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Strawbs - Deep Cuts CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.76 | 65 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
2 stars "Deep Cuts" suggests that only the band was unaware of how bad a mistake they made with "Nomadness". One collection of largely simplistic and barely developed tunes could be considered an aberration, but 2 such albums constitute an entire career phase in the pop world at large, and Strawbs seem to have decided that their fate lay in this new style. What is different here is the production, courtesy of Rupert Holmes and Jeffrey Lesser, who apply a glossy sheen, aided by the return of the mellotron as an enhancement rather than a full force. In fact, all 10 songs include mellotron, but don't pull your credit card out just yet.

The new record label, Oyster, must have decided that Strawbs' chart success lay in the uniqueness of Dave Cousins' voice, hence on the original LP Dave Lambert's vocal contributions were limited to two middle eights, and he was wholly excluded as songwriting contributor. Instead, Chas Cronk collaborated with Cousins on 7 of the 10 tracks. The songs are even more compact than on "Nomadness", with no significant instrumental breaks at all.

On the plus side, the album springs into motion with "I Only Want my Love to Grow in You" a great pop song with a gorgeous arrangement, although the lyrics are banal. In the next track, "Turn me Round", a fine rock arrangement and poetic imagery are somewhat botched by overly raucous caterwauling by Cousins. "Hard Hard Winter" is a pleasant ballad that is starved for greater expression. The best song by far is "Simple Visions", a jangly folk rocker in which even the brief instrumental interludes exude significance. The chorus structure recalls the glory of "Benedictus" from years before. "Beside the Rio Grande" is one of Cousins' better narratives, and considerably more effective than the dour and dire "Soldier's Tale". "Charmer" sinks almost as low as "Tokyo Rosie" did on the previous album, while "My Friend Peter" is an unconvincing rocker with a fragment of a good guitar solo. "Wasting my Time Thinking of You" is a gentle music hall number with an old French horn that really sounds better today than it did in 1976, but that's not saying much. The closing cut is sappy and forgettable.

Given the short running time, one might legitimately wonder why Dave Lambert's "You Won't See the Light" didn't do so until the CD age, as it's a more authentically upbeat piece than most of the original material, and it captures him at his best musically and vocally.

"Deep Cuts" sadly proved that Strawbs epic days were over, and is actually a notch below "Nomadness" overall, saved only by the band's innate songwriting and melodic sense, but doomed by a profound slashing of every good idea that emerged.

kenethlevine | 2/5 |


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