I've been playing "Touch the Earth", the new Lambert Cronk album, at every opportunity since receiving it - and what a pleasure that has been. On the strength of just two of the songs ("Touch the Earth" and "The Night"), EMI were highly interested in signing the musicians involved (Dave Lambert, Chas Cronk, Tony Fernandez on drums and Andy Richards on keyboards). Unfortunately, for various reasons, that signing didn't come to fruition and the material has never been released….until now. Apart from the final two tracks, one of which was recently written, performed and recorded solo by Dave and the other by Chas with electric guitar added by Dave, all the songs were co-written by Dave and Chas during the early 1980s. Nick Magnus added keyboards, drums and sequencing, and Ian Moseley added percussion to the recordings which were made slightly later than the title track and "The Night" (both of which were made in 1981); Chas was working with both those fine musicians in Steve Hackett's band at around that time. Dave's solo track, "One and Only", and Chas's "A Splash of Blue" were, however, both written and recorded in 2006/7.
For those who appreciate the superb and highly significant contributions which Dave and Chas have made to Strawbs' songs over the years, this album gives a welcome opportunity to hear how solidly their musicianship stands on its own merits. However, although the album is sure to appeal to such an audience, "Touch the Earth" deserves success far beyond Strawbs' aficionados, for a wide diversity of musical "genres" are hinted at within its twelve tracks; I generally dislike attempting to categorise music as it seems to limit expectations and listening experiences….however, if you fancy some rock/pop, 60's retro sounds of varying ilks, a hint of funk and soul, and a touch of the relaxing and ethereal, all involving some amazing electric guitar playing, a variety of keyboards, and a whole lot more…. then "Touch the Earth" is very definitely for you.
The album is absolutely unique for many reasons; it involved the joining together of several talented musicians, possessing between them a wealth of musical experience, to create a collection of songs which ooze popular appeal. Dave's rich and incredibly versatile vocals lead the way on all tracks… except for the album's finale that is…which Chas not only wrote and produced, but sings, letting everyone into the (until now) rather well-kept secret of his superb vocal talents. The album insert has some attractive artwork, and credits show that both Dave and Chas played some keyboards, and Dave added some percussion also. An informative piece written by Dave gives some welcome insight into the way the album came about. Could well be more information to follow soon…I definitely feel an interview coming on!
Ok, here goes….
"Touch the Earth" - the only song on the album which has previously been released, and one with which many Strawbs fans will already be familiar; it appeared on the recently released boxed set A Taste of Strawbs. Dave's voice soars, backed by great harmonies. Terrific guitar and keyboards throughout, some excellent drumming, and a highly memorable chorus.
"Every Step of the Way" - mellower; the song starts with some excellent electric guitar, and Dave's voice is stunningly good on this track. I've often thought how similar Sting sounds to Dave Lambert, although I consider Dave wins hands-down on all-important "soulfulness". A similar comment was made by my "emo" teenage son as he caught me listening to this track. Again, a very memorable chorus, great instrumentation throughout, and that voice…
"The Reluctant Hero" – also a feel reminiscent of The Police, and shades of the Kinks too. The lyrics are interesting, great bass – not sure what all the instruments in there are, but I love the sound they make - yet another one I can't stop humming to myself!
"The Night" – another extremely catchy song. Dave's voice sounds terrific and is backed by some wonderful harmonies from Chas. Some lovely keyboards interweave beautifully with electric guitar, great drumming; to me this sounds slightly reminiscent of The Beautiful South.
"The Theatre's Falling Down" - slower paced than most songs on the album, with plenty of extremely soulful guitar once again. Intriguing lyrically; for me this song sounds to be in a similar vein to Dave's Fire work (couldn't resist!). My son had a listen and said it reminded him of early Pink Floyd.
"Sleepwalking" - Dave sounds terrific singing this song in a bluesy style. I adore the bass lines, and the great harmonies. My son's verdict – it reminds him slightly of some of Led Zeppelin's bluesy stuff.
"Smash the Glass" – another highly memorable song which Dave sings with his customary passion and versatility; the song includes some vocal effects and nicely layered instrumentation throughout.
