A month or two back I spent a happy evening with DC and Chris Tsangarides at Chris's splendid studio just up the road from Deal, listening to the near-final mixes of the new album on the studio speakers. (At some volume, I have to tell you - at one point Chris went off with his noise-o-meter and came back to tell us we were louder than Glastonbury!)
Since then I've rarely been without a CD copy of the unmastered album. It's Strawbs' best album for many a year, beautifully recorded by Chris Tsangarides, a Grand Master of production, and played by a band at the height of their powers. I'm guessing it'll be even better after mastering.
There was a change in the running order for release: the original running order when I heard it was:
The Call To Action (Cousins)
Christmas Cheer (Cousins, Cronk)
Too Many Angels (Cousins, Cronk)
The Broken-hearted Bride (Cousins)
Through Aphrodite's Eyes (Cousins, Cronk)
Deep In The Darkest Night (Cousins)
Everybody Knows (Cronk)
You Know As Well As I (Lambert)
We'll Meet Again Sometime (Cousins)
Action Replay (Cousins)
Last four tracks re-ordered for release as follows:
You Know As Well As I (Lambert)
Everybody Knows (Cronk)
Action Replay (Cousins)
We'll Meet Again Sometime (retro) (Cousins)
This preview is in release order.
The Call To Action - For those lucky enough to catch the Cousins/Cutler leg of the US tour, think that version, with Ian's Cutler's cheeky Moorish fiddle playing combined with the power of the full electric band.
Opens with choppy Lambert chords, pounding Coombes drums, Hawken adds deep menacing bass synthesiser. Then Ian's fiddle comes in (nice to see him guest with Strawbs!) Big drum sound, Coombes (in the live show, with a rather fetching set of pink drum-bashers) adopting a middle-Eastern assault on the tom-toms during instrumental sections, returning to the cymbals and the rest of the kit during the verses.
Instrumental lead in lasts nearly 2 minutes and doesn't seem a second too long. Very strong vocals from Cousins, despite being at pretty much the top of his vocal range. Fantastic lyrics - as relevant to the state of the world today as "New World" was in 1972. Cousins has lost none of his songwriting ability for sure. One of THE most powerful tracks on the album, a Strawbs classic and no mistake.
Christmas Cheer - Continuing the religious strife theme, this song contrasts some spitefully cynical Cousins verses with a platitudinous multi-voice chorus "Everything's going to be alright, Everything's going to be alright". Driving bassline from Chas and Coombes cymbal-work very much in evidence, underlying guitar (think "To Be Free"). Chorus vocal features a cast of thousands aka the Big Deal Choir (Steve Grant, Vince Martyn, Gordon May, Chris Tophill, Howard Werth, Sophie Morrish, Charlotte Tophill, Elizabeth Tophill, Frances Tophill).
Too Many Angels - Cousins in his quiet intimate mode, this opens with pleasant aerie keyboard tickling from Hawken and acoustic guitar over a few cymbals from Road. Opening line "It started with the ring I wear", makes it clear that this song, like many of the tracks from The Boy In The Sailor Suit, is going to be fairly autobiographical, reflecting on Dave's not uncomplicated personal life over the years ("With all the loves I held so dear, Swirling gently through the mist").
It tickles along with a just perfect drum shuffle from Rod - in the middle, and at the end an acoustic guitar solo which fits snugly. The chorus is extremely catchy and lodges in your mind - you'll be humming it for days. Would like to see this arranged for the Acoustics.
The Broken Hearted Bride Thrashing chords and drum rolls, then electric guitar riff and bass counterpoint and then Cousins starts in on this tale of the suicide bomber, which has changed somewhat from the dulcimer/steel guitar version demoed for Secret Paths - this is full of pace and energy, driven along by the instrumentation as well as the strong chorus vocals from Dave and Dave (well live anyway, when they did it on tour - Chas may be in there somewhere on the record). A great story song, following in the vein of "Never Take Sweets From A Stranger", and entirely in keeping with the emerging theme of the album.
Shadowland - Lambert's first song contribution to the album - organ and acoustic guitar with Lambert's vocal soaring overhead. Second verse adds piano. Third adds drums. Some great light and shade as the song progresses, great lyrics, and some cracking Lambert electric solos during and at the end of the song. This track previously had an outing as a self recorded piece on Dave Lambert's Work In Progress - this is a far more polished version, and definitely has a Strawbs feel following in the tracks of such as "Live Inside Your Hell Tonight", "The Ten Commandments" and of course "Cold Steel".
