CD REVIEW – The Broken Hearted Bride – The Strawbs

Esoteric Recordings deserve praise for their release of a newly re-mastered and expanded edition of 2008 album ‘The Broken Hearted Bride’. The album was recorded at producer Chris Tsangarides’ Ecology Rooms studio in Kent in April and May 2008 and saw a reunion of the Strawbs’ line-up that had recorded the legendary albums ‘Hero And Heroine’ and ‘Ghosts’, both of which were huge selling releases in North America in the mid-1970s.

It is definitively full-on Strawbs, with strong and powerful passages interspersed with simpler patterns of work that weave in and around, thoughts of hope, desire, anger, peace, parting and hope. Perhaps at the time more was made of the inclusion of several previously recorded tracks. But as a newcomer to it, I’m none the wiser.

The thundering and ethnic-tinged ‘The Call To Action’ is an excellent opener, Dave Cousins passionate vocal over a veritable powerhouse of a band. ‘Christmas Cheer’ is not what I was expecting. A rocking, driving seemingly upbeat number with group singing chorus of ‘everything’s going to be alright’. Excellent slide guitar main riff over a dancing bass, Cousin’s lower range vocals down in the mix. and a nice jangly break make for a very good song.

The third track ‘Too Many Angels’ is far more dreamy, slightly happy-go-lucky feel with a lush, lovely chorus. But, at 6 minutes, there has to be more to this jolly number, and so it proves with the delicious guitar and synth interplay. And let’s give a nod to the syncopated drums that add texture. But it is back to powerhouse stuff for ‘The Broken Hearted Bride’ title track. A thunderous opening seems initially positive and uptempo, but belies a dark story, sung passionately by Dave Cousins over the ironically jolly riffing and gritty guitar.

‘Shadowland’, drawn from the Lambert album ‘Work in Progress’ from several years ago, has a clear difference in style, but is a very good track in its own right, showcasing Dave Lambert’s vocals and song writing presence. ‘Through Aphrodite’s Eyes’ might sound slightly dated in its chiming opening (slight throwback to “Ghosts” era stuff perhaps) but is a 7+minute belter, an epic that you do wonder if Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer used to help formulate their Arena sound. Some lovely keyboards punctuate the dramatic story sung by Dave Cousins which closes with an excellent ascending section topped with glorious guitar, returning to those chimes. Best of the bunch?

“Deep In The Darkest Night” apparently originated from a Cousins/Conrad collaboration, with a certain Mr Wakeman’s input. Piano certainly features, albeit possibly with slightly less flourish than Cousins’ old mucker would have put in. Excellent guitar solo lifts this song and in many ways I’m left wanting more….. but “You Know Well As I”, penned by Dave Lambert, jauntily whisks us away with fluttering acoustic guitar- this time with an uplifting hint of Caribbean jollity!

Cousin’s ability to diversify and shift emotion comes to the fore with the moody opening to “Everybody Knows”. Gentle passages contrast with powerful, harmonic choruses. An excellent break to bridge provides strong momentum to another soaring guitar solo. Such an excellent, compact song by Chas Cronk. “Action Replay” is an interesting piece, an instrumentally cinematic number that adds an element of excitement and anticipation. Would it have ben a pre-gig excitement-builder perhaps, or with the exotic electric violin perhaps simple further evidence of the aforementioned diversity that Cousins exemplifies?

“We’ll Meet Again Sometime” closes the original album, a more traditional Strawbs number, excellently composed with great harmonies, Cousin’s voice in full flow and some more stunning slide, acoustic guitar and snare drum work. But them we get three additional, intriguing bonuses: “Too Many Angels”, “You Know As Well As I” and “Everybody Knows” demos.

So hats off and a big thanks to the original creators: David Cousins (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Dave Lambert (vocals, guitar), Chas Cronk (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards), Rod Coombes (drums) and John Hawken (keyboards). And further thanks to the Esoteric label for resurrecting it with a new illustrated booklet and new essay by David Cousins. Those who were heart-broken to see it disappear from view back when can now have their hearts uplifted by this excellent re-release.

Band

David Cousins (vocals, guitar, keyboards)

Dave lambert (vocals, guitar)

Chas Cronk (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards)

Rod Coombes (drums)

John Hawken (keyboards)


Tracklisting:

  1. The Call To Action
  2. Christmas Cheer (Everything’s Going To Be Alright)
  3. Too Many Angels
  4. The Broken Hearted Bride
  5. Shadowland
  6. Through Aphrodite’s Eyes
  7. Deep In The Darkest Night
  8. You Know As Well As I
  9. Everybody Knows
  10. Action Replay
  11. We’ll Meet Again Some Time (Retro Track)
  12. Too Many Angels (Demo Version) (Retro Track)
  13. You Know As Well As I (Demo Version) (Retro Track)
  14. Everybody Knows (Demo Version) (Retro Track)

Website

https://www.facebook.com/strawbsweb/

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