CHAS CRONK – Liberty

Renaissance 2022

CHAS CRONK –
Liberty

Progressive folk stalwart finds the wings of freedom and flies on towards new dawn.

Well-respected by peers and aficionados alike, albeit criminally underrated despite being a constant presence on the scene, bassist Chas Cronk is mostly famous for his decades-long, though intermittent, stint with STRAWBS, but there’s more to his creative biography, including spells with Rick Wakeman and Steve Hackett. What it almost doesn’t include would be a solo career, as Chas released only one album under his name, the meditative “Mystic Mountain Music” from 2002, which means Cronk’s sophomore effort, following his debut twenty years later, is quite overdue – but totally worth the wait.

If you’ve ever come across Cronk, you won’t be surprised by “Liberty” presenting a perfect reflection of his personality – apart, perhaps, from Chas’ sense of humor that wouldn’t go along too well with his sparkling romanticism that manifests itself in this platter’s title track. Given a group treatment, the song would arrive on STRAWBS’ "Settlement" but is offered here in its refined, riff-propelled form – whose transparent strum, hazy synthesizers and woozy voice suck the listener into the veteran’s delicately rocking world to propose a way out only once the oratorio of “Reverie” scintillates into silence. Still, Cronk’s never been averse to shaping pure pop tunes, so the simple beat, arresting ivories line and pleasantly unassuming vocals of “Take My Hand” prove to be more than welcoming, inviting his followers to the dancefloor, while the faux-orchestral, bubbling “Away” feels irresistibly, infectiously magnificent, and the acoustic, folksy “Flying Free” highlights Chas’ exquisite way around instrumental melodies.

Sculpting all parts, except drums that are handled by Major Baldini, and the soaring guitar solos courtesy of his colleagues Dave Lambert and Dave Bainbridge – that elevate, respectively, the pulsing, profound softness behind “A Splash Of Blue” and the gentle punch behind “Slipping Downstream” to the celestial realm – the venerated performer focuses on his inner sunshine, linking it in the pellucid “Everybody Knows” to the natural wonders, which other people may perceive as regular changes in the weather, and letting his piano and Mellotron radiate warmth. However, there’s playful, simultaneously quasi-plastic and ethereal, heaviosity to “Into The Light” where the famous bass is so prominent, with the fluttering “System Overload” takes this dynamic sway on a field trip.

This album is a journey unto itself – a voyage to artistic independence that has to be enjoyed admired.

*****

April 16, 2022

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