Through Aphrodite's Eyes - One of "those" Cousins riffs - in horsebreeding parlance, you might say 'by "Down By The Sea" out of "Deadly Nightshade"' and you'd not be far wrong. Starts out with chimes and swirling keyboards and bass. As it builds, screaming guitars emerge out of the mix and the bass picks up the riff - again it's two minutes plus before the intro comes to an echoing halt.
Mellotron flutes and acoustic guitars take over as Dave opens the vocals in his lower register, very low indeed for the chorus phrase. Spacey synths between verse 2 and 3, after which the backing builds with pounding drums and DC switches to a louder higher register for the remainder of the song, spitting out the lyrics in classic Cousins style, holding the last "eyes" for a good long time, before the riff kicks in again to take the song to its close, but not before another searing Lambert solo and tinklies to close. A very well-realised piece of music indeed.
Deep In The Darkest Night - One of my absolute favourites from the Cousins/Conrad High Seas album, I wondered what Strawbs would do with this if hey got their hands on it. I wondered if they'd add some classic Strawbs "choirvocals" over some of the instrumental passages (which is what I heard was "missing" from the Cousins/Conrad version).
But no, it's still piano-based, it's a little speeded up, and with double-tracked DC vocals in various places. Lambert adds a solo before the final verse, which has some new lyrics, and then more over the playout.
You Know As Well As I - And now a surprise - ringing acoustic guitar chords, a rich high organ note, then into a Coombes-driven Caribbean style beat for Lambert's second song contribution, which will have the Strawbs guitar nuts in seven stages of delight. The lyrics are almost 60s pop "You know as well as I, The pieces in my jig-saw, Were never made to fit,I waste my time, Pretending I can do it" and wouldn't have seemed out of place in Dave L's psychedelic Fire days. Lambert pulls off a little solo, Hawken adds sampled steel drums straight out of Trinidad. Great ending. A perfect pop song - if singles were still a viable art-form, this would make a good one.
Everybody Knows - Chas's contribution to the album, opening again with keyboards and a strangely vulnerable Cousins vocal, quickly joined by Chas in what seems more like a dual lead than backing vocals. The chorus has lead guitar power chords going on behind the chorus vocal. Third verse takes a different tack - an almost accapella interplay between Cousins & Cronk with some backbeat electric chords and drum rolls from Coombes, as the verse builds to a Lambert solo over the final choruses which fade to the end.
Action Replay - All synthy noises and bleeps, with fiddle and synth bass, this is an instrumental reprise of the melody of "The Call To Action", a good deal of which is programmed by Chas with further instrumentation added. An excellent track in its own right and a good complement to the opening track to end the "modern" part of the album or the "main set", with what follows as a perfect encore.
We'll Meet Again Sometime (retro) - Nailed it! A faithful capture of the much loved rearrangement adopted by the Acoustics for live performance, and which also made its way into the electric set as a fine encore. Starts out with just guitars and DC's slightly echoey vocal, soon with John Hawken joining in on organ. Dave in great voice for this. Lambert's harmony vocal and Chas's chorus harmonies not too loud, not too quiet (not always easy to ensure in the live shows). Steel guitar in the middle eight, before an instrumental section, where bass and a simple drum riff join under the steel wizardry. Last verse, really expressive DC vocals, ending with a single drum beat before the multiple chorus finale takes off. And to cap it all, that splendid accapella ending which gets the live crowds off their feet.
Having survived the seismic shockwaves which stemmed from the proposed cover of The Broken Hearted Bride suddenly changing from one which, for me, provoked a certain uneasiness, to another which provokes virtually nothing, not to mention endless nights spent worrying about the lack of a hyphen in the album title (what ARE we teaching our children??!!), it is with great pleasure that I am now able actually to listen to the contents of the source of these controversies.
Although nit-picky conversation about sound quality and so on usually leaves me cold, I would like to have my little say; I have no grumbles whatsoever along those lines. Nothing on this CD sounds uneven, muffled, too loud, too faint or any of the other distinctly untechnical terms I would normally apply to poor sound quality. Everything sounds excellent and highly professional is what I'm trying to say, which may well have something to do with the work of Chris Tsangarides and Chas Cronk (though I confess I'm still not really sure what all those processes involved in making a CD mean!).
On to the songs themselves then….
The Call to Action - A heavy-duty powerhouse of a Strawbs track; having seen it performed live several times on the band's tour earlier this year, I already knew what to expect. I adore the Eastern feel and consider this an example of electric Strawbs 2008 at their finest, with a fascinating melting-pot of instrumentation blending to perfection. Dave Cousins' voice overlays the backdrop, building in pace and urgency as each verse progresses.
