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Strawbs - Heartbreak Hill [Aka: Starting Over] CD (album) cover

HEARTBREAK HILL [AKA: STARTING OVER]

Strawbs

 

Prog Folk

2.71 | 30 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars Apart from the obvious "I don't like it", what constitutes a "bad" album in one's eyes? Is it fair to say that an album is bad because I have no appreciation for the genre? I may dislike something and give it a low rating because I don't like the style, but I am more likely to shun it completely than spend much time trying to give a perspective in which most readers would be uninterested. I submit that a "bad" album is one that pales considerably when compared to others of its ilk. All the ingredients are there but the master chef was AWOL, and neither food nor music can endure apathy and self-pity. "Heartbreak Hill" is such an album.

That this record came even close to contemporary release (by Rocket Records) in 1979 is testament to STRAWBS by then declining reputation. The attempt to rock hard is ill-advised, as in "Something for Nothing", but we had seen it before in dribs and drabs, normally reined in, but not here. We had also been privy to more than a few unctuous ballads, although "Two Separate People" plumbs hitherto unexplored depths. It is the progressive tracks here that have the most to answer for - the title cut has repetitive headbanging verses and arrangements, broken only by a keyboard section by newcomer Andy Richards that can only have us pining for even the just departed Robert Kirby and John Mealing. Even Cousins' most emotive expressions sound hollow with such banal material. "Starting Over" is unfortunately the longest track in Strawbs history, but it is otherwise ignominious. Yes it is an epic, with several static parts. The first sounds like JOURNEY on steroids, and the middle part like PINK FLOYD on downers. In between, Richards plays quickly but with no sense of purpose. None of it sounds like Strawbs.

A couple of cuts - "Desert Song" and "Another Day without You" - show the folk rock blend that we have come to demand from this group. Neither is outstanding, but the mandolin and harmonies on the latter do merit special mention. It is worth noting that three of the HH tracks were reworked for the 1987 comeback album "Don't Say Goodbye". Since HH did not see any official release until 1995, the DSG versions were the first that most of us heard, and in every case they are superior, but more about that later.

It was a show of mercy for broken hearted Strawbs fans that Dave Cousins opted to leave the music industry before this album could be released. Rounded up to 2 stars for historic value only, and because time is a great healer.

kenethlevine | 2/5 |

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