Songs You May Have Missed #571

high

John Ford: “All the Songs I Never Heard You Sing” (2000)

Sometimes you can like a song without the lyrics making complete sense to you. You keep it around for its melodic or atmospheric appeal until one day…boom! Events in your life align to the song and it becomes yours.

It’s a happy event when the song itself is a happy one. But more often, I think, it’s the sad songs that can ambush you in this way.

Tonight for the first time, every line of this song made sense to me. It went from merely poignant to potent. And I’ll listen to it again and again…and I’ll never wash away my misery.

john ford

Songs You May Have Missed #481

strawbs

Strawbs: “Benedictus” (1972)

This one’s pretty personal for me. Strawbs, who combined British folk with progressive rock then layered it with spiritual ponderings, are one of the most unjustly overlooked bands of the 1970’s and one of my handful of favorite bands of all time.

I was exposed to them at an impressionable age, and make an impression they certainly did. Songwriter Dave Cousins was never one to follow a prevailing trend or musical style. And his stuff is built on sturdy prose–a la Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull–that gives it a more timeless feel than much of his contemporaries’ work. Some classic rock just sounds…more classic.

The wanderer has far to go
Humble must he constant be
Where the paths of wisdom lead
Distant is the shadow of the setting sun

Bless the daytime
Bless the night
Bless the sun which gives us light
Bless the thunder
Bless the rain
Bless all those who cause us pain

Yellow stars may guide the way
All diversions lead astray
While his resolution holds
Fortune and good will will surely follow him

Bless the free man
Bless the slave
Bless the hero in his grave
Bless the soldier
Bless the saint
Bless all those whose hearts grow faint

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/05/11/songs-you-may-have-missed-100/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/02/11/recommended-albums-38/

Recommended Albums #38

bursting

Strawbs: Bursting at the Seams (1973)

I’ll turn this one over to an Amazon.com customer review who identifies himself as Lucius, with whose appraisal of Strawbs, one of my favorite three artists of all time, I heartily concur:

“…Strawbs are the best unknown “English Progressive” band of the seventies (aka, the Strawberry Hill Boys in the 1960’s). Of course, Strawbs never stood a chance, even in the wake of “progressive” bands such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull, and Yes (each of whom The New York Times despised back in the early ’70’s).

Because rock critcs took as a given self-evident gospel truth that the wellspring of Rock and Roll was the Blues, choirboy music never stood a chance in America. And so Dave Cousins, folkie choirboy lover of orchestral rock and instrumental virtuosity, was just rendered irrelevant for one reason or another – too “intense”, too “conceptual”, too British? Too good, I’d say.

The only song of the Strawbs I remember on the radio was “Lay Down”, which hooked me; it was the best song being aired at the time (though I suspect I heard “Part of the Union” at some point prior to that). But with Disco and the Eagles and the New Wave/Punk thing just around the corner, where were the Strawbs going to find a place? Alas.

And just as Ian Anderson has been making incredible music for 30 plus years without a word of mainstream “critical” praise, just so Dave Cousins is anonymous here in the USofA. Go figure.”

By Lucius

_________________________

Any analysis of this band I attempt is bound to end in unabashed fanspeak; so it is with the things I love too much…

Bursting At The Seams is the ideal place to start in getting your ears around the Strawbs catalog. The fourth of their seven-LP output while on the A&M label, it marks a transitional period between the more pastoral/acoustic earlier work and the “proggier”, more electric later output.

strawbs 1

But despite being plagued with the lineup changes that caused the stylistic musical shifts, Strawbs weren’t in the business of mediocrity and Bursting At The Seams is no mere “transitional album” in their catalog. Rather it is a high-water mark, along with Grave New World which preceded it and Hero And Heroine which followed–their period of greatest musical fertility and lyrical depth. New members Lambert, Hudson and Ford brought along material strong enough to stand beside–and even complement–the work of one of the most gifted writers in all of rock, David Cousins, himself at the peak of his powers. No one in all of British folk/rock or prog rock or whatever genre you place this genre-defying band had a greater gift for placing the introspective alongside the anthemic, the mystical in the company of the visceral. For a few years during this period, Strawbs (not THE Strawbs, as they are frequently misnamed) made music of a quality rarely seen before or since–a music that didn’t sacrifice beauty for power, or power for beauty.

