Esoteric [Release date: 26.6.20]
In common with most rock survivors, David Cousins’ Strawbs have worked a variety of music genres over the past 50 years, segueing early folk stirrings into more conventional song structures via a progressive heyday.
The last just predates the recording in 1977 of ‘Burning for You’. While the musical equivalent of a ‘troubled shoot’ judging by Cousins’ candid booklet notes, it yields a clutch of fine pop/rock songs in his title track and the Chas Cronk co-write ‘Cut Like A Diamond’ while Dave Lambert’s ‘Heartbreaker’ shouts ‘single’ amidst balancing ballads and novelty songs.
The album’s lush tone is partly determined by the addition of Robert Kirby and John Mealing’s keyboards and orchestrations to the line-up and the outcome is distinguished overall by quality composition and performance lent a definable identify by Cousins’ distinctive and emotive vocalising.
While this outcome may have disappointed fans yearning for the sprawling blasts of ‘Grave New World’, punk lurked, and producer Jeffrey Lesser sought a hit.
The single chosen to sell it was the rollicking and nostalgic ‘Back In The Old Routine’. More reminiscent of ‘Part Of The Union’ than ‘Lay Down’, while an airplay fave it was to “undermine the credibility built up over the years” after the release of an album with “the imprint of management demands over artistic feasibility written all over it”, according to the notes.
It includes Cousin’s ‘Alexander The Great’, his counter to a period Melody Maker review of its predecessor ‘Deep Cuts’ that summarised its appealing to ‘mums and dads’.
As with today’s airwave-surfing baby boomer, shocked to discover that the unidentified station he’s been enjoying in the car is BBC Radio 2, so this record’s appeal to fans perhaps rests easier on their ears now they are those very parents.
This remastered reissue features four bonus tracks including an early version of the song ‘Joey and Me’; solo Cousins with guitar, it harks back to the Strawbs, a folk band of yore. ***
Review by Peter Muir
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