Cousins and Conrad — High Seas
(Witchwoood Media WMCD 2025, 2005, CD)
by Sean McFee, Published 2006-05-01
The old Strawbs troubadour is back on High Seas, collaborating with guitarist/keyboardist Conny Conrad. Eleven tracks totaling fifty-some minutes, with Cousins singing over backing guitar, keyboards (including Mellotron), programmed rhythm section, and so on. Rick Wakeman also contributes piano to one track. The songwriting on this particular outing is not as much to my tastes; compared to the recent Strawbs release Déjà-Fou this album seems somewhat more overwrought and the songs overlong for what’s there. Indeed, there is a great deal of drama here, and even the instrumental parts have a cinematic feel, with great sweeping string sounds and effects. The Strawbs have never been convincing hard rockers; they are at their best as a folky ensemble. In this case, taking Cousins’ songwriting and swathing it in various digitalia smothers some of his strengths, as if he had to arm wrestle wrong-handed. As a collection of songs, High Seas acquits itself well for the most part, but it’s a bit of an uneven marriage and odd fit, and the overall package seems compromised as a result. If all the extra stuff was tossed out and Cousins was singing this over solo acoustic guitar I’d probably enjoy it more. As it is, a bit too much of a mishmash for this writer, but opinions may vary.
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