lay down

Many, many times in the years when I was discovering this music I imagined I felt the same thing Dave Cousins experienced when he wrote the song “Stormy Down” (which appears on this album). He was “high on Stormy Down thinking of my friends below…but they had gone some other way, they did not want to know…” It would have been utterly futile explaining to my 14-year-old peers the unique beauty I found in this music. Even friends who were into progressive rock seldom scaled ecstatic heights such as these. For me it was–and is–to quote Cousins again, “a glimpse of heaven”. My friends at the time, for whom musical quality was measured quantitatively (by the number of decibels) had “gone some other way”.

But speaking for those of us who DID “want to know”, I’m thankful someone was true enough to himself to write music about the interior life, for those of us just uncool enough in our youth to care about such things. Thank goodness for songwriters like Mr. Cousins whose songs were built of such solid stuff that to this day and even in all-acoustic settings (as most Strawbs concerts now are) they bring more force and meaning to bear than so many artists of wider acclaim. And thank heavens for songwriters, Cousins being a prime example, who show us rock can be so much greater and more than butt-shaking, ear-shattering party soundtrack music.

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/05/11/songs-you-may-have-missed-100/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/09/28/songs-you-may-have-missed-481/

 

Don’t miss: “Lay Down”

 

Listen to: “Tears and Pavan”

 

Listen to: “Stormy Down”

 

Listen to: “The Winter and the Summer”

 

Listen to: “Down by the Sea”

Songs You May Have Missed #100

Hero & Heroine

Strawbs: “Autumn” (1974)

Here, for the first time, I won’t shy away from that dreaded word so overused in the appraisal of music: “underrated”. Because while plenty of 70’s progressive rock displayed more complexity or virtuosity, none exhibited more sheer beauty than the best of David Cousins’ compositions–yet he and his band are anything but household names, even to those who grew up listening to the music of the era.

strawbs

“Autumn”, from Strawbs’ great 1974 Hero and Heroine LP, has three distinct movements. The first (instrumental) section, “Hero’s Theme”, sets the mood: somber, mournful. Part two, “Deep Summer’s Sleep” finds Cousins wistfully contemplating the approach of autumn in beautifully poetic style. Part three, “The Winter Long” is sung by Dave Lambert, whose voice is more suited to the romantic sentiment of the final portion, and it concludes with climactic unison singing and swelling Mellotron. I’m pretty comfortable calling this one a masterpiece, from a great band in the prime of their career.

Strawbs evolved during the ’70’s from folk to folk-rock to baroque progressive rock as their lineup and focus shifted. But the inspired vision of David Cousins remained at the core of their music throughout. I most heartily recommend Strawbs to anyone who at all appreciates art rock from any era. One of my two or three favorite bands. Very underrated!

I sense Autumn coming on
The mist has hung low all day
Small birds gather  on the wing
Preparing to make their way.

The trees begin to show
A  trace of brown among the green
Bringing back the memories
That only you  and I have seen.

I sense Autumn coming on
The sun sinking red and  deep
The fires burning in the fields
As late Summer falls  asleep.

The leaves begin to scatter
As the North wind calls their  name
Folding gently back into
The silent earth from which they came.

Still waters flow
Sea breezes blow
Wild flowers  grow
Abundant at your feet.

Soft falling snow
Warm candle  glow
Flushed faces show
The pleasure when we meet.

Hold on to me,  I’ll hold on to you
The winter long I will always be with you.
Hold on to  me, I’ll hold on to you
I will be the one who will always see you through

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/09/28/songs-you-may-have-missed-481/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/02/11/recommended-albums-38/

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