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Strawbs Bursting At The Seams album cover
3.59 | 199 ratings | 29 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Flying (4:48)
2. Lady Fuschia (3:58)
3. Stormy Down (2:44)
4. Down By The Sea (6:15)
5. The River (2:20)
6. Part Of The Union (2:55)
7. Tears And Pavan (6:35)
8. The Winter And The Summer (4:08)
9. Lay Down (4:30)
10. Thank You (2:11)

Total time: 40:24

Bonus tracks on 1988 A&M remaster:
11. Will Ye Go (Single B-side) (3:54)
12. Backside (Single B-side) (3:49)
13. Lay Down - Single Version (3:33)

Line-up / Musicians

- Dave Cousins / acoustic & electric guitars, banjo, vocals
- Dave Lambert / acoustic & electric guitars, vocals
- Blue Weaver / organ, piano, Mellotron
- John Ford / bass, vocals
- Richard Hudson / drums, vocals

Releases information

ArtWork: John McConnell (design) with Michael Doud (art direction)

LP A&M Records ‎- AMLH 68144 (1973, UK)

CD A&M Records ‎- 394 383-2 (1989, Germany)
CD A&M - 540 936-2 (1998, Europe) Remastered by Roger Wake with 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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STRAWBS Bursting At The Seams ratings distribution

(199 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(57%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

STRAWBS Bursting At The Seams reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
1 stars With this album, deception can only be around the bend, as Strawbs have taken yet another turn, this time heading to commercial radio-friendly tracks: Lay Down (on this album) then Part Of The Union. This album has a definitely country-ish sound (hinted with the closing track of Witchwood) and this fact never sits well with this writer.

Right from the opener, you know that you will not find the delicate folk harmonies that made us fly in the previous three albums, and we are stuck with obtrusive (and obstructive;-) country rock feels, needless hard rock tracks and unjustified string arrangements. Even though Weaver over-floods the opening track middle section with mellotrons, he cannot save it with its Gabriel-Moody Blues verse-chorus bit. The tracks of the first side of the vinyl are all of the same mould I just described except for the rather short The River, which is slightly folkier. The harder-edged Down By The Sea (also with Trons) is again not far from ultra early Genesis and Moody Blues, but it hardly saves the day and over-done string arrangements, but it might just be a rare highlight.

The second side starts with the two-part Tears and it is the other highlight on this album, with its lush mellotrons (tons of Trons ;-), but again Genesis-inspired and it does feel a bit forced, especially with its Greek folk Syrtaky dance second movement before Gabriel and Banks (Eeehhmmm!!!.. I mean Cousins and Weaver;-) re-enter the track. The follow-up is rather insignificant but remains charming especially with the awful country hit single to come: Lay Down. It should do just that, but if you want to hear mellotrons-laden country rock, this is worth a good laugh: it almost works too >> we are laughing. The closing track Backside (slightly Spanish-sounding backtrack) is actually better than the average of the album it stands in: this is a change, for The Strawbs had gotten us used to closing-up poorly their albums.

But trouble laid ahead as both Ford and Hudson will leave, with Weaver following and forcing Cousins to rebuild the group from scratch with Hawken (Renaissance), Coombes and Cronk coming in as well as Lambert. The end of an era with this album, but the apple had been rotten for a while (my guess was when Wakeman left). The Further The Strawbs keep going, the more they lose their soul and the more they sound passe-partout and like others: sad.

Review by loserboy
3 stars With a nice folky-prog twist "Bursting At The Seams" is a wonderful collection of songs with a honest pure and simply approach. Of course along the way we are treated to some lovely instrumentation and musicainship. One of my favourite all time STRAWBS tracks "Down By The Sea" is featured on this album with its lovely mellotron backdrop. This album also offers a nive variety of moods ranging from more straight foreward folk tracks to darker more thought provoking songs.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Caught short on Stormy Down

With Tony Hooper departed, and Dave Lambert on board the last of the Strawbs traditional folk influences (excepting Cousins of course) had gone.

This was album which broke the Strawbs to the masses, containing as it did, 2 hit singles. "Lay down" is a good burst of Dave Cousins at his most commercial, a light but enjoyable sing along. The less said about the pop song "Part of the union" the better. It was admittedly a massive hit single, but it misrepresented what the Strawbs were all about, the band were I trust embarrassed all the way to the bank! In defence of Dave Cousins, the song was really a Hudson Ford track, the rest of the band appearing to have little to do with it performance wise. Lyrically the track was quite satirical, taking a swipe at the power of the trade unions in the UK. It was completely misunderstood by many union activists, who adopted it as their anthem (a bit like the way Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" was completely misunderstood by some).

These two tracks aside, there is a lot of excellent stuff on the album. The opening two tracks, "Flying" and "Lady Fuschia" are both melodic and well structured, "Flying" having several contrasting sections.

"Down by the sea" is as close as the band came to symphonic prog, complete with an infectious chiming guitar theme, with an orchestral backing. The following track, "The river" features one of Cousins occasional divergences into "adult" themes, which he always seems to approach with schoolboy fascination, great track though. When performed live, the band always reverse the order of these tracks, the climax to "The river" giving way to the wonderful guitar theme of "Down by the sea". In doing so, the tracks effectively become a wonderful 10 minute two part piece.

