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String Driven Thing

Prog Folk

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String Driven Thing The Machine That Cried album cover
3.44 | 55 ratings | 6 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Heartfeeder (6:39)
2. To See You (3:58)
3. Night Club (5:05)
4. Sold Down the River (4:29)
5. Two Timin' Rama (3:10)
6. Travelling (2:55)
7. People on the Street (6:03)
8. The House (2:37)
9. The Machine That Cried (5:19)
10. River of Sleep (11:11)

Bonus tracks on remastered CD:
11. If Only the Good (4:26)
12. It's a Game (3:36)
13. Part of the City (3:32)

Total Time 63:00

Line-up / Musicians

- Chris Adams / guitars, vocals
- Pauline Adams / vocals percussion
- Colin Wilson / bass, guitars, banjo
- Grahame Smith / violin, viola
- Billy Fairley / drums, congas

Releases information

LP: Charisma CAS 1070
"Band's official version" CD 1996 OZCD 00021

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition
and to Easy livin for the last updates
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STRING DRIVEN THING The Machine That Cried ratings distribution

(55 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

STRING DRIVEN THING The Machine That Cried reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!

As crazy as it may sound, Charisma (you know, that famous label ;-) did not believe in this record in its original intended form and asked for the record to be safer. This from the label that produced some of the best progressive music of the times may sound hard to believe; but if you are to listen to it, the album is strange enough that it was certainly no safe bet and pretexting album length reasons. But given their earlier critically well-received album, this could pass as a lack of faith in the artistes they were pushing. And as I usually loathe the WWR/SPM label for blatant exploitation records, here comes one of the rare exceptions where they convinced Chris Adams to play the longer and previously rejected title track.

Right from the opening 6-min+ Heartfeeder, you know that the album is going to be a proghead-pleaser filled with Smith's great violin works, which sometimes used as a fiddle-type of play. But to get further thrills, this progressive dude will have to put up with the only weaker track of the album, the AOR-esque To see You. Just after that one slight weakness is a wild and demented Night Club where again Smith pulls in some remarkable lines. While Sold Down The River might appear calmer, this is deceptively so as the Adams couple pulls some superb vocals underlined by Smith's violin, but hubby Chris has some almost blood-curling screams. Splendid and stunning stuff.

The quieter Travelling provides a breath of fresh air, but will not release your attention as its superb beauty can only keep you under the spell. People On The Street is in the same vein sometimes reminding the superb acid-folk of Spirogyra, just get a load of Wilson's great bass play. By the third calmer track, The House, one start to wish that the madness of the debut would start again, because the album is now in great danger of losing its great start. Fortunately from the first note of the title track, you know that the special eerie feel is back and the excellent closer River Of Sleep is the track that got short-ended, but on CD is now restored to its full length. And guys believe me, that when I tell you it is a full shame to have omitted this part, it is the understatement of this month. This part is nothing short of stunning, eerily beautiful drawing shivers down your spine and the missing section almost triples the duration time of this superb closer.

With this third album, SDT reached their apex and toured for over a year in Continental Europe (no success at home) and after an exhaustive German tour (where they had to finish as a quartet), the only two remaining members, the Adams couple will leave the group letting Graham Smith alone at the helm and starting the band over from scratch. While the group would record two more albums for the same charisma label, it would simply not have the same feeling as its previous incarnation. One of the better examples of progressive folk rock, this album along with its predecessor is a must-hear, although it might not be for everyone. Stunning at times, this music (and its weird insect close-up artwork) is certainly another excellent example of Charisma's works although it is a little sad they did not make the extra effort in terms of that track.

Review by hdfisch
3 stars Saving the best to the last...

Actually I've got this CD already since many years in my collection and even don't really remember how I discovered this band. Think I found it in a discount rack, sometimes there are true gems to be found there. SDT had been a very little known band releasing five albums between 1970 and 1975 before they resigned due to unsatisfactory record sales. Violinist Grahame Smith did a lot of session work (i.e. VDGG, Steve Hackett) after that as a matter of interesting fact. I never listened to any of their other regular albums, only to a compilation called "Early Years" or something like that which contained some really crappy 60's pop songs though (which obviously was a reissue of their debut one). But this album here is of much different calibre and a quite remarkable work. Unfortunately not everything's really great on here and on par with the last two tracks which are undoubtedly to be classified as Prog. Most of the other songs though are sounding a bit too simplified reflecting rather straight forward bluesy folk rock being still in a rather 60's vein and quite dated for 1973. Anyway Grahame Smith is the shining star here with his furious violin play. Other quite good songs apart from the title track and the three-parted "River Of Sleep" include "Heartfeeder", "Night Club" and "Sold Down The River". Overall this album is worth 3 stars I would say but I doubt it's necessarily an essential addition to any Prog collection.

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.

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.

Review by kenethlevine
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.

Latest members reviews

3 stars The most recognized String Driven Thing album among the prog fans is not that much of a prog album, but it is understandable why it is considered their best effort, since there is a 11-minute song that, although it is not that varied or adventurous, it has three parts and, as always, Graheme Smi ... (read more)

Report this review (#2592792) | Posted by mickcoxinha | Tuesday, September 7, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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