Review – Chas Cronk – Liberty – by John Wenlock-Smith

Chas Cronk may best be known as the long-term bassist for the Strawbs. He was initially with the band between 1973 -1980, after which he worked with Steve Hackett and Rick Wakeman before forming his own group Cry No More, upon the dissolution of which he re-joined the Strawbs, where he has remained ever since.

‘Liberty’ is his second solo album after ‘Mystic Mountain Music’ in 2002 and his album with Dave Lambert, ‘Touch The Earth’, in 2007.

Reviewing this album is different in that it has no noticeable progressive tendencies and, whilst that may be true, what is also noticeable is just what a fabulous album of songs this is. The album is mostly self-penned and performed by Chas with help from Dave Lambert on the track A Splash Of Blue, Dave Bainbridge on Slipping Downstream and also Major Baldini, who provides drums for the title track. Everything else is handled by Chas who also produces the album. It’s not a particularly long album as it was originally going to be an EP but Dave enjoyed the task so much that he decided to keep going and make a full album of songs.

The album opens with the title track, Liberty, which is a quite jangly, guitar led song. This actually reminds me of Rush for some reason, maybe it’s the jangle in the guitar? It’s is quite a strident track with a short but well constructed solo appearing after the second chorus. I really like this song it has good drive and dynamics to it. Next we have Take My Hand which opens with keyboard sounds and a bubbling bass line over some dancing keyboard lines. The song has a great vocal from Chas with everything again being underpinned by the bass and features another brief but elegant solo. This album grows on you as being a really fine set of songs and performances. It is simply a highly enjoyable and rewarding listening experience to have, nothing earth shattering but certainly very worthy indeed.

A Splash Of Blue has his Strawbs bandmate Dave Lambert on guitar and he contributes a fine solo. Everybody Knows is a well produced epic piece with good vocals. The song is about surviving the storms of life and how love can set you free, and that the beauty of the world can open our hearts to joy and to love, simple but powerful sentiments. Flying Free is an acoustically led instrumental. A brief but great little track with good keyboard backing to make it very memorable.

Into The Light opens ‘side two’ of the album and has a good back beat on the drums along with a neat bass line pulling the song along. It’s a mid-paced song but quite muscular in tone, with a good guitar synthesiser line floating over the top. Again, this song has something special to it, a good guitar break certainly helps and makes an impression making it another fabulous, well constructed and performed track. Slipping Downstream features fellow Strawbs’ man Dave Bainbridge whose guitar adds much colour to this song, he plays really beautifully on this track with a glorious floating guitar line, especially when he takes said guitar line up a key. Dave is well supported by the keyboards and Chas’s Bass line. This is really a spectacular track and Dave certainly let’s rip well here to form a strong impression. Away follows and this is yet another impressive track. The song has a strong melody, even if I can’t detect what it is on about really, and has a good sound and great dynamics. The whole album is a sequence of strong, intelligent and articulate tracks that, when taken together, are very life affirming. System Overload is a familiar sounding song but I can’t quite put my finger on who it reminds me of but it sure sounds good to these ears. This is a good penultimate  track before the instrumental of Reverie brings the album to a close. With its deep keyboard sounds and washes and its ethereal voices and gentle piano tones, it winds the album down to a close perfectly.

‘Liberty’ is a well constructed and produced, and superbly performed, set of songs for which we can all be glad and all can appreciate. I really enjoyed this short album as there is much to enjoy and I certainly will be returning to it frequently as it is an unexpected lockdown derived delight.

Released 11th February, 2022.

Order the album here:

Chas Cronk – Liberty (CD) (renaissancerecordsus.com)

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