Strawbs: Hero & Heroine – In Ascencia

Reconsidering past glories.

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Like many bands before them, the Strawbs would struggle with the success they so longed for. By the time they had got around to recording the original Hero & Heroine in 1974, they’d already shed key members Richard Hudson and John Ford.

The previous album, the aptly named Bursting At The Seams, had gone stellar in the UK and gained them some artistic notoriety in the US, but that came at its own price.

The partly conceptual follow-up was a surprise to fans of their tough pop, with its extended themes and overwhelming sense of melancholy. America loved it, we weren’t so sure. This latter day reworking of a much-loved record (it grew in stature after the music press had done with it) begs a number of questions; not least, why?

Though warmly produced, the performances sound wan compared to the original. David Cousins’s vocals struggle especially to reignite the words that his younger self once sang. The prog/folk arrangements still stand strong, and it’s impressive to think that the band once took such a leap of musical faith.

But this revisit will serve only to dash memories not rekindle them.

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.