Strawbs – Settlement
Beginning as they always do with a slow tease of intense melody & compelling words then whipping into a full thrust mellotron & folky acoustic guitar as no other band does – Dave Cousins (lead vocals-acoustic guitars) & The Strawbs return with a new studio CD Strawbs – Settlement (Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red-Dropped Feb. 2021).
The CD features 9 tracks & 3 bonus cuts. Track 1 “Settlement” has that ever-present mellotron sound which in the hands of Strawbs never sounds dated. The title track also features the heavy thrusting drums of Tony Fernandez (also percussion), sparkling lead guitar (Dave Lambert/also vocals) & dynamic organ solo (Dave Bainbridge – also mandolin/bouzouki & guitars).
Just like in the old days to elevate the song to lofty perches. Strawbs has been known to tell some interesting stories in their poetic lyrics. “Strange Times,” touches upon the era we are presently occupying.
It’s been more than 50 years since Strawbs’ first album & they have gone from English folk (the late English folk singer Sandy Denny once sang lead with them before Fairport Convention). Slowly they began to gain progressive rock weight without losing touch with their folk roots & having a clever hit record like “Part of the Union.” A rallying cry popular in the late 70s.
“Judgement Day,” returns Strawbs to their percussive progressive recipe effectively. The CD curiously was produced by their former keyboardist Blue Weaver (who replaced Rick Wakeman who went on to Yes) – but didn’t play on this LP. Also, included is veteran Strawbs bassist Chas Cronk (12-string guitar/bass pedals/vocals), Shalk Joubert (bass) & Cathryn Craig (additional vocals “We Are Everyone”). Early Strawbs’ member John Ford returns as a special guest vocal/guitar on “Each Manner of Man,” (he co-wrote with Cousins) that resurrects the vintage Strawbs vocal/guitar sound eloquently.
There’s always one beautiful resonating tune on a Strawbs LP. On Grave New World it was the classic & beautiful true story of “Grace Darling,” & on Deep Cuts it was “You’re So Close Yet So Far Away. On this LP a respectful hat tip to guitarist Dave Lambert for “The Visit” sung by Dave Cousins. Driven by a haunting mandolin (Bainbridge) & vivid backup singing. It’s an excellent modern-day folk song. Soon to be a classic – right Judy Collins?
Lambert follows with an instrumental composition— “Flying Free.” For those unfamiliar with Dave’s exceptional guitar work, he also authored a song on his solo album that became a hit for the late rocker Eddie Money “Take a Little Bit of My Life.”
This is a respectable return to the classic Strawbs. Even bassist Chas Cronk’s instrumental “Chorale,” is a beauty in the Strawbs tradition. It has everything that made admirers of this band smile in the past. This could’ve fit perfectly on the LP “Grave New World.”
The 3 bonus’ are Chas’ “Liberty.” Quite good with his own vocals. Excellent Tony Fernandez drums. I like it. Plus, “Champion Jack,” & “Better Days.”
The 39-minute CD is available at Amazon & http://www.strawbsweb.co.uk/