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Dick Greener
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Dick Greener

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Part 1: Folk Club Days
Part 2: Electric Band
Part 3: After The Break
Part 4: Don't Say Goodbye
Part 5: End Of The Millenium
Part 6: Acoustic Odyssey
Part 7: Multiple Line-Ups
Part 8: 40 and Counting ...
Part 9: Hero arising and the big 50

Acoustic Strawbs reborn

In May 2004, Brian Willoughby announced that he was leaving the Strawbs after the Knaresborough Festival in August 2004 to concentrate on his work with Cathryn Craig, both here and in Cathryn's native USA. Replacing Brian in the Acoustic Strawbs was a familiar face, one Chas Cronk, then rehearsing with the electric band for the US/Canada tour.

Whilst Brian put the finishing touches to his solo album, Fingers Crossed, and readied the "Rumours Of Rain" single, recorded with Cathryn and a folk cast of thousands, for release, Chas made his debut with the Acoustics in the with a very successful UK tour in September 2004, and then set off to play an extensive tour in the US and Canada in October/November 2004. Durung the course of 2005, Chas had added acoustic bass and bass pedals to the Acoustic sound palette, and of course a third voice, recreating the Hero And Heroine band vocal line for acoustic perfoemances too.

(photos, Chris Bates)

Electric Strawbs - madly touring

The reformed Hero and Heroine line-up, with Chas Cronk and John Hawken, both pictured below left and Rod Coombes) toured with tremendous success in the US and Canada in June/July 2004, headlining the prestigious NearFest festival in Bethlehem PA. Fans who had either never seen the Hero and Heroine band (like me) or hadn't seen it for 29 years since the last shows in early 1975, were blown away by the power of this classic Strawbs line-up.

Immediately after that, the UK line-up (the same twin-lead Lambert/Willoughby line-up which toured in 1999, 2000, and 2001) undertook an all too brief tour of the UK, including a headlining spot at the Trowbridge Folk Festival and culminating in Brian's last performance with the electric band on home territory at the Teddington NPL. Another powerful line-up indeed, featuring the earlier, folkier end of the repertoire, but deliverig them with power and conviction. The last show of the tour was filmed and recorded and the show in Camden, London was recorded for future possible release.

The Hero and Heroine line-up played their first shows in the UK in June 2005, for more than 30 years - their appearance this side of the pond was as well received as it was in North America. Yet again the Teddington show was filmed and recorded for posterity.

North America tour 2004
(photo Bill Knispel)
UK tour 2004
(photo Sue Holton)
UK tour 2005
(photo Sue Holton)

Madly recording

Deja Fou, the first wholly new Strawbs album for decades was recorded by the Hero and Heroine line-up, and released by Witchwood Records in August 2004.

Also released earlier in 2004 was Dave Lambert's long-awaited solo album "Work In Progress". Later in 2004, Witchwood released the DVD Live in Toronto recorded in 2003 by Dave, Dave and Brian.

In early 2005 the first of the proposed Witchwood Media Archive series saw the light of day, after many years hidden away in Dave Cousins' loft! - a superb 1988 show by Dave and Rick Wakeman. The second Archive release is scheduled for August 2005 - the July 2004 Nearfest performance of the Hero and Heroine band.

An approach from German prog rocker Conny Conrad led to Dave providing vocals for two tracks on a Conny Conrad album; the results were excellent and the two set about planning a duo album of material, High Seas released in July 2005. Dave and Conny performed some gigs in Germany in July 2005 and a one-off show in the UK on 31 July.

And to finish out the year, the September UK Acoustic tour and the October/November US/Canada tour, this time taking in the Maritimes in Northern Canada. The Acoustics' current repertoire was captured during two live shows in California, released as 2005's Painted Sky.

Boxing clever

Much of Dave Cousins' 2006 was taken up with the hard work involved in putting together the long-awaited boxed set A Taste Of Strawbs, released in October 2006. The 5CD set contained mostly previously unreleased versions of key Strawbs songs and quite a few new songs entirely, incuding Dave's most recent composition "Canada".

There was also an archive release - Recollections - of a 1970 show from the same period as the seminal Antiques And CuriosHeartbreak Hill was released - The Platinum Edition -, taken from the original master tapes unlike the previous release.

Early 2006 saw a short electric UK tour for the Hero & Heroine line-up, with John Ford guesting, culminating in a DVD filming at the Robin 2 in Bilston. In the summer, the H&H line-up toured again, this time with strong support from young Sheffield band Dead Like Harry, finishing up at Thurgau festival in Austria. And of course there were regular acoustic tours in the UK and the US, re-introducing some classic material to the set - stunning versions of "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", "The Battle" and "Two Weeks Last Summer".

And last but not least, Cousins formed the Blue Angel Orchestra, initially to play a one-off show in his new home town of Deal, but later regrouping for a powerful show at the 2006 Christmas Party, which finished off the year. Including guitarist Miller Anderson, fiddle player Ian Cutler (Bully Wee/Feast of Fiddles), Chris Hunt on drums and our own Chas Cronk on bass, this grouping gives DC an opportunity to play some of the less frequently aired Cousins material, including "Blue Angel" and various other tracks from his 1972 solo album, as well as some blues and even Marlene' Dietrich's "Falling In Love Again".

2007 ...

The electric band played a short UK tour in February, and then again in the US and Canada in June/July -topped of with an electrifying performance at Cropredy in August - their first time at the long-running annual Fairport Convention festival. They also travelled to Montreal in September where they played the prestigious FMPM Festival. The Acoustics played in both Spain and Holland for the first time and at the Roskilde Festival in Norway, where they last played in 1971 - a real case of "see you in another 36 years ...". There were UK Acoustic tours in Jan/Feb and autumn 2007.

Dave Cousins popped into the studio with his Blue Angel Orchestra chums and recorded his second solo album, the hugely well-received The Boy In The Sailor Suit. Miller Anderson, who dazzled us on Dave's first - Two Weeks Last Summer - was again in attendance, along with Ian Cutler on fiddle, and Chas and Chris Hunt providing a solid rhythm section. The BAO played again, as part of the Deal Festival and at the 2007 Christmas party, playing pretty much the whole of the new album.

Strawbs music became available as downloads - many of the Witchwood Media albums were loaded up onto Pinnacle's download site.

The archives disgorged another treasure - a whole show from 1975 at the legendary Calderone Theatre in Hempstead, NY, NY 75 which came out in October. During the process we unearthed some other live show material which will come out in 2008 or 2009.

Fire reformed for a live show featuring a performance of the whole of Fire's Magic Shoemaker album, scheduled for Nov 30 and Dec 1 at Windlesham Club and Theatre in Surrey, a live CD and possibly DVD to follow. The material recorded back in the 1980s with Chas Cronk along with Tony Fernandez, Andy Richards and others was released in April as Lambert Cronk: Touch The Earth, along with a re-issue of Burning For You.

On a sadder note Ken Laws, drummer for Hudson Ford, and double bass player from the early days, Ron Chesterman, died in March.

Next: Part 8 - 40 And Counting

Thanks to Tony Hooper, Richard Hudson, Dave Lambert and John Hawken and others for supplying photographs from their collections.
Photographer credits given where known. If the copyright owners object to their inclusion on the site, or wish to request credits please contact me.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

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