"Tears and Pavan" is two distinct songs, which merge into a single piece rather beautifully. The echoed vocal refrain on the first section and mellotron backing make for a pleasantly emotional feel, while "Pavan" provides an Elizabethan harpsichord link to a slightly more upbeat latter half.

Whether this line up with Lambert or the previous one with Hooper which recorded "Grave New World" (or indeed the one with Rick Wakeman which made "From the Witchwood") represents the "classic" Strawbs line up, will always be a source of debate. We should therefore satisfy ourselves with the thought that though band members came and went, the Strawbs made many classic albums.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Bursting at the Seams was another matserpiece by the Strawbs. Hard on the heels of Grave New World, we were introduced to Dave Lambert who replaced the outgoing Tony Hooper. The album is rich in quality from the stunning ' Lady Fuscia', the epic long ' Tears and Pavan' ( if you have never heard this track you do not know what you are missing) and the haunting ' The River' . There are definite folk roots still in Strawbs even to this day. Sure they were going more to mainstream rock directions but these were still concept albums. This album also features the highly successful tracks ' Lay Down' and ' Part of the Union', the latter to this day unfortunately still used by advertising moguls or political bodies wanting to impose strike actions!
Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's only by 1973 that Strawbs (a group that I love hugely) had had hit albums and hit singles. There's a great balance in their albums between acoustic and electric instruments. Flying features David Cousin on electric and acoustic banjo. Lady Fuschia, one of the best tracks, was written by Hudson-Ford and inspired by Mervyn Peake's "Ghormengast". Down By The Sea is a magnificient 6.15 mins song starting with some intense electric guitar arpeggio and ending with a surprisingly London Symphony Orchestra. It was inspired by a long walk along the sea wall in Dover. Part Of The Union was recorded as a demo with the intention of issuing it as a single under the name of The Brothers. Lay Down became a huge hit carrying Bursting At The Seams to n.2 of the U.K. charts. By the way a great album, one of the best Strawbs period (1971-1975). Highly recommended!
Review by NJprogfan
4 stars This Strawbs album has some of my favorites of the band. For sheer rocking, "Lay Down" is one of my favorites of the band. A great pop/rock melody and awesome vocals by the band. As catchy as can be. The second, my favorite Dave Lambert song, "The Winter and The Summer". It has a beauty thats hard to describe, subtle at first, then it picks up towards the middle and explodes at the end. Just an incredible song. The album as a whole has beautiful singing, some majestic keyboards, and David Cousins incredible lyrics. No one does it like him. What keeps this album from me rating it 5 stars is the massive hit, (back in the day) "Part of The Union" and the country tinged "Stormy Down". They just don't seem to fit the album. But with songs like the flat-out pretty "Lady Fuschia", the dark "Down By The Sea" and the proggy "Tears and Pavan" its an incredible Folk/Prog album thats in their top 5 recordings. If you haven't heard any of their albums, this would be the perfect place to start. It has some of their older folky sound, some of their more prog middle period and some of the more basic rocking later album sound. Get it now!!
Review by kenethlevine
5 stars Bursting at the Seams represents the Strawbs at the peak of their powers both artistic and commercial. Grave New World was a great concept and piece of work, but really didn't have all that many great "songs", given the number of very short pieces. Hero and Heroine was sheer genius but, like much genius, a bit insane, and Ghosts, while vying for the title of Strawbs' most well rounded album, lacked the commercial clout to truly conquer American audiences, which was the goal. Bursting at the Seams is an incredibly consistent, musically diverse, and very accessible album of song oriented folk-rock with strong progressive overtones.

The album begins with a Strawbs classic, "Flying", with narrative verses, harmonic choruses and even a gorgeous instrumental break featuring a banjo/mellotron combination. Lady Fuschia is a lovely soft rock track featuring the vocals of Hudson and Ford and even some sitar. Stormy Down is one of two country-flavoured could have been a hit but for the use of the phrase "God the Father". Great lead guitar by the newcomer Dave Lambert, in tasteful small doses. Next are the perennial favourites "The River" and "Down by the Sea". Plenty of dramatics, sweeping contrasts, soft reflective vocals and agonized wails. Even a moving orchestral section. Next is the big hit "Part of the Union". Commercial yes, but also catchy and instrumentally bright, especially Blue Weaver's honky tonk piano solo. "Tears and Pavan" introduces one of the earliest "Goth" pieces, with echoed vocals, stately mellotron, and great sadness, followed by a Greek sounding dance. In terms of contrasts on the theme of melodic prog and folk, this album knows no peer. But it's not over. Dave Lambert's first and best songwriting contribution is the emotional "The Winter and the Summer", quiet with mellotron/organ and a heavy middle 8, with an intense ending leading into one of Cousins' greatest songs, the hard proggy country rock song "Lay Down". From the opening chords you know you are in for something awesome, sort of the way "Benedictus" opened Grave New World. The use of mellotron choir is one of the first of its kind. While Bursting at the Seams uses mellotron heavily, do not be misled into thinking that these songs are nothing without it. The recent acoustic revival of the group bears witness to the power of these songs in an unplugged setting. Having said that, the presence of Blue's organ, piano, harpsichord and mellotron does augment the tunes to celestial heights. The original closer was the rather silly "Thank You" with a children's choir.