"Round and Round" – plenty of light and shade in Dave's great vocals; this song is slightly rockier than several of the tracks on here. Keyboard sounds interweave with electric guitar, backed by some nice percussion. Dave's vocals are strongly reminiscent of some Steve Winwood stuff on this track.
"Only Child" – funky, soulful beat, lots of synthesiser and some vocal effects. Once again, Dave's voice is strong and is backed by some very effective harmonising. Some really nice guitar sounds on this track too.
"Stay With Me" – hugely catchy "feel good" song, with guitar which reminds me of The Shadows and The Searchers, and thick harmonies also reminiscent of early 60s sounds. Love it!
"One and Only" - recently composed, performed and recorded by Dave, this is a gentle, dreamy ballad, the atmospheric lyrics are complemented by Dave's vocals to perfection. The song has some wonderful harmonies, extremely attractive acoustic guitar, and finishes with soulful keyboards. Truly gorgeous.
The final song, "A Splash of Blue", was recently written, performed and recorded by Chas. Some absolutely exquisite electric guitar playing by Dave sympathetically adds energy to this sublimely beautiful song. To me, keyboards initially connote the ebbing tide drawing across the shore…the lyrics speak of nature at its finest, which is unsurprising as the song was inspired by the wilds of South Western Ireland. Chas's excellent vocals meld perfectly with the great choice of multilayered instrumentation.
It's almost a month now since the release date and really high time I did this note. The truth is it has been my constant companion across many miles as it sat in my car CD player since I got it but last night I finally took the plunge and took it out.
Fortunately during that time I have had quite a few 50 minute plus journeys which mean't there were loads of times that I was able to listen straight through, but also many shorter trips, to snatch a snippet and play those tracks which had turned into personal favourites and give me time to get intimate with this lovely Dave and Chas brew.
I have to admit that before I first played the CD I had seen a praiseworthy note or two and by jeeves or be bu**red after a single play, I realised those were not wrong. This is a fine array of songs, although of course we would expect nothing less from consummate musicians like Dave and Chas. This CD covers songs new, as well as those older ones but unreleased before, all dovetailing neatly in to this collection.
So at last a time to sit down with quill and pen and fingers holding the sleeve notes, with no fear or worry of keeping my eyes peeled for any cars or other things on the road in front.
"Touch the Earth." - This track is well known to those with the Strawbs boxed set. This is a bouncy little song with more than hint of intrigue during the quieter moments and a nice entree in to the CD as a whole, with it varying passages of contrasting sound and vocal features and background piano.
"Every Step of the Way" - The second track provides a sound with a hint of Cry no more and is the first where thoughts of other artists surface. The thing about this disc though is that much of the material often pre dates those later similar sounding stuff. A very upbeat and positive song with some soaring back ground keyboard. A very catchy chorus, a feature which the whole disc regularly abounds, you might join in with a little finger clicking and desk tapping, once you know the song.
"The Reluctant Hero." - A previous review aligned this to the sound of "Police" and I am not going to disagree. A very sing along chorus that will definitely grow, even if you are just 17. More upbeat tempo compared with the previous track and an interesting lyric to boot.
"The Night" - A second Cry No More sounding track and another happy uplifting sounding song - one to drive along to, with soft top battened low , hair blowing in the wind and a carefree approach to the world or may be, even one to boogie along too !! (but not in the car) Drums and keyboards well to the forefront overlaying some smooth sounding vocals.
"The Theatre's Falling Down" - Distinctive Dave Lambert vocals open the song with one of those strong pleading lines and the song then builds nicely. Many catchy, passionate lyrics once again and as the chorus finishes on the word "down" you just have a feeling it could be repeated on and on. Some nice lead guitar mixes and compliments the vocals very well.
"Sleepwalkin" - The start of this feels vaguely familiar and has another very "sing-along" lyric. The vocal style changes mid song and imitates ever so slightly a chanting style chorus - watch out - could grab you good and proper.
