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Strawbs - Deadlines CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.88 | 45 ratings

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3 stars After enduring 3 pop-oriented albums, Strawbs fans had much diminished expectations by the release of "Deadlines" in early 1978. To make matters worse, it appeared around the same time as not one but two A&M compilations ("Classic Strawbs, a Canada only release, and "best of Strawbs"), which only sharpened the qualitative divide between the classic and latter day material. Furthermore, after only two releases on Oyster, the group was now signed onto Arista, which provided virtually no promotional support. Basically the album was DOA, ironic given the amount of life within.

"Deadlines" actually blends both "Ghosts" and "Burning" eras with a dash of "Bursting" thrown in. "Joey and Me" is the definitive folk n roll buddy song, although Joey may in fact be just another side of the man's identity. The rhythm guitar riffs, piano rolls, and uplifting melody, all over strummed acoustic guitar make this a Strawbs song that combines all their eras. "The Last Resort" is a rare convincing rocker sung by Cousins and featuring a Lambert guitar solo that adopts the nascent Mark Knopfler technique. So many references on this album suggest an ending, a parting of the ways, with transparent personal and career parallels. Another perennial is the piano ballad "Sealed with a Traitor's Kiss". The two closers, "Deadly Nightshade" and "Words of Wisdom", come closest to the epic Strawbs, with Gothic melodies and mellotron choirs, yet there is a sadness to the latter that even the darkest visions of "Hero and Heroine" cannot equal. With all these highlights, the heavy handed missteps of "No Return" and "Time and Life" seem forgivable, as do a few of the poppier numbers sung by Lambert, which at least have strong tunes to save them.

Clearly Strawbs knew the end was nigh and that their tenuous legacy might be extinguished when they sung "The sole survivor of the news, the headlines" (on "Time and Life"). They couldn't know that the missed deadline was simply for mass commercial success, and that their career and collectibility would strengthen over subsequent decades.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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