While other Strawbs A&M album rereleases featured mostly mediocre bonus tracks, the ones here are among the best, again reflecting the confidence and panache of Cousins and company at this point in time. "Will ye Go" is a nigh traditional piece that is given the Celtic rock treatment, accent on rock, with Blue filling in on accordion. "Backside" features impressive atmospherics and lead guitar in its treatment of the Spiders from Mars personae. Cousins pulls off the vocals impressively as well, with their fairly explicit sexual messages. Finally, the original single version of Lay Down is provided for completeness sake.

Bursting at the Seams is probably the first real rock album by the Strawbs, and is the most essential album from that period. Prog fans note it is not their most progressive - that title might go to one of the other 3 "big 4" albums - but prog fans with an interest in folk will find much to enjoy here.

Review by Matti
3 stars After excellent prog folk albums From The Witchwood and Grave New World, STRAWBS turned slightly into more radio-friendly rock, but not TOO much; this is still a fairly good album with some tracks that are among their best. It's not a crime to change one's style during the career - even several times - if it all works well. Maybe Ghosts (1975) is the last good Strawbs album (I'm only guessing actually...), but you can count Bursting At The Seams in their halcyon days.

'Flying' is a nice, airy opener and the happy spirit continues with 'Lady Fuschia'. 'Stormy Down' and 'Lay Down' are the two radio hit attempts that progheads despise. I'm not fond of them either. Richard Hudson and John Ford (who later made songs as Hudson Ford) are responsible of 'Part of the Union', a spirit-lifting singalong worker's song. Ok, have to admit that there are many things here done for a big audience, but that's only the other side of the coin. Marvelous 'Down by the Sea' and 'The River' could grace any Strawbs album. On the Halcyon Days compilation their order is reversed which indeed seems more natural (first the river, then the sea!). The most "arty" track is 'Tears and Pavan'. The first half is a gorgeous, slow-tempo song with good ol' Mellotron and the latter half is inspired by centuries old dance music and features harpsichord. 'Thank You' is a naiive ending track featuring notably "bad" singing by a crowd of kids and Dave Cousins, but it is somehow charming. In all this album is stretching a bit too much into commercial, easy territories but for its highlights deserves three stars.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars After the excellent Grave New World, it was very clear that Strawbs was not a folk band anymore. And they needed a truly real electric guitar player to fullfil the new progressive sound they were heading for. So there was no more room for /Tony Hooper and he left. His place was taken by newcomer Dave Lambert, who fit like a glove for the new Strawbs sound.he was not only an accomplished lead guitarist, but also a very good singer and songwriter. His inclusion really uprated the sound and open the way to such masterpieces in the future, like Ghosts. But here he shines from the get go. The missing electric guitar lines that would make Grave New World a even bigger album than it was are here in top form. Flying starts the album and shows how much commercial potential the band had, in a good way, I mean. No wonder it was one of their most successful albums. The songs are great!

Unfortunately this would be their last with this line up, Hudson and Ford leaving to form their duo and Blue Weaver doing some studio work before joining the Bee Gees back up band in their disco heyday. It is a pity that they were not together for another album. But, anyway, the next Strawbs personnel would be their most progressive, so I guess it was for everybody┤s good. Bursting /at The Seams show the band at their peak at this stage of their career and certainly it was one of their best. Highly recommended!

Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Being an album with a very weak introduction and a horrible lack of direction, Bursting At The Seams isn't likely to write itself in to history as either a great prog album or a great Strawbs album. Confusion and plain boring commercial songs mixed with some sugary sweetness, and deep down under all the negative points - hints of greatness.

Yes, Strawbs fifth album isn't a sunshine story on any level. Just like the equally disappointing Nomadness this feels like one of those desperate calls for a wider audience and mainstream appreciation. Some may be successful, but this is just a strange brew of songs that don't work very well together. It's annoying. Strawbs is one of those talented bands that deserve a lot more attention and praise for a couple of albums, and that show much promise on most of the others. I don't know if it's the many line-up changes and a constant search for that perfect sound that unfortunately hinders Strawbs from achieving a real masterpiece. I haven't found one yet, even if Hero and Heroine is pretty close.

What we got on Bursting At The Seams is a lot of inoffensive tunes. Often positive and catchy with tendencies of folk and passages heavy on Mellotron. An equal use of acoustic and electric guitar, many sweet melodies and carefully applied intricacies. It doesn't sound like a catastrophe, but the more I listen, the vaguer it gets, and that's what brings this album down. It lacks integrity.

Flying, with its rich sweetness and refrain dripping with an overdose of that same sweetness, Lady Fuchsia with a pseudo-folky progression topped with misplaced AOR-ish guitar licks. Stormy Down, which invites Creedence Clearwater Revival in to the mix, the perhaps alien, but still working classic rock number that is Lay Down and another saccharine chock in Thank You; nothing but piano, a soft-singing Dave Cousins.and a full children's choir. Is my point at least somewhat clear? If not, we have the abomination that is Part Of The Union, with it's lovely political naivety and left-wing association. A nice flash from the '70s, but musically an utter disaster for these ears. It's a song that doesn't have a home on ANY album.

