Ah, now, Two Weeks Last Summer, I've been looking forward to writing about this one. One of Dave Cousins' finest achievements in my view, up there in quality terms with the classic Strawbs albums we all know and love. I've listened to this twice in quick succession for this review and I'm surprised after all these years just how much I enjoyed every nuance, all the clever little musical touches who go together to make up this peach of an album (in fact in posting this, I decided to go listen again!!!). Even the cover is a thing of beauty, the mock wallpaper textured effect, surrounding a mocked up calendar with two weeks worth of the summer crossed off under a photo of Mr. Cousins carrying Dave Lambert's dog.
The title track, which in acoustic, Sandy Denny versions (recorded earlier but released long afterwards) always seemed to me to be rather rushed off, opens the album with tinkly sounds punctuated by Roger Glover's long booming sliding bass notes. There's a wistful tender tone, strained through some sort of phaser effect, over which Cousins' gentle vocal is poignant and perfect. The lyrics recall memories of summers long gone by, but the summertime's over and done with for the next track "October To May" ("seaside piers, iron girders gaunt and still"). As Dave notes on Preserves Uncanned, this started out from a Russian folk tune someone showed him and he wrote a "seasons turning" sort of lyric to go with it. Here, it starts out stark and uncompromising with just Dave's voice, then the Kidlington Cossacks (aka multi-tracked Cousins et al) turn it into an acapella tour de force with their Russian-style humming backing. Whilst it's nice to have the acoustic guitar backed version on Preserves, this is the definitive version of this one.
"Blue Angel" is of course regarded by many as Dave's masterpiece. A complex three piece suite (couldn't resist the pun!), the first part (inspired apparently by feeling rather unwell at a West Country disco) raucous and shrill, the second part a dreamstate, the third has a feeling of coming out of the clouds to find all is well below. Starting with one of Cousins' intricate acoustic riffs, the first part "Divided" build to a fantastic crescendo with Miller Anderson's broiling solos. After a reprise of the riff, Wakeman plays some nice piano in the second "Half Worlds Apart", just like he'd never been away. Lyrics a play on "half" this, "half" that (as a publisher I love the idea of a "half book binding"), maybe similar in style to some of the stream of consciousness material on Nomadness. A stand-out middle eight to each verse with Cousins bewailing "The best of questions have no answers, the best of answers need no questions" and "A man of honour has no secrets, how can I be a man of secrets". Then an instrumental bridge, which doesn't sound as though it's going anywhere much until a chord change takes us into the gentle, acoustic tinged "At Rest". This reminds me of "I'll Show You Where To Sleep" from Strawbs' first and the message is the same - "I will be your teacher/servant/healer" and "when all else fails remember me, at rest here by your side". An uplifting finale, segueing into the chorus to fade. One of Cousins most finely realised creations, always popular when played by the 90s band and by Cousins and Willoughby as a duo, one can't help but hope for its resurrection in either of the Strawbs current guises ...
Robert Kirby resurfaces to provide an attractive arrangement for "That's The Way It Ends", though here Cousins' vocal is SO low down in the mix, I've NEVER been able to work out the lyrics with any confidence. A shame that the packaging forthe album didn't run to a lyric sheet - thankfully rectified for the CD release. Though not credited, it's Dave playing the piano here, not Wakeman: because Dave's so closely associated with the acoustic guitar, and because he's surrounded himself with some excellent keyboard players in his time, it's easy to forget he's also a good pianist and that a number of his songs, even though now played on guitar, were composed on the piano.
It's said that there are a couple of tracks where extra bits were added to this album which Dave now regrets, and the vocal effect on this track may be one of them, but I like "The Actor" very much indeed and think it works extremely well. The twin guitars of Miller Anderson (lead) and Dave Lambert (rhythm a la Townshend) work well throughout; I always sing along with the Anderson lead, which reminds me (I can't help it) of some demented chicken - clucking, wailing, spitting howling - fantastic stuff! The playout alone, with Anderson's guitar in one speaker and Roger Glover's fuzzy overdriven bass lines, make me long for the Lambert/Willoughby two guitars electric line-up to resurrect this one for the live act.
Dave's piano playing gets another airing on "When You Were A Child", a wistful song about lost innocence, and only one of the weaker songs when compared with the sheer classic status of some of the others, such as the next two classic songs.
First, "Ways And Means", quoted on the calendar on the front cover. Based on another acoustic Cousins riff, it's a cracking song, with lots of dynamics throughout and an excellent lyric. It reaches new heights with the final verse: Wakeman starts playing tinkly waterfall notes in the background, breaks off for an absolutely characteristic Wakeman solos, with arpeggios you just can't believe, and carries on through the last chorus just getting better and better. Dave and Brian resurrected it for Old School Songs, but this is the definitive version of a classic Cousins number.
