A solo album by singer-songwriter Dave Cousins
This is a gem of an album for lovers of seventies folk-rock. It’s a little-known record released in 1972. Dave Cousins, founder and leader of the Strawbs, followed the trend of the times in taking a break from the demands of being in a band to have more of a free hand in recording and releasing his work.
Of course, a solo album is almost never a solo enterprise, and the musicians that Cousins assembled here is one of the best kept open secrets of the prog-rock heyday. On board were Miller Anderson from The Keef Hartley Band; Rick Wakeman from Yes; Roger Glover from Deep Purple, and Jon Hiseman once of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. He was also joined by Dave Lambert, of Fire, who, following this, would join the Strawbs and remain their lead guitarist for the rest of the decade. The tracks where three or more of the above blend their talents have an unmistakable lustre.
Understandably, for a recording where the composer has near-comprehensive control, the album is strongly coherent, with all the songs sounding as if they belong together despite their intrinsic distinctiveness. There is no indication that they were compiled to fit the concept suggested by the album title, (except perhaps the closing track) but nevertheless they feel as if they are kept in the same suitcase, having been collected on a creative holiday. If you pick it up, you know you are carrying baggage that has been through sun, rain, joy, bruises, lemonade, beer, and hangovers. Somewhere, in the corners, lie small piles of sand that signal memories of warmth and sea air, but also bring to mind irritating abrasions.
All the Strawbs albums of this time were issued with lyrics, and it is a shame that this was not. Dave Cousins’ emotive vocals sometimes cloud the diction and it was a full twenty years before I was able to decode a few of the more inventive lines. Such a resource is now readily on hand, however, so don’t let that dissuade you from dipping into this musically redolent and lyrically rich recording.
It was engineered by Tom Allom who shares the production credit with Dave Cousins. It was released in October 1972 on A&M Records.
Tracking the tracks:
Two Weeks Last Summer. The title track is a Cousins classic. You will not find a better evocation of a balmy, late sixties, late teens, idyllic summer holiday sojourn. The secret is the way the lyrical nostalgia is lazily lifted by the ingenious combination of a fretless bass and wah-wah slide as suggested and played by Roger Glover.
Pictures soon will fade
Pictures that the flames have made
Your hazy wistful face
Suddenly is gone without a trace
October to May. An a cappella tour through the winter months takes us from last to next summer. The tune is based on a Russian folk melody.
Blue Angel. My second-favourite Strawbs song (after Down by the Sea). Cousins describes it as “perhaps the most mysterious of all”. It is a marvellous musical triptych born out of the breakdown of one relationship and the unsteady negotiating of another. The lyrics are among Cousins’ best and most profound. For example:
The best of questions have no answers
The best of answers need no questions
A man of honour has no secrets
How can I be a man of secrets?
Trapped in the web of the woven blue veil
Fearing to find the angel weaver
The line-up of musicians on this track is ear-watering: Miller Anderson on lead guitar; Rick Wakeman on keyboards; Roger Glover on bass; and Jon Hiseman on drums.
That’s the Way It Ends. A soft piano-pioneered ballad eases the listener out of the angelic turmoil of the previous track, ambiguously smoothing the unresolved ending of it. The mixing of the piano is a tad too dominant, or the vocals a little too low, to achieve maximum impact.
The Actor. An inventive up-tempo vitriolic attack. The target is personal and specific but the poetry is sufficiently allegorical to allow a generic application.
The sun casts softer shadows
As it slips behind the cloud
The peacock looks dejected
Though his tail is standing proud
The actor tries to prove
That he’s a face in every crowd
When You Were a Child. One of several Cousins songs to allude to artists and art works. It’s a love song, pensive, reflective, melancholic.
Ways and Means. One of Cousin’s best straight folk songs. The poet muses on his place.
I’m as the world forever spinning
Rekindled by the early rising sun
I’m as the road that’s ever winding
A never-ending journey just begun
We’ll Meet Again Sometime. This is a fascinating song. Composed by someone in his twenties, it convincingly suggests the state of mind of someone three times that age who is bereaved by the loss of a life-long love. It was inspired by the songwriter’s summer job as a gravedigger when he was at college. Recorded outdoors with Miller Anderson on slide guitar.
Going Home. A thumping little rocker that rejoices in the revels and regrets of a well-spent indulgent holiday. Released as single in September 1972, but failed to surface.
Two Weeks Last Summer is audible strong cider. It is pressed from fermenting folk imagery squeezed by the very finest rock rollers. It’s heady, intoxicating, provocative, enlightening and addictive.
More background to the above, and the full lyrics can be found on the STRAWBS OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
 D. Cousins, Secrets, Stories, Songs. Witchwood Media Ltd, 2010, page 119
 Ibid page 121
The music and lyrics of Dave Cousins have been the single greatest influence on my own creativity.
In particular they inspired a fantasy tribute entitled Strawberry Gothic which can be found in:
Each month of 2021 I am reviewing one of the Strawbs albums from the 1970s in the order in which they were released. Previous similar posts include: