Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint has returned to the Strawbs discography with another pair of reissues: Burning for You (1977) and Heartbreak Hill (recorded 1978, released 1995).
Burning for You arrived between Deep Cuts and Deadlines, both of which have already been reissued by Esoteric. Deep Cuts had been produced by the team of Rupert Holmes and Jeffrey Lesser who were enlisted to nudge the band – down to four pieces with David Cousins, Chas Cronk, Dave Lambert, and Rod Coombes – in a more accessible, radio-friendly direction. On Burning for You, Lesser took the reins completely as producer-engineer. The resulting album carried on in the same stylistic spirit as Deep Cuts with Robert Kirby and John Mealing (who had both played on Deep Cuts) returning as orchestrators and supplemental musicians.
In his liner notes for this reissue, Cousins recalls Lesser’s determination to produce a hit single; Lambert obliged with the big-hook power ballad “I Feel Your Love Coming On” and the rockier “Heartbreaker” (mistakenly credited in the booklet to Cousins and Cronk). When Cousins objected to the “imbalance” of material on the LP, he reports that Lesser challenged him to write something new and worthy of inclusion. He obliged with one of the strongest tracks, “Burning for Me.” Co-written with John Mealing, it inspired the title of the LP. The balance of Burning for You showcased Strawbs’ diversity, from the dreamy fantasia “Barcarole (For the Death of Venice)” to the acidic riposte to a critic who had panned Deep Cuts, “Alexander the Great.” Cousins and Cronk’s “Keep on Trying” is amiable, upbeat pop seemingly aimed at the AM band, but the single choice turned out to be the Cousins/Cronk/Lambert co-write “Back in the Old Routine.” The bouncy, retro sing-along earned the band airplay and a slot on Top of the Pops, but wasn’t representative of the LP which became Strawbs’ seventh and final album to make the U.S. Billboard 200. Esoteric’s expanded edition adds four previously-issued bonus tracks including alternate versions of two album tracks, the 1976 version of “Joey and Me,” and the Intergalactic Touring Band single “Heartbreaker” featuring Cousins. The latter is not the same song on Burning for You, but rather an original by Wil Malone.
“Goodbye (Is Not an Easy Word to Say),” Cousins’ signoff on Burning for You, was intended to be his farewell to Strawbs. When Clive Davis’ Arista label signified interest in the band, however, they regrouped with Tony Fernandez replacing Rod Coombes and recorded Deadlines. Lesser, Kirby, and Mealing all returned, and the album encapsulated all of the styles from folk to rock and everywhere in between that Strawbs had mastered in the 1970s. But it would turn out to be the band’s final album for a decade, or at least their final album to see release. Sessions began for Heartbreak Hill in May 1978 with producer Tom Allom. New keyboardist Andy Richards joined Cousins, Cronk, Lambert, and Fernandez. But only one track was laid down – the blistering opener “Something for Nothing” – before Lambert exited Strawbs. Jo Partridge of Cockney Rebel was brought in to complete the sessions. When the bulk of the recording was complete, Miller Anderson was brought in to add guitar and vocals for a couple of songs.
Heartbreak Hill was edgier, tougher, and leaner than its orchestrated predecessors but still with spacy textures, dramatic flourishes, and cascading guitar parts recalling Strawbs’ early, somewhat heavier material. (See Cousins and Cronk’s otherworldly, epic title track!) When the album was completed, it was rejected by Strawbs’ manager who told Cousins per his essay that he was withdrawing all support to the group. A new manager negotiated a deal with Elton John’s Rocket label, but the entirety of the advance would have been eaten up by the sessions for Heartbreak Hill. It was ultimately shelved, not seeing the light of day until 1995. Four previously released bonus tracks round up this expanded edition of Strawbs’ lost album. The saga of Heartbreak Hill had a happy ending when the entire line-up of Cousins, Cronk, Fernandez, Richards, and Partridge reunited to play the album live in 2009 to mark the band’s 40th anniversary.
Both titles are housed in digipaks with 16-page booklets featuring a new essay from David Cousins and lyrics for the album tracks. Paschal Byrne has newly remastered both releases which are available now from Cherry Red and Esoteric at the links below!
- Burning for You
- Cut Like a Diamond
- I Feel Your Love Coming On
- Barcarole (For the Death of Venice)
- Alexander the Great
- Keep on Trying
- Back in the Old Routine
- Carry Me Home
- Goodbye (Is Not an Easy Word to Say)
- Joey and Me (1976 Version) (from Witchwood Media reissue WMCD2035, 2007)
- Goodbye (Alternate Version) (from A Taste of Strawbs, Witchwood Media WMBS 2036, 2006)
- Barcarole (For the Death of Venice) (Instrumental Version) (from A Taste of Strawbs, Witchwood Media WMBS 2036, 2006)
- Heartbreaker – Dave Cousins and The Intergalactic Touring Band (from Intergalactic Touring Band, Passport LP PB 9823, 1977)
- Something for Nothing
- Another Day Without You
- We Can Make It Together
- Heartbreak Hill
- Starting Over
- Two Separate People
- Desert Song
- Let It Rain
- Bring Out Your Dead (Home Demo) (from A Taste of Strawbs, Witchwood Media WMBS 2036, 2006)
- Another Day Without You (Home Demo) (from A Taste of Strawbs, Witchwood Media WMBS 2036, 2006)
- Heartbreak Hill (Live 2009) (from Strawbs: 40th Anniversary Celebration Vol. 1, Witchwood Media WMDCD2048, 2010)
- Starting Over (Live 2009) (from Strawbs: 40th Anniversary Celebration Vol. 1, Witchwood Media WMDCD2048, 2010)