On a more positive note, that intriguing potential naturally shows itself on Bursting At The Seams as well. Perhaps that fact is even more annoying than the album's faults.

The combination of The River and Down By The Sea creates an excellent middle part of the album. The first one crafted from the early, folkier material of the band, gradually developing into a lamenting, melancholic orchestrated piece. Incredibly rich, with strings that sends shivers down my spine. Being only two and a half minutes long, it almost feels like a prelude to the longer Down By The Sea. This song has a strong, slightly foreboding theme, with triumphant choir sounds, a light-symphonic-light-folk first verse and then a surprisingly powerful part, with a riffing guitar taking the lead role. All this is followed by variations and repetitions on previously used theme, and develops into a dramatic, film-score-like crescendo. It is the most memorable track on the album, and a proof that all the various influences actually could be moulded together with great result.

There are actually more bright spots to be found here, and based on the proportion of those, Bursting At The Seams would get three stars. But as this is hardly a working ALBUM, where the downsides weigh heavily, and where everything is tried; only fans should get this album.

Strawbs might be bursting at the seams with energy and future plans, but the end results looks and feels more like wearing a way too big suite.

2 stars.


Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Bursting out!

Bursting At The Seams marked another stage in the evolution of this great band. Having started out as a predominately acoustic Folk group, Strawbs gradually incorporated more and more Rock elements into their increasingly unique sound. Bursting At The Seams was not the first album to feature electric guitar and drums, but it can still be said to be Strawbs' first true Rock album.

Already with From The Witchwood Strawbs had developed their very own musical identity, and with Grave New World and the present album they took further steps towards something new and different. While it was their next album, Hero And Heroine, that would finally complete the amazing transformation from Folk to Prog, a symphonic suite like The River/Down By The Sea from the present album clearly showed the way. It is maybe a little bit too bombastic for its own good towards the end, but still a very good song reminding me of the very best stuff by Barclay James Harvest. Tears And Pavan may be one of the band's most interesting compositions, successfully fusing traditional dance music with symphonic Rock.

Admittedly, both Grave New World and Bursting At The Seams qualify as transitional albums in my book. This one is a bit uneven. There are some great songs here, but sadly also some not so good ones. The infamous Part Of The Union is one of the band's worst and most commercial songs ever. Lay Down is better, but similarly catchy. This would scare away some of the band's early fans and probably attract some new ones. You cannot please everyone, I guess. But the Prog fan should be delighted by what was happening to Strawbs here and finally came to full bloom on the next album.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars This album generated quite different opinions amongst the reviewer's family. It is ranging form one to five stars. Quite strange.

I guess that I will have a more conservative approach of this album. My favourite Strawbs album was with no doubt From The Witchwood. And I can't say that this Bursting is on par.

Some country feeling is definitely present (Stormy Dow), and you might know that this is a genre that I can't stand. Still, the mellowish ballad Lady Fuschia holds some fine sitar and a strong folk approach.

One of the hardest tracks from the album is also my fave one: Down By The Sea is a dual song which features indeed a hard approach, but it is combined with fine and sweet vocals. I am desperately looking at some ultra early Genesis flavour like being depicted in another review (Hughes). The orchestration has more the Moody Blues influence IMHHO. In all; this a good track.

It is hard to find a masterpiece song in this album. Songs are on the enjoyable side (The River). But don't count on me to encourage some medieval influenced track like Part Of The Union which do belong to the press next genre. It is absolutely poor.

Another very part of this album is the symphonic Tears Of Pavan. It holds some emotional vocals and superb mellotron lines. It switches to a fully Greek folkish part at half time; I must say that it was probably not the most interesting way to develop this song.Half tears and half pavan.

One of the very few songs which sounds like an early Genesis one is The Winter And The Summer during the verse. Don't expect any Trespass grandeur: I'm talking here more of the weak From Genesis To Revelation.

If the press next exercise is an exercise you like, you shouldn't hesitate to perform this feature while reaching Lay Down. Quite horrifying I'm afraid. Poor US country-rock style like I abhorred. I told you: press next. And you'll unhappily reach the most boring track of this album. The closing Thank You is just a stupid and childish choral tune which would be best avoided.

In all, there are some very good songs featured on this album as well as some extremely poor ones. I can't consider the mix to be a good one. Two stars.

Review by Hercules
3 stars To say this album was recorded under unusual circumstances would be a colossal understatement. Tony Hooper had just left the band after they recorded two quite brilliant albums but had only made a small breakthrough in commercial terms, to be replaced by Dave Lambert. Lambert is an out and out rock player, and would push the band to a less folk, more pop/rock style. Furthermore, the emergence of Hudson and Ford as a commercial songwriting combination to challenge Dave Cousins leads to an album of wildly conflicting styles.