Christmas Cheer (Everything's Going To Be Alright) - I was not too keen on this track after my first listen, mainly, I think, because I hadn't read the lyrics and couldn't quite fathom it out. Having found my glasses it all made sense however, with cheerful, Disneyesque choruses loudly proclaiming that "everything's going to be alright", completely contradicting the song's true message which warns of building religious tensions. Good to see Strawbs tackling heavy issues in my opinion – it certainly isn't a treacle toffee world these days and several of the songs on this album acknowledge the unpalatable realities of modern living. Great up-front and funky bass on this track provides a "different" Strawbs sound.
Too Many Angels - A gentle-sounding song which is very attractive indeed, with some lovely guitar interspersed among the verses. Wistful, retrospective lyrics, beautifully sung by Dave Cousins, weave a nostalgic journey of personal regrets. Some gorgeous instrumentation includes sympathetic keyboards and drums. On first hearing I recall feeling unsure about the repetitive chorus, but after a few listens I am firmly hooked on this one.
The Broken Hearted Bride - Another dominant offering with a very big sound which increases in intensity, peaking with highly memorable choruses at full blast in which Dave Lambert's vocals powerfully augment those of Dave Cousins. Again, I knew roughly what to expect thanks to having seen the song performed live several times during the summer tour. The song differs substantially from the "bonus" track of the same title and similar (but not the same) lyrics, given away with Dave Cousins' solo album "Secret Paths" when first on sale. This version really does blow you away though in a different way from that described in the lyrics thankfully; terrorism and its often seemingly innocuous origins provide the subject matter.
Shadowland - A great Dave Lambert song, with some excellent lyrics, which showcases his vocal talents superbly. I already own the version of the song on Dave's second solo album Work In Progress. Being a "Strawbs" fan, rather than simply a "Dave Cousins" fan, for me the vocal contrasts offered by the various band members have always been a major attraction, both live and on record. This track offers such a contrast beautifully in my opinion, complemented by some particularly lovely keyboards.
Through Aphrodite's Eyes - Strawbs at their proggy best. Another enormously big sound, which starts with pretty, tinkly keyboards then surges into some excellent lead guitar playing. Dave Cousins sounds extremely "at home" on this song as far as I'm concerned; his vocals range from quiet, almost-whispered restraint, to anguished cries to stunning effect. The whole band produces an amazing sound on this song which prog-rockers in Strawbs' multi-musically-cultural fan-base must surely rave about for years to come.
Deep In The Darkest Night - A beautiful song, which Dave Cousins wrote following the passing of his brother. It first appeared on Dave's collaborative album with Conny Conrad entitled High Seas. Really attractive guitar and keyboards on this version, though I have to say I was very happy with the original version too.
Everybody Knows - Written by Chas Cronk, this song is wonderfully laid-back and dreamy. It seems to redress life's uglier aspects as tackled in some of the earlier songs, with lyrics of beauty and a message of hope. Accompanied again by some delightful keyboard, Dave Cousins is joined on a dual vocal by Chas to provide a very interesting mix. Perfect "less is more" drumming by Rod Coombes (as ever!) complements the song as it fluctuates in rhythm and pace, giving the feel of a lilting tidal flow, very relaxing. Chas is another Strawb with a voice to be proud of, as those who have heard "A Splash of Blue" on Lambert Cronk's "Touch the Earth" well know.
You Know As Well As I - I have played this song over, and over, and over! It is so infectious, completely unlike anything else on the album or anything else by Dave Lambert (or Strawbs) that I can think of. Again, Dave Lambert's strong, clear vocals provide a welcome contrast to those of Dave Cousins. More interesting lyrics to ponder, and a Caribbean feel provides the unexpected.
Action Replay - This track prolongs the Eastern vibe of the early part of the album. Nice music, but I don't consider this to be a song in its own right as it instrumentally continues the theme of "A Call to Action". Enjoyable listening and some great musicianship, but for me this is the one track on the album I consider a bit of a "filler".
We'll Meet Again Sometime - Another song I know extremely well, having owned the version on Dave Cousins' first solo album "Two Weeks Last Summer" since 1972. I love that early version, but for me this rendition, complete with the rich harmonies well-known to those who have had the pleasure of seeing Acoustic Strawbs perform the song, is a stunner. I'm delighted to have this "full-sounding" version of the song, and with such clear sound it is easy to close your eyes and imagine the band are just feet away.
I adore, or at the very least, like, every track on the album and there is nothing I am tempted to skip, which is not always the case. The musicianship is first-rate throughout (can't keep mentioning each and every instrument, track by track, but it really is), and as I mentioned previously, the recording/mixing etc. sounds faultless to my ears. Strawbs have always been a band known for changing styles, and also a band which has been associated with contemporary political comment in various ways. With "The Broken Hearted Bride" Strawbs have definitely entered some fresh territories both musically and lyrically, hopefully not straying so far as to lose their most conservative fans, but far enough to gain new admirers along the way.