"Smash The Glass" - An opening you might recognise, but on first hearing there was some thing that drew me closer to something I had heard many years ago and after a few miles down the road it came to me - early Marillion - the vocal bit "smash the glass" was what drew me in that direction. Imagine my surprise when discovering by reading the sleeve notes Ian Moseley of that band actually provided percussion on this CD. By all accounts, (stand to be corrected recorded Marillion didn't exist until the early '80's) this song would have pre dated that considerably. Lot's of effects and bits to hold your attention.
"Round And Round" - Don't get misled, not a re-working of that Strawbs classic. An opening vocal with piano followed by percussion before a story develops from the lyric. Some interesting features worked in to maximum effect.
"Only Child" - OK I admit it was never much of "funky" child around liking everything in that genre and I did for a few moments wonder what this would be all about for the few seconds of the start. The opening vocals almost sound Gabrielesque, as in "Sledgehammer", but develop into a vocal style with an interesting variance throughout the song.
"Stay With Me" - Another song with seeming influence from elsewhere - this time ELO, with some retro style harmonies that make it a very interesting listen providing a smooth sound, perhaps springing out of the late 60's early seventies pop style idiom.
"One And Only" - At this point we enter the section of recent songs and this one, fairly plain in nature is purely a Dave Lambert style performance over a classical style guitar playing background which builds to an orchestral sound that would not be out of place on Cousins/Conrad High Seas. Anyone who has seen Dave perform solo will appreciate this song a lot.
"A Splash Of Blue" - Well a Chas vocal at long last, adding to the WOW factor. A descriptive opening lyric, which takes you on a visual journey and a fantastic way to end this disc. An intriguing and descriptive piece, that you have just got to hear. Some great lead guitar lifts the spirits and you are almost flying. Love this one to bits.
So that's it my personal journey through Touch the Earth. I was a little worried that the constant reference to other works may detract from the nature of these recordings. However, I decided to keep those thoughts in, not because I see these songs as clones of others because as I have said before, some bits crop up on material written later than this. I think those associations actually more demonstrate the way that Dave and Chas - As I said before consummate musicians in their own right who have moved effortlessly through a range of styles and genres and displaying their qualities, outside of their work with Strawbs.
Another fine recording that won't gather dust in my collection.
The point has already been made that this is definitely not the Strawbs. Beyond that, I will say that the title track was one of my favorites on the boxed set, and it kicks off this album with an energy that makes me wish that I could still dance. The keyboard solo is exquisite.
Additionally, I particularly like "The Reluctant Hero," which becomes one of those songs that gets into your brain and refuses to leave. "The Night" is another one of those "dance me round the floor" songs, although it's not nearly as memorable. I am also drawn to "The Theater's Falling Down," in part because it's a slower song, a change of pace. By contrast, "Smash the Glass" is quintessential 80s with edgy, angry music and lyrics, and much to my surprise, as "80s" as it is, I really like it.
I hated late 70s and the entire decade of 80s music. In fact, I stopped listening to new releases for most of those years, and this is, well, 80s music. And as a whole, Touch The Earth does sound a bit dated and over-produced, but because the songs themselves are so well crafted and obviously toned-down, it overcomes what I disliked most about late 70s and 80s music, i.e., lack of substance and too much dependence on production.
Of the two new pieces (oh, thank you, thank you, Chas and Dave!), Dave Lambert's "One And Only" is a gem of a piece. Anyone who has seen him perform solo knows that he has a broad range of genres in his guitar case, and this is a stunning, moving, beautiful slow love song -- the kind of song that every woman (and a few men, too!) wishes were written about her.
Chas Cronk's "A Splash of Blue" is something like his Mystic Mountain Music with lyrics. It begins as a gentle and serene song sung by Chas, which makes it worth having on its own. I've lobbied long for Chas to raise his voice to the fore, and whenever he does, blue angels turn green with envy. This song is an aural painting, starting at water's edge, crescendoing into magnificent breakers, and finally coming back to foam at the shore. You can't know it until you've heard it.
I really can't see how any Strawbs collection is complete without this CD, even if it isn't the Strawbs. But if you're going to download any two tracks, make them "One And Only" and "A Splash Of Blue."
I promised a certain Saaarfend football supporter that I would write this email. She in turn was going to get her team to pull out all the stops in their end of season match and stuff Southampton, thus ensuring I made a fortune from a pre-season bet. Well, she has failed me so I won't be buying her a drink next time I see her. :-) However, a promise is a promise so here are my poorly written and inadequate thoughts about Lambert Cronk's Touch The Earth.