The opener, Flying, is a delicate Cousins track with a lot of mellotron and some nice vocal work. Hudson-Ford's Lady Fuschia is a real highlight, with nice vocal harmonies, sitar and a fine guitar motif. Stormy Down is a dull, rather conventional rock track but at least it's short. Then the real gem arrives: Down by the Sea has a riff to die for, wonderful mellotron, string arrangements and powerful Cousins vocals; the outro is one of prog's greatest moments. Metallica based the intro riff for sanitarium on this one. The River is a terrible let down; a rather dull, overdramatic folky tune with vulgar overtones in the lyrics.

Side two opens with the truly awful Hudson-Ford penned Part of the Union, a track that put me off Strawbs for almost 30 years. OK, I now realise it's a satirical look at the trades unions of the time but I will hate it till the day I die with its tacky chorus and barroom piano. Just skip it to save your sanity. But Tears and Pavan which follows is quite amazing; the first part (Tears) features dramatic vocals from Cousins overlaid with lush mellotrons and the second (Pavan) is a dance tune with twin acoustic guitars and harpsichord and more of Cousins' erotic lyrics over Hudson-Ford's music. The Winter and the Summer, penned and sung by Lambert, is one of his better efforts and is gentle and tuneful, with a delightful ending. Lay Down is Cousins' attempt at commercialisation and is far better than Hudson-Ford's effort, though it's just a pretty standard rock song. It does have a sing along chorus, lots of mellotron and a good guitar solo, so it's not all bad. Thank You I played once and will never do so again; it features a school choir and a piano and that says it all. A disastrous end by any standards.

After this, the dichotomy in the band would lead to Hudson Ford going off to be very commercial, Blue Weaver going off to seek big bucks with the Bee Gees, and Cousins and Lambert to rebuild the Strawbs into a true progressive band which made two outstanding albums.

So Bursting at the Seams is far from their best effort. There are tracks of all standards on here, from true masterpieces (Down by the Sea, Tears and Pavan) to tracks that should have been strangled at birth and everything in between. So 3* is appropriate, though you should buy the album just for those two tracks. How strange that it was their best selling album and went to no 1 in the charts when far superior ones didn't.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars After the incredible "Grave New World" the band made a major change in bringing in Dave Lambert on guitar and at the same time changing their sound. This album has more of a commercial flavour and even some "Rock & Roll" sections to it. This would be their highest charting album in the UK thanks in large part to their hit song "Lay Down". Interesting that they were recording this in the same studio as Alice Cooper. Coincidently there was a bar in the place so the STRAWBS became good friends with Cooper and his band.

"Flying" reminds me of THE BYRDS on the chorus with those harmonies. The verses are mellow. I like the mellotron before 3 minutes. "Lady Fuschia" opens with guitar and the vocals arrive before a minute. The vocals really soar at times. "Stormy Down" opens with piano and strummed guitar as vocals join in. A Country flavour to this one. Nice bass though. "The River" is laid back but the vocals are urgent. A fuller sound after 1 1/2 minutes. Orchestral stuff in here too.

"Down By The Sea" was a shock. Just to hear that Rock element to start. Mellotron joins in then it settles with acoustic guitar and reserved vocals. Contrasts continue. Excellent track. "Part Of The Union" is like one of those novelty songs that torment your mind because it won't leave. Sounds like a song you'd here a bunch of drunks singing in a bar. It's funny though. "Tears And Pavan" is a cool sounding tune.The vocals and mellotron sound so good. I think that's harpichord after 3 1/2 minutes then clapping. They kind of ruin it for me. "The Winter And The Summer" features intricate guitar melodies along with reserved vocals early on. Organ and a fuller sound follows. "Lay Down" is the hit song. It's so uplifting. Just a feel good track really. "Thank You" is a short tune with Cousins on the piano and singing along with a children's choir.

Hit and miss for me but overall I really like it. 3.5 stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Another strong album from the Strawbs, showing the full range of their sound from prog workouts to folky, medieval-tinged pieces and all conceivable mixtures in between. The hit single from the album, Part of the Union, is a bit dull and monotonous, and the closing track lasts a bit too long for a gimmicky album-closer, but the rest of the material is still strong, with the Elizabethan-tinged Tears and Pavan being a particular highlight. Not a masterpiece, but still a very very good album, and more than worthy of inclusion in the classic run of Strawbs albums from From the Witchwood to Ghosts.
Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars The Strawbs may not have been exactly bursting at the seams but they were certainly hitting on just about every cylinder by the time this album released. Unfortunately Tony Hooper had become the latest of many band casualties, replaced by electric guitarist Dave Lambert and leaving Dave Cousins as the sole original member. In a related move, Cousins accelerated his movement away from folk-rock as a driving force for the group, and in fact at times the band took on an almost glam-rock vibe complete with Bowie-like vocals and more aggressive rhythms (check out 'Stormy Down' and the surprisingly strong 'Backside' in particular). 'Backside' was originally the b-side for the UK version of the 'Lay Down' single, credited to 'Ciggy Barlust and the Whales from Venus' and eventually included on a late-nineties CD remaster. Obviously the band alias reveals at least one of Cousins' influences at the time.