My only personal grouch is that as an owner of pretty much everything ever released by Strawbs or individual band members (e.g. Dave Cousins solo, Dave Lambert solo and Cousins & Conrad), I already own versions of three of the songs on this album. Much as I am happy to have these re-workings, it is the emotions conveyed by songs which for me are generally of primary importance. With re-recordings, fresh emotional experiences are rare as old ground is retread with no new lyrical journeys to make or puzzles to ponder. Feelings induced by re-worked songs (whether they be of happiness, sadness, nostalgia or whatever) have been experienced previously; no matter how varied the instrumentation or how different vocal styles may be, I personally would have preferred an album of material entirely new to me.
Having said that…. The Broken Hearted Bride will very definitely be getting a lot of play by me over the coming weeks and months.
Over the last 40 years or so, every Strawbs Vinyl album / CD/ Cassette/ 8 track has been awaited with the same degree of eager anticipation. The Broken Hearted Bride being no exception.
Already in preview through the songs performed on the recent tour and also the earlier posted track listing, that sense of anticipation was burning bright, as the release date approached.
Some stunning live renditions on the Electric tour of "The Call to Action" and "The Broken Hearted Bride" itself, as well as the familiar "We'll meet again", had sent many a quiver running down the spine in their "live" format during those shows. But how would they sound on disc particularly as the album was "rumoured" to be in variance with Strawbs traditional offering.
So is it? Lyrically there are lines that set the mind racing, lines which make many a political point and many that allow even your own interpretation however relevant that may be, but I suspect it will sit equally alongside that of the original author. This CD has a lot to say about the way of the world and all that's happening around us in the way life is being played out at present.
Musically – it is traditional Strawbs full on, with strong and powerful passages interspersed with those of simpler, yet well constructed patterns that lead you in and out, with thoughts of hope, desire, anger, peace and of course that long lasting goodbye and maybe some hope for the future.
Much will be written no doubt about the inclusion of several previously recorded tracks. But starting with the opening track one cannot deny their rightful place on an album so diverse in nature – yet all pure Strawbs 21st Century.
The thundering and impulsive "The Call To Action", with graphic (and I have said this before in a tour review) heavy ethnic sounding drum beat and cymbal overlay topped with a pleading vocal and rhythmic guitar create a crescendo of sound – the power house of the band in one.
If you get carried along with that and the dark symbolism , then "Christmas Cheer" lightens the mood if not the message. – (diversity - that word that can always be used of Strawbs material) This is a much more upbeat offering and chorus to fit a catchy "everything's going to be alright". Everyone can hang on to that and their faith, except maybe of course, when faced with that moment.
The third track "Too Many Angels" has another lovely chorus and a happy feel that may appeal to many. Just when you thought the song was jogging "nicely" along out comes a neat and stylish guitar solo, but absolutely at the right time and in the right place before the normal pattern returns again - but then again does the solo- inspirational. Great new material and is co-credited to Chas and Dave C, as indeed was the previous track.
Back to powerhouse stuff and "The Broken Hearted Bride".
And if one overlooks the dark message in this title track. It has a pretty buoyant tempo that makes you want to tap along. A demonstrative and passionate vocal performance, from DC.This tale, which may have started out sounding like a scene from the fairest of fairy tales but finishes as a macabre story, telling of death and destruction.
"Shadowland" has been drawn from the Lambert album "Work in Progress" from several year ago, which is well worth checking out for those who have not heard it. This version though does seem to give a much richer sound and production. It brilliantly showcases Dave Lambert's vocals and impeccable playing style which is augmented with piano and also some nicely stated drumming.
"Throuhg Aphrodite's Eyes", has a simple but haunting introduction, akin to some from the "Ghosts" era, but this then immediately switches to a powerful section leading in to the gentle story with some nifty keyboards sound. Many who had had a short preview of this ahead of getting their discs on "my space" were to comment even with that short taster it was sounding like a Strawbs classic. Am I to disagree? Certainly not !
"Deep In The Darkest Night"…… whenever I hear this, I am automatically transported to motorway running "North" to the Humber bridge – I just remember the time and place that I heard this track on the Cousins/Conrad version. I just can't understand why it should have made such an impression at that point – but this song will always do that and the effect. So what of this version, well got to say once again the whole production is fantastic – some clever effect on vocal in places. Once again piano has a large part to play, I really like the guitar solo and of course that rhythm section – one again on par with excellence.
"You Know Well As I" Another track penned by Dave Lambert - a jaunty little number with an unexpected touch of the Caribbean to finish. Can't remember "that" ever being on a Strawbs track before- diversity rules OK ! This, and the inclusion of Shadowland give Dave a great opportunity within the full band structure to show the depth and yes that word again - diversity of his song writing abilities.