Next "We'll Meet Again Sometime", which used to be Tony Hooper's vocal showpiece in the early years, reclaimed by Cousins over a stripped down twin guitar arrangement with Dave C and Miller Anderson, recorded outside in the grounds of the Manor studios in Oxfordshire, where the album was made. A precursor of the Dave and Brian treatment of some of the Strawbs classic numbers, Cousins lays down a solid acoustic rhythm track, and some gravelly vocals, whilst Anderson noodles around on slide guitar. Unusual subject-matter - seeing one's loved one in death - but an excellent song. There have been other versions - a live version from the QEH Hall that made it onto the back of the withdrawn "Witchwood" 45 in 1971, and a studio version recorded in the Witchwoodsessions, which escaped many years later onto the UK Halcyon Days CD (though all involved obviously thought that the tape held the Two Weeks version, as did the sleeve notes). To my mind, though, the Two Weeks version, complete with Oxfordshire birdsong, is the best.
For me the only real non-starter is the last track (I hate the abrupt start after "We'll Meet Again"). Obviously written as a single, it was released around the time of "Lay Down" but overshadowed by that song's success. A harder edge than Strawbs' previous obvious pop-song attempt at a hit 45 "Here It Comes", I never really rated the song, but you can hear both as bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of Grave New World (though I have to say I think both actually jar with the spiritual tone of that near-perfect album, you couldn't have those two associated with Bursting At The Seams - where I think they belong as they fit better with that albums more pop-rock sensibilities, because that re-issue already has THREE bonus tracks of its own).
"Going Home" was originally put together as a vehicle for Dave Lambert (Dave Cousins was producing the King-Earl Boogie Band's album at the Manor at round about the same time) and I think it would have suited him better. Though only "Lampoon" Dave Lambert is credited, the track apparently also features Hud on drums, John Ford on bass and Blue Weaver on the keys and can thus be taken as the first of the BATS band tracks produced. Nevertheless at the time, Dave C was very pleased with it, touting as the new direction for the Strawbs as a move from folk rock to out and out rock'n'roll. (In fact Bursting At The Seams and the later albums headed more down the progressive than the rock'n'roll/blues trail, for which I personally am grateful!)
Of course, released in October 1972, the whole thing was rather kicked into touch by the Strawbs heading for the charts with "Lay Down". It was surely a sensible commercial decision to push hard against a door that was opening fast, but it's a shame that that meant that such an excellent solo album was eclipsed by the band's success. Overall, in my view, one of the finest albums in the Strawbs' canon, and, given the number of "heavy friends" involved (Glover, Wakeman, Anderson and Colosseum/Tempest drummer Jon Hiseman), it was always an obvious choice to be re-issued on CD. Thankfully, it did emerge on CD in 2003 and has been selling strongly ever since.
I find it difficult, in a way, to talk about this album. I know it is Dave Cousins' solo work, but to me it is simply a Strawbs album. The songs are part and parcel of what I consider the Strawbs to be about. Emotionally, this album blows me away. I wish I could describe what it was like hearing it for the first time, but, truth to tell, I don't remember it. Odd, I know, but what I mean is that it feels like I've known these songs all my life, and it is hard to imagine what it would be like not knowing them. I know it may sound repetitive, but these songs live in my being, they have become a part of me over the years.
There is also the problem that over the years I've heard a few different versions of these songs. Sometimes these versions intrude over the TWLS versions.
First of all, there is a work on this album that is utterly magnificent. It also appeared on Halcyon Days, and it is, of course, "Blue Angel". It is a masterpiece of writing, melody and lyric melding beautifully together. I may be wrong, but to me the song is about death, the "Blue Angel". "Treat me kindly, dear blue angel, deepest colour of the night. Be merciful, be gentle, for I have no strength to fight." The passion this envisions is amazing. The fear of death is the ultimate fear, and here is a very human cry, an admission, of that fear. I have leaned very heavily on this song in the past while, especially as my family has endured so much pain and death in so short a time. "Sleep the sleep of peace, my love, and I will let you be..."
Another incredible song from this album is "When You Were A Child". This song is very, very special to me. I love it because when I was a child, I had a friend who was very, very close to me. He saved my life twice. Then, one day, he fell apart. He had a great many problems, which I tried to help him with, but he tried to attack my sister. I could, and did, take much from him, but I could not allow this. We parted, not quite enemies, but no longer friends. It was one of the hardest things I have ever endured.
