The last decent Strawbs album, although many fans will not r
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Deep Cuts" was the beginning of the end for the Strawbs as far as I was concerned (it only made it to #144 on the Billboard album chart). Their previous album "Nomadness" had clearly been a cut below the group's best work, which would be "Bursting at the Seams," "Hero & Heroine," and "Ghosts." In retrospect there are two key differences that account for why the progressive folk rock group from the U.K. went into decline. First, and most important as far as I am concerned, is the absence of keyboard player John Hawken. He was replaced by John Mealing and Robert Kirby, neither of whom added anything special to these songs the way that Hawken did for so many tracks, esepcially on "Hero & Heroine." I am well aware that once upon a time Rick Wakeman was playing keyboard for the Strawbs, but Hawken proved to be a much better fit.
The other key difference is that the group's leader David Cousins was teaming up more often with Chas Cronk in writing songs in what appears to be an attempt to write more commercial tunes, which was never the group's forte. "Deep Cuts" is more of a mixture of light and dark than most Strawbs albums, giving us the chipper tunes "I Only Want My Love to Grow In Your" (nice job of singing the bridge by Dave Lambert) and "Charmer" with the moody narratives "The Soldier's Tale" and "Beside the Rio Grande." That last one is thee standout track on the album and a clear reminder of the Strawbs at their best. There is also a bit more reliance on acoustic guitar, as in "Simple Visions," although this is balanced by the much harder edged "My Friend Peter." "(Wasting My Time) Thinking of You" is a bit loopy, while "Turn Me Round" is more in the classic Strawbs style.
Consequently, this album is more of a stylistic hodge-podge than any other work by the group. However, this serves to set up the simple elegance of the final song, "So Close and Yet So Far Away," with its piano and strings accompaniment. A rare romantic effort from David Cousins and along with "Beside the Rio Grande" the only tracks he wrote by himself and why I ended up rounding up on this one. Clearly the lesson here is that Cousins needed to go back to writing songs by himself. The fact that Lambert did not right his one or two obligatory songs for this album is another bad sign. There is only one bonus track, Dave Lambert's "You Won't See the Light," which is a slightly above average song and a minor addition."
This Was The Last Strawbs For Me
jansley | Vernon, Texas | 10/17/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I was pretty disappointed with this album when I bought it in 1976. I agree with the previous reviewer that the album before this, 1975's "Nomadness" was clearly several cuts below the 4 albums that preceded it (Ghosts, Hero and Heroine, Bursting at the Seams, Grave New World). So, the decline had begun. I think by 1976, folk/prog rock ran head on into punk and the beginnings of arena rock and heavy metal, not to mention disco. Strawbs was somewhat positioned to compete with this because they were increasingly moving away from folk rock and more into guitar riff rock and that's why I liked them in the first place. I wasn't on the Strawbs bandwagon until they started doing some almost WHO or LED ZEP-like rock with mixes of acoustic guitar and razor sharp electric guitar riffs all backed with good percussion and an eerie mellotron/keyboard sound. The epitome for me was "The Life Auction" and "Starshine/Angel Wine" on the GHOSTS album and "Round and Round" on HERO AND HEROINE. So, DEEP CUTS was way off the mark. And yet there are 2 songs on the CD that are 2 of my favorites for all the reasons mentioned above. These are "Simple Visions" and "Turn Me Round." Both have great electric guitar riffs and great acoustic guitar strumming along with excellent percussion (esp. Simple Visions) and pretty decent and interesting lyrics. Ironically, both songs make allusions to Christian themes but I would not call them Christian songs per say. Just a nice way of weaving the themes it into the lyrics. They are IMO two of the BEST Strawbs songs ever and can't be found on any greatest hits CD's so you have to get this otherwise dismal CD to get them.
The rest of the album I'm afraid just doesn't appeal. The epic, "Beside the Rio Grande" is a story song in the tradition of their old song from 1969 called "The Battle." This song is OK but tries to pack way too many words into 4 minutes and it doesn't have the cool instrumental break that many of their best songs like this had. There is in fact an eerie moment toward the end with tolling bell-like sounds of death that could have been a great jump off point into a Hawkin-like mellotron break, but they didn't do it. Maybe because they didn't have Hawkin, or maybe the record producers told them no more 7 minute instrumental epics or maybe they just didn't have the energy to develop it enough.
The other story song, "A Soldier's Tale" is very hard to listen to as Cousins' already prissy voice goes to an even higher level and really becomes an irritating screech. "Charmer" tries to be a rocker and has a few moments of good crunching guitar, but as a whole it just doesn't have that magic to be considered real good. Part of the problem is with the title itself. There is a moment when the lyrics say, "Charmer can you hear me..." and this sounds just like the Who's "Tommy can you hear me..." but the word "Charmer" just seems silly. If they would have used some other word that sounds like Charmer - maybe "Liar" or "Traitor" or "Martyr" or a name like "Peter" - it would have worked better. But the more you listen to it the more you appreciate the truly good guitar parts. It's funny how if this song and "Rio Grande" had been developed a little more into the classic Strawbs sound, then these coupled with the two great songs already mentioned would have made this into a really good album.
If you like pure sap, then the last song, "So Close and Yet So Far Away" is for you. I don't much care for it. The lead off song "I Only Want My Love To Grow In You" is really too obvious an attempt at top 40 soft rock and it really has no meat. Now, they could have had some fun with a little double entendre on the "my love to grow in you" line and this would have made it more interesting and a little naughty (like "Out In the Cold" on HERO AND HEROINE) but it also needs some more zip on the otherwise bland music.
So, this CD doesn't merit more than 3 stars for me but it has two really good songs and 2 or 3 others that are decent. But no songs are more that 4:36 and that just ain't good Strawbs!
By the way, a comment on the cover art. In 1976, there had to be a little buzz in the industry about a coming change in format from vinyl to CDs. So why have a cover that glorifies vinyl? Just a further indication that this album was a bit out of touch.