After playing their classic 1974 opus Hero and Heroine in its entirety for the first time at the end of 2010 veteran folk proggers Strawbs have now re-recorded the piece for a modern re-interpretation. Hero and Heroine – In Ascencia reunites the trio of songwriter David Cousins, guitarist David Lambert and bassist Chas Cronk with drummer Tony Fernandes. John Young (Asia, John Wetton, The Scorpions) provides keyboards as the band utilise the latest recording techniques and equipment to bring the work into the 21st Century. The original release saw the band moving away from their folk influences and into prog territory with mini-suites, waves of mellotron and recurrent themes of love and abandonment.
The eleven minute, three part "Autumn" sets the scene with a mood of serene ambience providing the backdrop for Cousins melancholic vocal before moving to a dramatic conclusion. The story takes the listener on an emotional journey of romance and loss via "Sad Young Man", "Just Love" and the Moody Blues influenced "Shine on Silver Sun". "Autumn" aside the albums stand out highlight is the pulsating title track with its ranting vocal as the band step up the pace and the story takes a more sinister twist. The new version is extended from the original in that additional instrumental segues have been added to give an uninterrupted flow between the songs with John Young gaining a writing credit for "Aurora" that bridges "Midnight Sun" and "Out in the Cold". There is no happy ending here with the solemn "Lay A Little Light on Me" offering a final cry of anguish before a maniacal reprise of "Round and Round" beings about a close.
For newcomers to Strawbs or the casual listener Hero and Heroine – In Ascencia is at times a challenging (and somewhat depressing) experience but for those with fond memories of the original it has to be seen as an essential purchase.
Prologue/Autumn: Heroine's Theme; Deep Summer's Sleep; (Hold On To Me) The Winter Long
Sad Young Man
Shine On Silver Sun
Hero And Heroine
Out In The Cold
Round And Round
Lay A Little Light On Me
Round And Round (reprise)