The previous song contrasts with "Everybody knows" which starts with a moody opening followed by some deep and powerful passage with a lovely chorus. Some how it captures all of the essence of Strawbs …………..gentle passages, complimented and those much more powerful sections – trademark Strawbs over many years. Some great harmonies it also delivers a very uplifting feel and Chas should be rightly proud of his song – why are all "Strawbs" so multi talented ?
"Action Replay" is an interesting piece –perhaps it can be used film score material or even pre or post concert sound bite to set the mood ? Imagine leaving a show to this booming around the auditorium – as vividly imaginative as those who have bounced out to the offering of "Hero and Heroine" as the encore. An instrumental mirroring "The Call To Action" in content but whilst some might question it's inclusion for me it still evokes the excitement generated on the Electric tour as this piece was introduced.
"We'll Meet Again Sometime" closes the CD …………..as those that have listened will know already. What a conclusion of this terrific album, typically with each and every Strawb demonstrating their abilities and true to form some stunning guitar work and harmonies finish the CD with aplomb.
So great credit to those who create this work – Chas, the two Dave's, John and Rod and all those mentioned on the inside in the cover, involved in the production. Masterful, a success on par may be even beyond, that achieved in the '70's.
I finally got round to hearing The Broken Hearted Bride this week and I am absolutely astounded by the whole album. The Strawbs have long remained consistent in the quality of their song writing and perfomances but some recent albums have perhaps missed out on the wonderful production of the great 70s output. The Broken Hearted Bride puts that right in spades. The production and engineering are excellent throughout and really allow the songs to shine through. Rather than trawling through the entire album, I'll pick out a few highlights to give a flavour of what this album is all about.
The opening track, "The Call To Action", was originally heard on the Cousins/Conrad album High Seas where, although its potential was clear, the arrangement and production never seemed quite right. Here the texture builds in perfect proportion and Ian Cutler's violin adds significantly to the instrumental passages. The song clicks totally into place in this version, with Cousins on absolutely superb form, and it really sets up expectations for the rest of the album.
"Shadowland" brings Dave Lambert's voice into the game and he sounds as wonderfully soulful as ever in this band version of a song which appeared on Work In Progress. Again, this version just seems to get the absolute best out of the song with some well judged use of piano and vocal synth pads and a superb guitar solo from Lambert. Mention also has to be made of the Cronk/Coombes combination which always brings exactly the right balance of drive and support. On this entire album they take the band sound on another level and display outstanding musicianship at every turn.
The track which follows "Shadowland", "Through Aphrodite's Eyes", is possibly my favourite on the whole album as it recalls the atmosphere of "Deadly Nightshade" from Deadlines, which has long been a personal favourite of mine. Again the texture is sparse at first before Lambert's soaring and incredibly moving guitar work comes in above a huge overall sound which then gives way to a more accoustic sounding accompaniment to some sensationally sensitive singing from Cousins. This is another song which builds to its climax brilliantly with Cousins eventually singing up an octave, the texture thickening again (with yet more awesome drumming from Rod Coombes), and more of Lambert's trademark guitar work.
"Everybody Knows" is something of a departure, being much more of a pop/rock song with a strong hook in the chorus and a synth based backing. Cronk's vocals (combined with those of Cousins) also add a different dimension to the sound. However, never conventional, the texture drops out completely for the middle eight to provide a complete contrast which works extremely well before the chorus comes back in before the final fade. This song is yet another example of the versatility of this line-up.
"Action Replay" is an instrumental recap of "The Call To Action" which book-ends the structure of the album beautifully before a much more acoustic sound brings calm after the storm and a fond farewell in the final track, a re-working of the wonderful "We'll Meet Again Sometime". There is some wonderful harmony singing here both by Cousins double-tracking in the verse, and from the whole band in the chorus and, again, the musical sensitivity of Cronk and Coombes comes in for huge amounts of praise.
These are just highlights. There is not a weak point on the whole album and I completely agree that this stands very very high in the canon of a band who have never failed to satisfy over a long and varied career. This is The Strawbs at their absolute peak again with every element of the album perfectly honed, beautifully written and textured, and played and sung with sensitivity and musicianship that most other bands can only really dream of. I very much hope to get the opportunity to see the electric band again soon with some of these great songs in the set.
Hadn't intended to review Broken Hearted Bride on the grounds that I assumed that everybody who would want to buy it would already have done so, and everyone who hadn't bought it would probably not be persuaded merely by reading a review from me. However, judging from the number of people queueing to buy CDs at Chelmsford, there are still a great number of people who are going to buy it, but haven't done so yet. All I can do is urge you that if you haven't yet got it, do yourself a favour and quickly rush out and add it to your collection.