In general this is one of the more progressive Strawbs albums of the period despite two hit singles that were much more geared toward mass appeal than artistic expression. 'Part of the Union', another in a growing list of Hudson/Ford compositions became the band's biggest hit and something of an anthem for laborers, athletic teams and even left-leaning folksters with several of them recording their own (usually acoustic) versions.

'Lay Down' was also a minor hit single for the band, although this one is more of a straight- ahead tune from Cousins with Lambert and Cousin's twin rock riffs and organ fills by Blue Weaver. While the song doesn't do much to mature the group's sound it was still a very accessible piece that surely accounted for much of the album's strong showing on the Top-40 charts.

There are a few folk-inspired moments like the lazy 'Lady Fuschia' and Genesis-like 'The River' and to a certain extent the slow-developing 'The Winter and the Summer', but even with these the instrumentation is almost all electric and the arrangements are clearly intended to move the band closer to a mainstream sound.

But 'Down by the Sea' and 'Tears and Pavan' are both solidly in the progressive mode of the early seventies with beautiful Mellotron passages, wandering tales told in haunting vocals and skillful transitions between heavy rock, acoustic noodling and even classically- inspired swells, especially on 'Down by the Sea' which features more Mellotron and keyboards in general than anything the band had recorded since Rick Wakeman had departed for Yes four years earlier.

The children's' choir ditty 'Thank You' that closes the album is an unfortunate choice, but in 1973 most bands hadn't yet figured out that sort of thing almost always comes out cheesy. And it doesn't ruin the album certainly, but adds nothing either.

Musically and commercially the band improved on 'Bursting at the Seams', probably a combination of a couple tours together and the growing familiarity that came from it. Overall the prior 'Grave New World' and the two albums that would follow this are somewhat stronger offerings from the band, but in the end this one is quite solid and well worth picking up by anyone even remotely interested in their music. Not a progressive rock masterpiece perhaps, but certainly essential in the chronology and discography of the Strawbs, and therefore a four out of five star effort.


Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Picking up a few Strawbs albums over the last year or so, it's been a bit of a shock to discover that they all sound wildly different from each other! From the rough-around-the-edges medieval pomp of `Antiques...', to the near power pop and angry stomp of some of `Deep Cuts', it's hard to really know what to expect with each new album - except plenty of musical variety, inventive playing, evocative lyrics and charmingly wounded vocals full of character.

On it's first play, what a frustrating and wildly inconsistent album `Bursting At The Seams' is! It all comes across as a bit of a mess of country, psych, folk and prog-rock, with a pinch of honky-tonk novelty rock and even a childrens sing-along choir thrown in! Don't worry too much, if you have the patience to give it a few plays, the albums reveals quite a lot of fragile charm and beauty.

Side A begins with `Flying', which sounds very much in the style of the spacey psychedelic country of the later Byrds album. If that band's music from that period was as consistently good as this, those albums would be more fondly remembered! Warm country harmonies, with Dave Cousin's instantly recognizable voice singing a drifting melody. Terrific acoustic and dramatic middle enhanced by smatterings of Mellotron and commanding drum-work, and outstanding group vocals all round. Very accessible and catchy track, a real Strawbs classic. That same late Byrds vibe is present again on `Lady Fuscia', with a psychy country and folk feel, effective low-key sitar and lovely lyrics. Gorgeous multi-tracked harmonies, with a melodic electric guitar solo in the middle of this dreamy and hazy romantic piece. `Stormy Down' is upbeat country rock that's a bit lightweight, but pleasant enough. `Down By The Sea' has a moody electric intro and washes of choir Mellotron, then lots of feedback and angry moments with unhinged vocals, back and forth between acoustic passages and electric aggression. There's also a grand and pompous stirring string drenched finale. `The River' is a reflective acoustic and string driven lament, with orchestration and a passionate final verse. Shame about the very abrupt ending! All up, the first side of the album is really rather good!

Side B starts badly with the hideous novelty rock of `Part Of The Union'. A stomping beat, it tries to be a sing-along, but it's cheesy and inane, with a crowd singing the chorus in the background. Probably clever lyrics, but worst track by far on the album! `Tears and Pavan' has a moody percussive intro, very majestic Mellotron waves throughout, with longing and haunted vocals from Cousins that become comforting in the second half. There's a tasteful electric guitar melody throughout the whole track. A medieval middle and end section, with some baroque acoustic guitar and warm handclaps, it's a very romantic section, on an evocative and moody piece. `Winter and the Summer' has sweet vocals from Dave Lambert, with some wonderfully pretty and heartfelt lyrics without being schmaltzy. Warm acoustic guitar and gentle percussion, with a strangely plugged in moment during the second half that kind of ruins the mood! `Lay Down' has an upbeat stomping beat to it, very Byrds-like with ragged but warm chorus harmonies, a life-affirming Mellotron choir in the third verse, before a energetic and clean electric guitar on the fade-out. Deeply spiritual lyrics on this very accessible and catchy pop-rocker, if a little repetitive, but sure to get your foot tapping in approval. Then the album crashes with the awful gospel track `Thank You', sung by a wonky kids choir backed by piano. Lovely gesture, but...why?! The lyrics themselves on the album sleeve are nice, though.

