PART 8: 40 AND COUNTING ....
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
After a Jan/Feb Acoustic tour, preparation for the DC solo tour of the US began. Ian Cutler was to join him for the first part of the tour, and there was a low-key warm up gig for the duo at the Barge in Gillingham in late February. The US duo/solo tour kicked off in Lakewood NJ - and reviews were very good indeed. Billed as "Songs and Stories" DC explained the songs, often revealing startlingly frank pieces of his personal life.
The electric band were booked for several weeks of dates - in the UK at first then transferring across to the US. Again reviews were fulsome and the band extremely well received. Sadly at the end of the US tour, John Hawken announced his retirement from the band.
The highlight from a recording point of view was certainly the brand new Strawbs album, recorded in April/May 2008 in Chris Tsangarides' studio in Kingsdown near Deal. The Broken Hearted Bride got rave reviews from nearly everyone. It was pre-sold with a bonus CD taken from DC's solo tour in the US, Duochrome, which is to be released in October as a standalone title. The recordings for Duochrome were provided by fan Rick Barnett who taped two shows with DC's permission, and the nice folks at the Tin Angel off the desk. The tracks were compiled by Dick Greener and mastered by Chas. Many have commented how good this stripped down CD is, just Dave's voice and guitar, with some input from Ian Cutler on fiddle.
At the very top of the year Dave Cousins went into the Kingdown studio for a day with steel/Hawaiian guitar player Melvyn Duffy. The result was Secret Paths, an opportunity for Dave to revisit some of the paths less travelled, including some of the songs which would be played on the solo tour. The simple laid back mixture of DC's voice and guitar and the steel worked surprisingly well, and Chris Tsangarides' production was immaculate.
The "Missing Three" Strawbs, Dragonfly and Nomadness finally emerged from Universal, with bonus tracks from the archives and great packaging, to everyone's delight.
Also, the long-awaited live CD and DVD from the March 2006 show at Bilston, Lay Down With The Strawbs, were released by Secret Films, capturing the power and glory of that Hero and Heroine line up, sadly just as John Hawken moved on.
Other releases in 2008:
A new Strawbs tribute band was born - the Strawberry Fools, featuring yours truly - who had their debut at the Strawbs 2008 Christmas party.
And finally, on a sad note, we lost well-known US fan (and guitar tech to the Strawbs) Mike Gebhardt to cancer in May 2008; also no longer with us, Strawbs old road manager Lofty. On a happier note, back in the UK Pete Madeley ended up beating liver failure - after a transplant he's back out on the Strawbs scene again.
Big news in the early part of 2009 was the announcement of the keyboard replacement for John Hawken - the one and only Oliver Wakeman, whose arrival was keenly awaited by Canadian fans, the first to see the new line up, ahead of a British tour in early Summer. Some real treats, including a mammoth rendition of "Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth", Antiques & Curios style, which rapidly became a huge crowd-pleaser.
Another new Strawbs album, Dancing To The Devil's Beat, featuring the new Wakeman-enhanced line-up was released in good time for the 40th anniversary.
Rick Wakeman staged a live performance of his seminal Six Wives album, never before played live, in the fantastic surroundings of Hampton Court. Acoustic Strawbs were recruited as the support act for what was a fantastic, truly epic show. The film of the Acoustics set was released as a DVD in 2009 with some bonus audio tracks featuring the Acoustics plus Rick playing together. Acoustic Strawbs also returned to the US, this time as "very special guests" of prog band Van Der Graaf Generator, an unusual but by all accounts successful pairing.
Dancing To The Devil's Beat
The "next big thing" was of course the announcement of the mammoth weekend celebrations of Strawbs 40th anniversary, which took place 12/13 September at the Live Room in Twickenham Stadium. The bill included line-ups which had never played live before (Heartbreak Hill) and a Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins duo set, as well as new Dave Lambert venture, Zeus, a four piece with fiddler Tom Leary from Feast Of Fiddles, and guitarist Graeme Taylor and Jon Davie on bass. Blue Angel Orchestra and Fire resurfaced again, John Ford came over and Cathryn & Brian also played.
The whole thing was filmed and recorded for future DVD release - check out the Reviews and photos of this stunning celebration.
