I love this reviewing business, what could be more fun that listening to a band that you first heard of in 1972 and are still going strong 35 years later? The Strawbs have had many labels stuck to them. Prog Rock is the one that seems to adhere best, yet they are also denizens of the electric folk movement. For a period The Strawbs, Fairport Convention, and Steeleye Span were gentle rivals for the electric folk crown. If you look at the musicians involved they all appear on the same family tree. Live At Nearfest has actually been out for over a year, but recently got some great publicity when The Strawbs went on a long overdue and eagerly awaited North American tour. And a very successful tour it was!

There is no question that Dave Cousins is the glue for this eclectic band, and while his voice may have lost a little of the vibrancy over his 40 years of performing, it most certainly still is still ‘Dave Cousins’.

Live At Nearfest is an interesting CD, it is a great set that they play. Some old, and some not so old. My fondest memories of this band was when Rick Wakeman, mad scientist on the Moog was still part of the line up (yes I am really old!). However John Hawken does a fine job in his place. Alas the Moog is now merely a museum piece, but John certainly knows how to deal with these ‘modern’ electronics and make them sound like the real thing.

The rest of the band comprises of Dave Lambert (guitar), Rod Coombes (drums) and Chas Cronk (Guitar). These are all seasoned musicians and add to the aura of the Strawbs.

This CD is almost a historical footprint of this great group, while it vacillates between old (From the Witchwood) and new, you can listen to the gradual but insistent move from the electric folk side to prog rock.

The main musical creator is Dave Cousins, and he has a rich repertoire of abilities to pull from. He certainly has penned many songs in his long and industrious career, although I think have to be in agreement with Rick Wakeman, who in a recent interview said that Daves finest song is Cannon Dale which alas is missing from this concert. Mind you, Rick might have been a little biased, he was after all the keyboard player on it!

So what do you get for your price of admission? Well from the early days you get ‘Lay Down’ and ‘Remembering You and I’ and they are so well done you find yourself transported back in time. Hero & Heroine make an appearance as does Round & Round. Exploring the CD on the computer I also found two untitled tracks that when explored produced some very fine Moogish sounds.

The Strawbs PR contact tells me that Dave Cousins is about to release a solo album. I really liked his first solo effort ‘Two Weeks Last Summer’, and I am sure I will like this new one. I am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Throw caution to the wind and try some of the finest prog rock known to man, you can get it here.

Simon Barrett


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