However, the next song is "We'll Meet Again Sometime", with the assurance that, while this world may hold apart those who love one another, there is another time and place where reconcilliation will take place. The upbeat rocker "I'm Going Home" finishes off the sentiment for me on a very positive note, although it may not have been indented that way.
Another song very close to my heart is "October to May". Despite the title, this song has always spoken of autumn to me. The acapella vocals, almost like a chant, hymn-like in its cadences, echo 'round and through the fall's coloured trees, and whisper of stately, ivy-covered buildings. I can almost hear the rustle of the dry leaves as we walk along the forest pathways. And, as the icy hand of winter begins to close us in its frosty grasp, this song brings the calm acceptance that this is meant to be, and that we have our place in it.
The title track was never a great favourite of mine; at least, not on par with the other tracks, but I always enjoyed listening to it. I actually prefer Sandy Denny's version to this one, but that may be because it is on CD, and I hear it more often. That's a hint, by the way.
"That's The Way It Ends" is a sad little tune, almost melancholy. It again reminds me of the sweet sadness in the autumn. "Ways and Means" has long been a favourite, again for so long I can't remember a time not knowing it. It's a song that reminds me how much more there is to life than the everyday world we live in.
"The Actor' is my least favourite Dave Cousins song. I find the guitar loud and annoying, and the vibrating vocals grating. I know it is done for a reason, and I can appreciate the reason, and the idea behind the song. Still, I can't and don't listen to it very often.
One of the reasons why this album is so familiar to me is that is years past my friend and I would go up to the cottage in the autumn for a holiday. It was during this very time of year that we would go. Two Weeks Last Summerwas always a huge part of that vacation. We'd sit and listen to it by a campfire, and sing along with it quietly to ourselves. Sometimes Bob would try to play along with it on his guitar, but he wasn't very good. Even so, it didn't matter. There is something very powerful about watching the sun bank down for the night while listening to "Blue Angel" as the darkness enshrouds you on an autumn evening. You discover, much to your great surprise, that the peace you'd been seeking so desperately was sitting inside you all along, and you only needed to shut up and listen to it to let it out.
I came across this album under C in a local record shop in late '72 or'73 and immediately snapped it up. My only problem was that we had no stereo; there was no lyric sheet, my humble mono player never did justice to the songs so for a long time I couldn't make out a lot of the lyrics. Very annoying when every Strawbs album always had the lyrics printed somewhere.
Anyways even in mono this is an excellent album. I liked the title track - the strange bass; the tinklies - it was a great opener which led onto "October To May". This has been a favourite of mine since I first heard it and I've used it a number of times when called upon to sing or volunteering at folk club floor nights. It's another classic Cousins. The kind you can listen to and which conjures up great images in your head. The fallen leaves, crisp cold days. We used to have three huge trees outside our house and I well remember strolling thru fallen leaves.
The other classic on this album is of course "Blue Angel". Others have already waxed lyrical about this song The pre BATS+Brian line-up did this song at a number of gigs in the nineties. Whilst it was great to hear, they never quite managed to recreate the original sound from the album. This IS the version to enjoy. "That's The Way It Ends" finished off an excellent first side. A crisp clear mix.
I'm not so sure about side 2. "The Actor" is a a great song but spoiled a little by the distorted vocals. Even now I still can't make out the chorus and the ending spoils the drive of the song. I'd have preferred to end as it started. I have to agree with Doug (again) about "When You Were A Child", though not for the same reasons. I just enjoyed it because of DC's ability to put into words things about which I felt but couldn't articulate.
"Ways And Means" was the weakest song on the album but not by much. Again there was the vocal distort which spoiled it a little but it's still listenable. I've always loved "We'll Meet Again Sometime" and "Going Home". The first is definitely funeral material and again DC says what many must feel when death claims a loved one. "Going Home" prepared us for the then forthcoming Bursting At The Seams and (another) new chapter in the Strawbs story.
Overall as I said I loved the album but the first side is definitely stronger than the second, production wise. I seem to recall DC doing an interview re this album (in SOUNDS as I think) and he saying that he remixed the first side but not the second. Pity. Still I await the CD release.... hint hint A&M
I have to weigh in on this one.This was one of the first import albums that I ever bought. Probably right after By Choice. Two things sold me on buying this. First "The Actor" was included on By Choice and I just happened to love it. Second, the personnel was thoroughly intriguing: Rick Wakeman, Robert Kirby and Dave Lambert coupled with the bass player for Deep Purple, Roger Glover and one of England's finest jazz drummers (Colosseum and Colosseum II) Jon Hiseman. On top of that there was also some guy named Miller Anderson who I never heard of and was playing lead even though Lambert was around. I really want to know how these guys were pieced together - hired hands? old drinking buddies? bored musicians looking for purpose? - there is a story I would like told.