The Call To Action - Love the way this track starts in mid crescendo. I still think that the original version on High Seas is better, but this track is growing rapidly on me. I think I prefer it without the violin. Excellent drumming from Rod. If you close your eyes you can still see those fluorescent drum sticks.
Christmas Cheer - In my opinion, this is my least favourite track on the album. Not because there is anything wrong with this track. It is just that the others are so strong. Even for the Strawbs, this song is extremely dark. "Everything's going to be alright", but only after Armageddon. There's a real toe tapping beat to this track, which disguises its bleak message. The chorus is sung by a choir, but I think it would have been more chilling if instead it was sung by a single choirboy.
Too Many Angels - I think that if I'm interpreting this correctly then it really should have been the last track on the album. In fact, it might be the last ever Strawbs song. It so neatly rounds off their very first single. It's clearly autobiographical, and contains many references that I don't understand, ("the monkey and the damage done" for example, and why is it "Tiffany time"?), but there's enough to make it fairly clear. There's lots of references to earlier Strawbs' songs, including yet another reference to "Dragonfly". On "Plainsong", I assumed DC was reminiscing about his earlier songs, but in this context I'm not so sure. I'm beginning to think that "Dragonfly" must have actually been a person.
Forty years ago, the Strawbs released their first single, with a reference to "the ring that held us close together", but of course, it didn't last, because oh how she changed. Now, however, "the ring has stood the test of time", and "it's time to find some peace at last". Finally, after so many years of "Heartbreak Hill", DC has finally found the right Angel.
The Broken Hearted Bride - This track was featured in the recent Electric tour. It was quite hard to catch all of the words when listening to it live, but on record they are much clearer. Massively strong lyrics, particularly for a band celebrating their fortieth year. Definitely up there with the best of anything they've ever written before. My only slight criticism of this track is that the riff is very similar to "Do You Remember" on Blue Angel. Shadowland - This is very reminiscent of Dave Lambert's "Ten Commandments". Both, I believe, are modernised reworkings of old Testament stories. In this case Noah's flood. Rather than a deluge, I think the shadowland is a description of the modern world, where everyone sits at home of an evening, casting shadows from the light from the television, with our souls lost in some western mainstreet. Yes, we are all drowning, but unlike "Christmas Cheer", this is an optimistic song. The day will come, and with luck it will bring a rainbow.
The lyric sheet says that DL is singing "I've got these things on my mind". I think he's actually singing "peace things". I think we're talking a dove and an olive branch along with the rainbow.
Through Aphrodite's Eyes - In my opinion, the best track on this album. It is pure prog rock, with a phenomenally long intro. Again, this song seems to be autobiographical, with strong links to "The Merchant Adventurer" (the pirate ships) and strong links to "The River" (the pregnancy). I think though, that this song has most in common with "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake". In "Vision", it is revealed that all of the troubles of today are all caused by a beautiful woman, or at least man's inability to handle a beautiful woman. In "Aphrodite", it is Love (personified by Aphrodite) that is the cause of all of the problems.
Deep in the Darkest Night - One of my favourite tracks on High Seas, not least because it featured Rick Wakeman. In my opinion, this version is even better, which just shows what a huge loss John Hawken will be to the band. Most people are aware, I think, that this song was written in memory of DC's brother.
You Know as Well as I - This is a beautiful psychedelic song from Dave Lambert. Although it has a 1960's flower power feel about it, it is still very much in place on this album. I'd like to say I understand what this song is about, but so far I haven't managed to work that one out. It has an optimistic feel, "We'll never be defeated whilst our souls remain intact", and seems at the start to merely be saying that there are no absolute black and white, right and wrongs, but somewhere in the middle is where we'll all be found. However, it ends by saying that people of perfection might be living here quite soon. Not sure who the people of perfection are. The gods?,Von Daniken aliens? Future generations? Beings evolved from humans? Or ourselves?
Everybody Knows - I'd like to think that Chas deliberately wrote "Everybody Knows" in order to say the exact opposite of "Through Aphrodite's Eyes", or at least to present a balanced view. The message of "Through Aphrodite's Eyes" is that Love is torture, whereas Chas is saying "Only Love will set you free". This song has a Julian Lennon feel about it, and is definitely Calli's favourite track on the album.
Action Replay - An instrumental version of "The Call To Action". Strangely, although I'm unsure about the violin on "The Call To Action", it works really well on this track.