And to finish off the year in live performance terms at least - a mammoth tour running from late September into early November for Acoustic Strawbs alongside two other classic rock bands - Focus and Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash.
Brian Willoughby and Cathryn Craig's album Calling All Angels (formerly entitled Surrender) came out in early 2008, as did re-issues of Paul Brett and Sage's albums featuring the former members of Fire other than Lambert.
Several key releases scheduled for this year:
Dave Cousins long awaited lyrics book "Secrets, Stories & Songs" was published in August, a superb collection of Dave's lyrics, including some great photos and some fascinating previously unpublished material from Dave's archive. The book launch wsa held in August in Deal, Cousins & Cutler providing the entertainment.
Two archive releases - Sandy & The Strawbs: All Our Own Work (The Complete Sessions) (Witchwood) and Strawbs at the BBC (Universal). The Sandy release includes tracks from the original Pickwick release in 1973, alternative versions and outtakes. It was widely reviewed in the music and main press and made the folk and bluegrass charts (number 1 in the latter). The BBC release came in two volumes - the first collecting various BBC Sessions on 1 CD, the second, three BBC live concerts over 2 CDs, including one from 1971 released for the first time, and featuring Rick Wakeman. Also expected in Nov 2010, a massive 19 CD Sandy compilation, which will include some Strawbs material.
The first fruits of the recordings/video taken at the 40th Anniversary weekend emerged: Strawberry Fayre is a 2CD collection of some of the highlights from the whole weekend. The first video outing will release Rick Wakeman and Dave's performance as a DVD/CD package - the DVD containing the whole thing, including the great chat and banter which made the performace such a joy, the CD having the music only. Both were released in October 2010.
Related bands were busy too: Cry No More's usual Farewell Tour usually involves one show, but in 2010, there were multiple opportunities to see CNM and Roy Hill playing solo. There were also CNM and Roy Hill CD releases, with Roy's new solo album, Switzerland scheduled for release in September 2010. A 60th birthday party gig for Roy in August, with Chas, Steve Whalley and Phil Martin in attendance.
Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby launched their new band venture the Rockin' Rhythm Revue with a show at the Eel Pie Club in Twickenham, involving Brian's cohorts from his side venture the Three MustGetBeers amongst others. Brian and Cathryn have released "Cumbria (We Are Tennessee)" on Itunes, available for 79p from Itunes with a video on YouTube.
Sadly, we lost the lovely Fred Wedlock, compere extraordinaire at the 40th Anniversary, who died suddenly in March 2010.
The Strawbs fans discussion group, Witchwood, celebrated its 10th anniversary on 10 July 2010, and the Strawbs' tribute band, the Strawberry Fools managed to get two live performances together in May 2010.
Touring picked up towards the end of 2010 with Acoustic Strawbs back in the US in September, and a headline appearance for the Acoustics at the Great British Folk Festival in December. The electric band touerd in Canada and the UK in October and November respectively. Rod Coombes and Oliver Wakeman being unavailable, the line-up for the electric gigs saw the return of Tony Fernandez on drums and new boy John Young on keybards. The set included the whole of the Hero And Heroine album performed in order for the first time ever, and the band found time to record it as well.
Photos by S Ferry
Hero And Heroine In Ascencia (featuring the Fernandez/Young line-up which toured "Hero And Heroine live" in the previous year was released in May/June, and later in the year there was a new compilation of Acoustic Strawbs material Acoustic Gold.
Acoustic Strawbs played in the UK in the first half of 2011 with a UK electric "Hero And Heroine" tour in November, extremely well received, again featuring the whole of Hero And Heroine In Ascenscia. A US Acoustics tour with the legendary Zombies in September/October, with a few dates on the West Coast of the US and Canada for a change. And the year was set to close in fine style with an Acoustics slot at London's Barbican, alongside Steeleye Span and Martin Carthy.
John Ford put out a CD/download release - (a href="../@f/f_jford.htm" target="_top">Resurrection - The best of and then some ..."and was planning a live DVD release later in the year. And last, but by no means least, Witchwood Media released some hitherto unknown recordings of Sandy Denny, playing and singing with Alex and Patsy Campbell in 19 Rupert Street, the Campbell's Glasgow home.
Roy Hill's long-awaited second solo album Switzerland is promised before Christmas !