01) Touch The Earth - A brilliant rousing sing-song opener. Loved it on the boxed set. Love it now. Surely something can be arranged to get it released as a "downloadable" single then engineered into the charts by Witchwooders.
02) Every Step Of The Way - Another excellent power pop (sorry to Lambert/Cronk for that word) song. Would make a great follow up single to TTE.
03) The Reluctant Hero - Yes, it's The Police. DL does Sting. So what. He does it better. A protest song wrapped up in another good tune. This one sticks in my head for ages after listening to it. Love it.
04) The Night - Just a bit too AOR for my liking but a pleasant song none the less.
05) The Theatre's Falling/Burning Down - Why did this come up as "burning" down rather than "falling" down when I put it in my laptop? I wasn't so sure about this on initial hearing. I wasn't impressed by the opening programmed percussion. However, like many songs that don't "work" for me initially, this one has grown and grown on me and is now my firm favourite. Since, at nearly 6 minutes, it's also the longest track on the album, I feel like I have great value for money. :-)
06) Sleepwalking - Catchy little number. Late period (early 80s) Who meets The Police. I like this one.
07) Smash The Glass - Great "I'm pissed off" lyrics. Love it.
08) Round And Round - More lyrics from the same book as the previous song. I do like angry songs.
09) Only Child - Probably my least favourite song on the album. Good chugging beat but neither the tune nor the lyrics did much for me. I did like Dave's guitar work near the end though.
10) Stay With Me - A good poppy, sing song finish the the 80s section of the album. Gallagher and Lyle could have claimed it as theirs and had a sizeable hit with it.
11) One And Only - A sad sounding but really quite beautiful, introspective solo from Dave. I love the synthesizer playout.
12) A Splash Of Blue - Sit back, close your eyes and let this song wrap around you. An aural feather-bed that wouldn't be out of place on The Moody Blues' Octave. I could listen to a lot more of this style of song. Come on Chas, more of these please
So there you go. Definitely a 9/10 (or should that be 11/12) album. The comparisons to other artists is in no way meant to be derogatory or detract from the work of Chas & Dave, merely reference points.
Now, 2 requests.
01) Could we have the lyrics available somewhere please.
02) When Dave has got the Fire/Magic Shoemaker project under his belt and has a few minutes off from Strawbs related projects, how about some sort of live performance of Touch The Earth material. Maybe a short set (a la Turkey Leg Johnson) as a warm up to a Strawbs show or even incorporated into an Acoustic Strawbs set - a two part set with each half starting with a couple of Chas & Dave duo tracks - Acoustic Touch The Earth:-)
The best two tracks apart from the opener are the 2006 efforts where the positive influence of the acoustics comes through - as does rubbing shoulders with the great songwriter himself - DC. I don't like 80s music .. and there is a degree of over production which doesn't show off DL's wonderful voice - best live methinks.
The lyrics are lightish with only one song in DL's social concern style a la "Live Inside Your Hell Tonight" and "Ten Commandments" - that's "Reluctant Hero". "Sleepwalking" is fast and fun too. So, yes definitely worth the price and a necessary addition to the Strawbs' very eclectic repertoire - but let's have the last two songs with the acoustics - DL's playing on both the 2006 tracks is exquisite. Anyone notice that quite a lot of the guitar on Touch The Earth sounds quite like Brian Willoughby rather than classic DL??
Three and half to four stars out of five .... Well done to all concerned in getting this material out.
I'm really enjoying this one. The whole package is excellent. The graphics are great. I love the album cover.
My personal faves are "Every Step of The Way".. a great rock ballad, "The Theatre's Falling Down", one of the best. Dave has such a plaintive quality to his voice, the lyrics conjure up so many visions of departure and separation, it is epic. "A Splash of Blue", Chas has such an excellent voice. I agree with another WitchWooder who said it's like Mystic Mountain Music but with singing, a beautifully done composition.
I've listened to this album three times already. For sure it will always be in rotation. Another beauty from the boys.