We'll Meet Again Sometime - It's a bit of a shame that this track was also featured on Duochrome, as we've ended up with two new albums, both containing the same song. It probably isn't a coincidence that the song is about parting ("it's time to go our individual ways") and soon after the album was made, John left the band. I'd like to think that this song is the band wishing John farewell. Good luck, John. Enjoy your retirement. You will be missed, but you've left a fantastic legacy behind you.
The Call To Action: Well I have heard this before and no big surprise haven't compared the two versions yet. But it is a very strong/good song that will be played many times.
Christmas Cheer: I love this tune and I am easily put in a good relaxed mode. Long time since (if I ever) I have listened to a so uplifting tune by Strawbs. Must be the collaboration between Cousins/Cronk (3rd best song).
Too Many Angels: A song I know I will love after a week or two. Must be the first time have been so happy with the collaboration between Cousins/Cronk on a Strawbs album.
The Broken Hearted Bride: Good speed on this song but not my favorite I guess.
Shadowland: Guess this is the best song on the album. Fantastic arrangement and vocal. I don't know if I ever have heard Lambert sing that good before. Normally Cousins has delivered a song on every Strawbs album that have knocked me out totally mentally. But today it was Lambert.
Through Aphrodite's Eyes: Fantastic intro, I just love it. But when Cousins begins to sing I know I have heard something like this tune before, but where? I will find the song, I am sure. And the song starts to lift off on the fourth verse, where Cousins sings like he did in the Ghosts/Hero and Heroine days. Must be the 2nd best track on this album, and maybe the track that remind me of the Hero and Heroine period. I am very pleased that Strawbs manage to do it again after that many years.
Deep In The Darkest Night: If Strawbs been smart they would never have touched this track. Why did they not dig after something else. I like the song but the way it is on the album Cousins/Conrad.
You Know Well As I: Good song.
Everybody Knows: I really like this song, and I wish that Cronk had done the main vocal. Fourth best song.
Action Replay: I hate it, I really do. If they wanted to do a replay it should have been "Through Aphrodite's eyes".
We'll Meet Again Sometime: Well we all love this song.
Thank you Strawbs for giving me the best gift since Nomadness. On this album it is almost only favorites, and I don't think Strawbs have managed to do that so many times before. And I am sitting here with a feeling that this was the last Strawbs album......
First impressions are pretty good, the title track has a far more powerful sound than the demo download though the lyrics in the booklet seem to include a surplus line from the original at one point.
"The Call To Action": I really like the Cousins/Conrad version so the jury's still out on which is the better. Similarly I like the Recollections version of "We'll Meet Again Sometime".
"Christmas Cheer" is one I really like of the new tracks.
The Broken hearted bride is definitely growing on me (always the sign of a great album!), and Duochrome is a treat!
As regards the 2 CD's which arrived a couple of days back, I've only so far had a chance to listen to the BHB, and it stands out head and shoulders above recent CD releases in every way. Not that other CDs haven't had good stuff there, it's just that this one instantly grabs you and makes you play it again - almost every track is one to play again and again - great words, great music, and great sound.
I'm obviously not a loyal enough fan, as I haven't bought any of the more recent stuff until now, so it's all new to me. And it really feels like a new Strawbs album, just like being in the 70's again - not that the music sounds particularly 70's, it's just that I haven't experienced that old thrill of getting a new Strawbs album and listening to it for the first time since Deadlines back in 1978 - 30 years ago! (Heartbreak Hill didn't have the same 'kick', as it was kind of retro by the time it was released).
Of course, I am very familiar with 'We'll Meet Again Sometime', but to me this was a DC solo song, and it's rather nice to hear it now as a 'Strawbs' song. As for it not fitting in with the tone of the album, well, that may be true, but most Strawbs albums had a track 'against the flow', did they not? Think "Ah Me Ah My" on GNW perhaps, or "Thank You" on BATS...
Anyway, it's a thumbs up from me. Would be nice if it gets a little attention, maybe a review in the serious papers!
Got a smile on my face, I'm happy again. I just got BHB in the mail today. I LOVE the graphics everything! SO very STRAWBS!!
I LOVE THE CD
A thought I had, is that with this CD, the Strawbs are more group focussed than DC focussed.
Think of this -- there are 11 songs total, 10 really, since "Action Replay" is an instrumental version of "The Call To Action".
Of the 10, "The Call To Action", "Deep In The Darkest Night" and "We'll Meet Again Sometime" are covers. Though "The Call To Action" is very different from the Cousins/Conrad version, of course.
Of the remaining 7 songs.
Cousins/Cronk -- 3 songs
Lambert -- 2 songs
Cronk -- 1 song
Cousins -- 1 song.
Surprising -- a new Strawbs album 7 new songs. Chas gets as much writing credit as DC and Lambert has more new songs than DC solo. And it's a great CD!!!!
