MUSIC WRITER IN JAPAN
During the 1980’s, it seemed you couldn’t pick up a record without seeing ‘Chas Cronk – Bass’ in the credits: Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett, Gordon Giltrap and a host of others. For those of you who had the pleasure of watching the criminally short-lived TV show in that decade, Gastank, Chas was there playing bass with the house band and therefore got to play with some of the great Rockers of that era. Along with all that, he is most well known for being a long-time member of Strawbs.
A seasoned veteran then it’s no surprise he has released a new album. What is a surprise is that this is his first solo album. The second surprise is that it’s a solo album in every sense of the word. I’ve no doubt he could have called in a lot of mates to help out but Chas has opted to write, record and produce the record. Adding to his instrument repertoire, as well as bass, he plays the guitars and keyboards and sings. Too much for one man in his first solo outing? Not in the slightest. In fact, Chas has come up with a record that warms and delights, enchants and moves you.
The ten compositions are neither in the Prog Rock vein and they are not Folk Rock either, both of which you might expect given his contribution to music over the last 50 years. They are pieces that have simple melodies, relaxed tempos and arrangements where the instruments, when they come to the fore, never overshadow the song but contribute to them. No song is rushed or overcrowded. His choice of sounds gives an air of floating, drifting; the lyrics are forward looking, all positive. The entire album is filled with hope, uplifting. It's nice to have an album like that these days.
To be fair, there are a couple of contributions from his mates. Dave Lambert, a Strawbs member since the 70’s plays the guitar solo on A Splash Of Blue and Dave Bainbridge, another more recent recruit to Strawbs plays the solo on Slipping Downstream. Both are excellent choices for the parts as is drummer Major Baldini who adds his vastly underrated playing to the title track. As for Chas’s playing, he proves to be very competent at everything. Bass of course but as a small example, his combination of sequencer, keyboards and guitar during Into The Light displays a confidence and maturity that says he’s been dabbling with those instruments a lot longer than a couple of lockdown years. His song writing is notable as well. He’s been contributing to Strawbs albums since he joined but here, he shows that he can write a complete set of songs that are coherent and pleasing.
Listening through, you’ll start to wonder why Chas has taken so long to actually do his first solo album. Only Chas can answer that but I have no doubt from this outing, that there is plenty more to come.
Take My Hand
A Splash Of Blue
Into The Light
BILLBOARD, TOKYO 18th Apr
Billboard Live Japan
The Billboard stage is loaded with equipment. A Hammond organ, a Fender Rhodes, a half a dozen guitars, four stacks of Orange amps and cabs, drums, bass, etc. This set-up, with a few beers standing on the amps, along with a selection of Blues classics playing over the P.A. before the show says ‘Old school Rock and Roll’ and that’s exactly what we got over the next hour and ten minutes. With the last song of those classics cranked up (the J. Geils version of Ain’t Nothing But A House Party) the eight-piece band take their positions on stage to a very loud and warm reception from the audience.
Marcus and his band don’t mess about. Most bands begin with a couple of songs to warm themselves and the crowd up but this band are straight into the full in-your-face Rock the audience know and love. It’s a blistering opening that has your eyes flitting around the stage because there is so much great musicianship going on at once. Eventually your eyes turn to the man himself and the amount of emotion pouring out of him, both from his guitar and vocally, is phenomenal. He’s pure heart and soul, giving everything he has, totally lost in the music. The band are on fire and Marcus is fanning the flames. Incredibly, it never lets up until they say goodnight.
Marcus doesn’t talk much, not at all actually but that’s fine by everyone who has come to see him. Marcus lets the music do the talking and performances of Rescue Me and Beautiful Stranger, speak volumes; some of the instrumental passages shout tomes. Halfway through and the band is still going full pelt, even in the quieter passages, they never let up, always watching each other, taking their cues from Marcus, building to crescendos and then ploughing right into the next song before the audience can show their appreciation. It’s a blitz musically and above it all, is Marcus’s wonderful, soulful voice. The depth of emotion that he brings out with it when singing about his past pains is breath-taking and yet at other times, his voice is so sweet, he could lull a baby to sleep.
To sum up, Marcus is 100% pure emotion onstage. His band, each as good as the other, as an ensemble, is one of the best there is. Together with Marcus, they are a unit that know no boundaries and will go wherever the music takes them. Live music doesn’t get better than this.