The title track,"Two Weeks Last Summer" hinged on Glover's "flanged" bass sound. This was a studio tape effect at the time and flange peddles weren't invented yet. It has a nice psychedelic feel. "October To May" is modern Gregorian Chant that really rings in the coming season. "Blue Angel" is an all-time favorite. Brilliantly arranged with some of Rick's finest piano work and pastoral feel it's a true masterpiece. The orchestral swell of "That's The Way It Ends" contrasts with the simplicity of "Angel" but is nearly equal in beauty.
I am sorry to hear that "The Actor" has grated on some. It is quite simply one of the most fully realized Cousins rockers. At least I think so. "When You Were A Child" is nice but "goes on" a bit too long with its unflinching "when you were a child" repetition and lack of much needed piano dynamics by Dave himself. My second favorite song on the record is "Ways And Means": I love driving to this song - the piano finale by Rick absolutely kicks backside, a solo so good that it makes me want to play "air" piano in my car.
"We'll Meet Again Sometime"returns to the pastoral side with actual pastoral sounds (reminding me of the Beatle's "Mother Nature's Son" or Pink Floyd's "Granchester Meadows"). Still the song carries a universal sentiment that is calming and emoting. "Going Home" is a fun way to end the album, just a simple rocker that does the job of liberating Dave Cousins from his folk trappings for a few rocking maneuvers.
Oh please powers that be, let some one put this out on CD.
Two Weeks is Dave Cousins' most personal album, which makes sense given that is a solo album. But it could have easily passed for Strawbs, and measures up to the classics that came before and after it.
The first side is atmospheric, the second earthy. I love the title track and the oft-mentioned "Blue Angel" featuring Cousins at his best lyrically, compositionally and vocally, and Wakeman at his peak musically, with nice touches by Miller Anderson. "That's The Way It Ends" is a fitting follow-on from the epic, with Cousins' voice way down in the mix. It's almost an instrumental piece. "October to May" never moved me too much, and I much prefer the version on Preserves Uncanned.
Now "The Actor". I am in agreement that this is one of Cousins' finest rockers if not his finest, a number that is too weird to simply be called hard rock. I love the vocal effects and how they vanish in the very catchy chorus. Few Strawbs songs have the edge of this one, so it is probably here that Miller Anderson's influence is most felt. I always thought of the guitar sounds as monkey rather than chicken-like. The whole monkey see monkey do thing, which the actor is guilty of, always trying to be someone other than himself. File this one among the dozen or so Strawbs songs that should have been a hit but weren't, at least an album hit.
"When You Were A Child" is nice but I agree with a previous posting that it isn't dynamic enough. Then we have the two ultimate versions of "Ways And Means" and "We'll Meet Again Sometime", the former with a great Wakeman solo, both with strong support from Miller Anderson. Did Cousins have a cold when "We'll Meet" was recorded? I liked "Going Home" when I first heard it but interest quickly fizzled.
Several directions were possible after the Two Weeks/Bursting At The Seams pair of recordings. Strawbs could have gone prog, hard rock, soft rock, rock and roll, or pop, with the folk underpinnings that were pretty much a given. It seems that for the next two albums (Hero And Heroine and Ghosts), the choice was made to record in the mould of "Blue Angel", "Ways And Means", and "Down By The Sea"/"The River". I would have liked a few more "Lay Downs", but, all in all, as with Dick, I am grateful for the decision.
Although I like "The Actor" for the loud jamming guitar and the vocals. I always wanted them to do more like this.
My two favourite songs on Two Weeks Last Summer would be "Blue Angel" which is a masterpiece and probably one of the best songs Dave has ever written. And I love the way he does "We'll Meet Again Sometime". This is my favorite version. I don't know much about Miller Anderson other than he was on Heartbreak Hill on "Let It Rain" but he does a good job on guitar on this song. I like every song except "Going Home" I could never get used to it as many times as I hear it.. It sounds like it belongs on another album, like maybe Bursting At The Seams.
I have just read a few of the posts regarding Two Weeks Last Summer and I think it is one the best albums Dave Cousins has worked on. I would probably have gave it 10/10 if it wasn't for the ill fitting "Going Home". I can only surmise A&M asked Cousins to provide a commercial/single track for the album with disastrous results!! The penultimate track is one of my favourite Cousins tracks "We'll Meet Again Sometime", with Cousins on best form lyrically and vocally and Miller Anderson playing great slide guitar. Along with other great tracks like "Blue Angel", "The Actor" etc, an all-star line up of great musicians and a 'real wallpaper' feel album cover what more could you ask for!!