Hugely underwhelming at first, before repeated plays show how good most of the material on `Bursting At The Seams' is. There's a few missteps along the way, but the majority of the album features heartfelt vocals, warm playing and simple but sophisticated accessible folk/country rock with intelligent progressive elements. It also shows a very admirable humanity.

Three and a half stars really!

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Strawbs were criticized by the English press for abandoning their folk roots and Dave Cousins just managed to confirm these statements, when he put the band on ice for a short time to record and release his debut solo album ''Two weeks last summer'', more or less following the electric approach of Strawbs' last album.The band then hit the road for a really exhausting tour with visits to Europe and the first tranatlantic trip for some dates in The States.After returning to UK for another set of lives, Tony Hooper decided to leave the band, he was among those feeling that Strawbs should insist on their folkier echoes.He was replaced by ex-Fire and King Earl Boogie Band Dave Lambert, who guested also on Cousins' debut album.During the autumn of 73' the band recorded the album ''Bursting at the seams'', released the following year on A&M.

Had the band eventually taken seriously what the press said about their style?I really do not know, but ''Bursting at the seams'' seems like a trip back in time, Strawbs abandoned the long and symphonic-flavored pieces of ''Grave new world'' for a more rural, poppier sound with emphasis on acoustic guitars and piano/keyboards, strong British Folk flavors and melodic tunes without much of an adventurous spirit.Of course the songwriting is pretty efficient as always and the arrangements are sophisticated with some soft electric guitars, light organ and even orchestral colors surrounding the acoustic moves, but the whole opening side recalls their late-60's days with the dominant Psych/Folk enviroment, only saved by the much harder ''Down by the sea'', an intricate mix of sharp electric moves, symphonic Mellotron and folky aesthetics, this is Strawbs at their best.''Tears And Pavan'' is the other piece to remind of KING CRIMSON/GENESIS' early days, featuring omnipresent Mellotron, trembling guitars and a great combination of mandolin and harsichord in the process.''The winter and the summer'' is another goodie of the flipside, basically close to the likes of ANTHONY PHILLIPS with a mellow Symphonic/Folk Rock atmosphere, based on electroacoustic changes and relaxed organ.Definitely the best side of the original album, even other the pair of more laid-back tracks are interesting and charming.

Mix Strawbs from late-60's and early-70's and the result cannot be anything else than ''Bursting at the seams'', a collection of Folk and Prog Rock tunes with a fairly interesting and melodic sound, great vocals and some pretty enganging orchestrations, far from the amazing ''Grave new world'', but still interesting and pleasant.Recommended.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review N║ 437

"Bursting At The Seams" is the fifth studio album of Strawbs and was released in 1973. It's one of the most perfectly realized Strawbs albums, in spite of its obvious commercial appeal. We may say that "Bursting At The Seams" was the definite break album for the Strawbs because it marked a major musical transformation in the group. It's also the album where the founder member Tony Hooper left the band and was substituted by their new guitarist Dave Lambert.

So, the line up on the album is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars and banjo), Dave Lambert (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars), Blue Weaver (organ, piano and Mellotron), John Ford (vocals and bass guitar) and Richard Hudson (vocals, drums and sitar).

"Bursting At The Seams" has ten tracks. The first track "Flying" written by Dave Cousins is a nice, melodic and well structured song with several contrasting sections. It has also good lyrics, nice vocal work, especially the harmonic choruses, and it has even an instrumental break featuring an interesting banjo and Mellotron combination. This is a delicate song and a great opener for the album. The second track "Lady Fuchsia" written by Richard Hudson and John Ford is a happy and lovely soft song sung by Richard Hudson and John Ford, featuring a beautiful sitar work and a fine guitar work. It's a melodic and well structured song, one of the songs on this album with a strongest folk approach. The third track "Stormy Down" written by Dave Cousins is a kind of a country rock soft song. It's a song with a mix of rock, folk and country and is performed in a style of a ballad. This is a nice and calm song, but represents one of the less interesting moments on the album. The fourth track "The River" written by Dave Cousins is a great song that makes an interesting combination with the next song "Down By The Sea". This is, basically, a folk song, played in a slow rhythm, which gradually develops into a lamenting, dramatic and melancholic track. It's a kind of an introduction to "Down By The Sea". The fifth track "Down By The Sea" written by Dave Cousins is one of the highlights on the album and is one of the best songs made by him. It's a powerful song, very symphonic and with a magnificent and triumphant choir. This is a song with plenty of variations and repetitions of the main theme, which develops in a crescendo, till a great and dramatic final. It's a brilliant and memorable song on the album. The sixth track "Part Of The Union" written by Richard Hudson and John Ford is the most different song on the album. It's one of the two songs released as a single. I agree with those who think this is a very well made and funny song, but that should only have been released as a single and never should be part of the album. Still, I enjoy this song too much, to be disappointed to its inclusion on the album. Lyrically, the song is very satirical and is about the power of the trade unions in the U.K. This is a controversial song that was misunderstood and poorly received by many union activists. The seventh track "Tears And Pavan" is divided into two parts, "Tears" written by Dave Cousins and "Pavan" written by Dave Cousins, Richard Hudson and John Ford. The song is with "Down By The Sea" one of the two best moments on the album. "Tears" is a sad song with some emotional parts and fantastic Mellotron lines. "Pavan" is a dance tune in the vein of the Greek or Spanish folksy dances, with a twin nice acoustic guitar works and a marvellous harpsichord performance. I like really the harpsichord sound on this song, which brings to us a certain medieval atmosphere. The eighth track "The Winter And The Summer" written by Dave Lambert is his first contribution to the band. This is a fine song. Dave Cousins even said once this is the best song Dave Lambert ever written. It's a nice guitar rock ballad, sung by Dave Lambert, with nice and intricate guitar melodies and with a delightful ending. The ninth track "Lay Down" written by Dave Cousins was the other song released as a single. It's a good and strong pure rock song, very enjoyable, well sung, with lots of Mellotron and a good guitar solo too. This is a song made in a more commercial vein to be a big hit. Sincerely, I think this is a real good track. The tenth track "Thank You" written by Dave Cousins and Blue Weaver" is a short and nice song with Dave Cousins singing along with a children's school choir. It's original and nice, but is at the same time an odd way to end the album.