Not that those of us who love Dave Cousins' music have been deprived lately. Three solo albums; the Cousins/Conrad Album, the solo tour (and of course, there are the three/four covers on BHB where Dave C is the sole composer). However, with Dave's solo work, which is uniformly great, it seems there are more opportunities for Chas and Dave L.
IMO, this is a good thing. Strawbs works fantastically as a group. The new material on BHB is incredibly powerful - certainly the best CD by Strawbs in the 21st century. As an album, creatively and musically, I think we're in H/albtrack/ghosts territory.
I received a nice package from Witchwood Records Monday night and have not stopped playing both! After a few listens of BHB my favorite cuts are "Shadowland" and "The Broken Hearted Bride" but ask again tomorrow.
I was beginning to get a bit jealous everyone seemed to have received their copy of BHB but me ( may be it's a surname thing!?!) and with WEDNESDAY approaching fast....would I ever get to hear it....today despite my daughter hiding the post in the bathroom (don't ask!) good job i did some cleaning....I got my CD... Love it.
Great to read the lyrics to the title track couldn't quite grasp them at live gigs ....as others have said another great STRAWBS album, I shall enjoy it again tomorrow, whilst catching up on housework, providing the only blackholes i encounter are my offsprings bedrooms....may be the end of the world will save me from cleaning them......but NO I want to hear BHB again so if the particles implode I'll just have to tell the forces to wait ~I'm too busy to live in a 'pea sized space'.
I listened last night for the first time, The Broken Hearted Bride. It is stunning. An absolute work of art. It easily stands with The Strawbs finest.
I warmed the evening listening to Duochrome. I was lucky to see Dave on tour and loved his performance. I only intended to listen to a few trax , wanting to get to The Broken Hearted Bride. As I was listening to Duochrome, I was thinking, man, this is really, really fine. It just drives home how truly incredible an artist Dave Cousins is. Well, I wound up finishing out Duochrome to the very "last drop" I was truly primed.
The moment came, the cd is in the player, I'm in the audio "sweet spot" in my living room. I hit "play". The magic unfolds. Thers is is not one weak composition on this album. To me, each piece builds upon the last. The song writing from each band member is at an all time high. You can hear it. All those years on the road and in the studio. The lessons of pen and instrument meticulously ingrained upon the Strawbs psyche . What a masterpiece.
As the album draws to a close, I needed to take a breath. A final full band version of "We'll Meet Again Sometime" is just a perfect way to close this album out. It is just a great performance and a final reminder (as if we need one) what a remarkable band the Strawbs are and what a wonderful trip this has been. Upon listening to Live At Bilston and now The Broken Hearted Bride, the rhythm section of Cronk and Coombes really has so evolved into a truly tight and emotionally compelling section of the band, they've become an orchestra unto themselves.
I love the album graphics. I truly love the album cover. Perhaps, our friends in England, being surrounded by all this imagery naturally, may not be quite as impressed. But for some of us growing up with the readings of Hardy, Austen, and Elliott, it is for me at least, quite beautiful and emotionally overwhelming and spiritually soothing. My one bit of discord is that John Hawken's credit is seen as a foot note. Please, at this point in time, even with the various line up changes, is John not a Strawb? I don't believe John Hawken is just a footnote to anything. That off my mind, I look forward to listening again and again. I hope to have enough time to do a song by song review of The Broken Hearted Bride and Live At Bilston.
Thought I should write a review of Strawbs new album... but I am speechless! What can one say about this wonderful album other than -great! -fantastic! -marvellous! And Lindsay Sorrell, Nigel Bennett and Dick Greener already said it all in their well-written reviews. I agree with you all!
When I saw the first cover proposal I was horrified... but this cover is so beautiful! Love it! And it fits the music. Great package!
Since I rediscovered Strawbs some 7-8 years ago (had Grave New World and Bursting At The Seams on vinyl and listened a lot to them in the mid 70s, then I kinda forgot them...) they have given me so much joy and pleasure with their 'strawbsian' world of emotional music. And then, after all they have done... they blow me away with this jewel of an album! This is truly adult rock. Oh my what a great band Strawbs are! And oh how they changed.
At first play there is an immediate recognition of the seventies Strawbs in The Broken Hearted Bride. In many respects such as the power and range of emotion in the music it feels as though it could have followed "Ghosts" - but this is not an album the Strawbs could have made in the seventies! It has all the talent that was there in the seventies plus thirty years of wisdom that permeates every brilliant arrangement and every well turned phrase. The musicianship is stunning less because it's showy but more that it is confident and rich with subtleties. My esteem for this work grows with every play. This is an absolute new high and one for these times.