STRAWBS – Settlement

Like any band with a long history, Strawbs have gone through many changes over the decades. Musicians have come and gone; they’ve seen dozens of members come and go since their inception in 1964 – including legends Rick Wakeman, Sandy Denny and Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina – with each one bringing something different to the band. Through it all, Dave Cousins has been there to steer the ship. In fact, aside from very occasional silences, Strawbs have always existed in one form or other even though a lot of people would believe they threw in the towel some time during the mid 70s.

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RENAISSANCE – Turn Of The Cards

For British progressive and art rock, the relatively short period between March 1973 and December 1974 was particularly fruitful. Roxy Music released ‘For Your Pleasure‘ and ‘Stranded’, Genesis released two of their most ambitious works in ‘Selling England By The Pound’ and ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, while King Crimson gave us ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic’ and Emerson, Lake & Palmer tipped the scales of self-indulgence with their ‘Brain Salad Surgery’. Meanwhile, Yes continued their long voyage into the epic with the help of ‘Relayer’, and Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield released albums that would eventually become worldwide all-time best-sellers. Given the quality and love for each of these records, it’s hardly surprising that, in comparison, ‘Turn of The Cards’ – the fourth studio release from British symphonic rock combo Renaissance – hardly ever gets talked about.

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HOUSE ABOVE THE SUN – Time I Got Goin’ EP

Three years after their ‘Five Hours North’ album, House Above The Sun make a very welcome return with ‘Time I Got Goin”, a five track EP that explores the full range of their beloved Americana sound. If you’re at all familiar with the band, ‘Time I Got Goin” does exactly what you’d expect, but if anything the new songs feel much warmer and more professional than before. One track, in particular, could be their best song to date.

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VINCENT CARR’S SUMIC – New Paeans

Vincent Carr’s fifth album ‘Rekindled’ (released under the name Vincent Carr’s SUMIC in 2016) was one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. Taking influences from Nick Drake, John Martyn, various 70s prog bits and a smidgeon of trad English folk, the album took the listener on a very pastoral musical journey. Traces of Freddie Phillips’ children’s TV scores also added to the album’s very English qualities. It was an album only heard by a relative few, but those who did, invariably loved it.

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STEVE HEWITT – Bigger Than Words

Steve Hewitt is a singer-songwriter from Kent whose previous works have gained some very positive reviews from singer-songwriter, folk and Americana fans, with particular praise for carrying such an American sound considering his very English roots.

His first full length album ‘Bigger Than Words’ presents a far more intimate sound than his 2015 EP release ‘Life Stories’. Lots of the poppier elements have been cast aside in a move for the better. With Hewitt baring his soul in a more stripped back fashion, the album largely works around a finely played acoustic six string and a big voice, although a few other embellishments help to give his personal songs a much fuller feel without losing any of the subtleties. …And even a couple of forays into adult pop are far more professional sounding than anything Steve has released previously.

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