Conclusion: Despite the departure of Rick Wakeman after "From The Witchood" and of Tony Hooper after "Grave New World", and of their substitution by Blue Weaver and Dave Lambert, respectively, "Bursting At The Seams" represents still the classic Strawbs' line up. However, this was the last album with their classic line up. John Ford and Richard Hudson would leave after the supporting live tour of "Bursting At The Seams". "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious", "From The Witchwood", "Grave New World", "Bursting At The Seams", "Hero And Heroine" and "Ghosts" are usually considered the albums that belong to their golden era. Still, "Bursting At The Seams" is generally considered the less good. But, I think this is a bit unfair because this is a well balanced album with some great musical moments.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

4 stars The Strawbs took a temporary break from prog, or at least were not as prog focused, on Bursting At The Seams. Still the album has so many typical prog motifs that it almost doesn't matter. The album's first successful single in the UK "Lay Down" could be considered "Benedictus" in a hard rockin ... (read more)

Report this review (#1701315) | Posted by SteveG | Sunday, March 12, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Bursting At The Seams" is one of the finest progressive folk albums. It manages to mix some very varied musical styles, but does so perfectly because of great songwriting, excellent musicianship and fabulous production. This still sounds as good now as it did then! At this, the band's comme ... (read more)

Report this review (#484004) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Saturday, July 16, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I consider "Bursting at Seams" from STRAWBS just like ""Grave New World" & "Hero and Heroine"a realy pearl of the seventies FOLK-PROG style and I think sincerrelly which this albun is underrated and deserves the rate of 5 stars !!! The music is very touching and the vocals of "minstrel" from D ... (read more)

Report this review (#282075) | Posted by maryes | Saturday, May 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I like this band. They made a special work in the seventies with very calm and balanced music, tipical in Progressive Folk vein. I think that this album are one of more comercial in Strawbs live. This work have some good parts but other's are very ordinary and don't give nothing special to str ... (read more)

Report this review (#243646) | Posted by JoŃo Paulo | Thursday, October 8, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 9.7/10 Incredible The follow-up to "Grave New World" is a near masterpiece, but doesn't bring the innovation of "Grave New World" so I cannot call it as such. Every track on here is great, if not an amazing achievement in prog music. To top it all off, we are introduced to this absolutely ... (read more)

Report this review (#148388) | Posted by The Lost Chord | Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What can one say? on this Album David Colusins and his band of merry men combine acoustic and electric tracks to somewhat near perfection!!!! Below I list my favourite cuts from the album and score them out of 10, i alos give comments on what makes the song so special!!!!! Lady Fuschia 9/ ... (read more)

Report this review (#139477) | Posted by Byron73 | Friday, September 21, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This record was a bitter disappointment following on as it does from the essential grave new world. However there is still a great deal of great music here, its just a little more patchy. "Stormy Down " Is the first really good song on bursting and its also one of the most folk. "Down By Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#96430) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The sixth work released in 1973 "Bursting At The Seams". It is a balanced masterpiece album. There is an appearance completed as a folk-rock. Any tune is settled and it is complete. Violent development seems to be suppressed. Music has lightened more than the work before. However, it is music ... (read more)

Report this review (#60459) | Posted by braindamage | Friday, December 16, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Up there with the best. A suberb collection of songs,good musicanship & lyrics, with Dave Cousins holding the whole thing together. Particularly like Down by the Sea with its dramatic swirling riff with orchestral build-up. Also Tears & Pavanne. I really like the harpsichord on this (sadly und ... (read more)

Report this review (#35749) | Posted by | Wednesday, June 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars An old gem from the fantastic gone-by world of 70's. Wonderful set of little jewels of harmony and feeling from the charming voice of Dave Cousins (here at his best), but very good work of all the musicians, too. A masterpiece of prog-folk (noo, not folk-prog, mmmh)... Listen to "Down by the ... (read more)

Report this review (#19638) | Posted by | Sunday, November 21, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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