Angel CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.76 | 37 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Those were the days

"Blue angel" is quite a confused and confusing album, due to its rather convoluted background. The majority of the tracks previously appeared on a 1994 album called "The bridge" which was credited to Cousins and Willoughby. The line up on that album was augmented by a number of current and former Strawbs members including Chas Cronk, Blue Weaver and Richard Hudson. Mary Hopkin also featured on the album, her wonderful vocals offering an instant reminder of the earliest days of the Strawbs when they boasted Sandy Denny in their line up. Cousins and Willoughby toured as the Electric Strawbs and the Acoustic Strawbs at various times, joined by other band members including Dave Lambert. Lambert makes a couple of appearances on this album, joined on both the tracks by another former Strawbs member Rod Coombes.

The result is something of a glorious reunion album, with John Ford and Rick Wakeman being the only notable absentees.

The songs here which are taken from "The bridge" are effectively the same versions, although some have been given a fresh coat of paint by way of re-recorded backing tracks. While not all the tracks from "The bridge" have been included, "Blue angel" also contains other tracks which did not appear on that album. The most significant of these is the title track. The song "Blue angel" originally appeared on Cousins sadly under- heard solo album "Two weeks last summer" from 1972. This 11 minute opus stands proud alongside the Strawbs epics from around that time such as "Ghosts" and "Autumn". Indeed it is similarly structured to those tracks with three distinct sections. Willoughby adds some excellent lead guitar to the piece, and Hopkin's vocals offer fine counterpoint to the distinctive voice of Dave Cousins.

Willougby's guitar work provides a strong rock dimension throughout the album, the intro to "Rhythm of the night" for example being incisive and powerful. The power of the music comes across in various ways. On "There will come the day" it is in the form of a wall of sound like that on the re-recorded "Tell me what you see in me", with no less than seven lead vocalists listed for the song. "The plain" is more sparse in terms of sound, but rendered just as powerful by the vocal performance of Cousins, which approaches his performance on songs like "New world" and "Hangman and the papist".

There are of course more delicate passages too. "Morning glory" once again benefits from a superb performance by Mary Hopkin (famed for being the first signing of the Beatles Apple label and the single "Those were the days"). This wonderfully haunting song has a simple but infectious chorus. "Sealed with a traitor's kiss" which originally appeared on the "Deadlines" album is pared back here to a stark duet of Cousins on vocals and piano and Willoughby on guitar.

The band's first hit single "Lay down" is dusted off and given a rousing update, the version here having a distinct party feel. As a "bonus" track, a single from 1980 featuring Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span is remixed and added. The song had previously appeared in a different form on the "Ringing down the years" album, but Prior's duet with Cousins here is worthy of the admission price alone.

There are many highlights throughout the album, indeed to find fault with such a collection would be churlish. While the way the album came about may be confused and suggest it may lack coherence, nothing could be further from the truth. This is a genuine Strawbs album which sits proudly alongside their glory years of the 1970's.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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