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Strawbs - Grave New World CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.16 | 356 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars It had been just during the promotion tour of their FTW album when Rick Wakeman decided to leave the band for joining Yes (which was understable considering his big talents) actually without saying any word of farewell to them (which hadn't been that nice though). As if the remaining band members wanted to supply evidence that they can do very well without (not yet by then) keyboard wizard Rick they created their most abitious (and arguably best) effort, the album here in review "Grave New World". It's a concept work reflecting the story of one man's life, from the cradle to the grave. The title is most obviously a hint to Aldous Huxley's famous novel and the fantastic cover art depicts William Blake's "Glad Day" painting. As Dave Cousins points out in the leaflet notes, Tony Visconti who had produced their live album was beginning to have an increasing influence on the band during onset of this record. Let me cite here his own words: "He was into martial arts, and encouraged me to read 'The Tibetan Book Of The Dead'. I even managed 'The Egyptian Book Of The Dead' - hence the quotes on the sleeve!" He also says there, that people were beginning to write the band off after Wakeman's demise but I think this album here had been the best prove that the Strawbs were still a great band.

The opening track "Benedictus" being written when Wakeman left the band sets the tone for the whole album with its devotional and contemplative sound. Derek "Blue" Weaver took over the empty keyboard stool and he did an excellent job here I've to say. Cousins tells a mysterious story in the leaflet notes about how he came upon the words for the lyrics. He played the solo on his electric dulcimer with a steel through a fuzz box, and there are also two guest vocalists, Trevor Lucas and Anne Collins added here. After the short acoustic interlude "Hey Little Man" which supposed to tell the story about an older man giving advice to his young son, who probably didn't listen we have "Queen Of Dreams" which is the most experimental song they've ever done I'm quite sure. They used a play back in reverse of a recording of the guitar and first verse of the song for this track which provides a quite interesting psychedelic touch. Then there is "Heavy Disguise" written by John Ford and as well performed by him with a brass section played by the Robert Kirby Silver Band giving this track a nice special note. The rather bombastic but brilliant mellotron-laden "New World" is the next one and Dave Cousins tells about its creation that it had been written after he had seen a tv report about young kids in Belfast being asked to paint pictures in their art lessons, and many of them had painted soldiers lying dead in the gutter; what else to tell about such type of inspiration? After the nice acoustic folk song "The Flower." comes the next big highlight on here with "Tomorrow" with a really great symphonic sound. Next two tracks are early songs from them of which the first one "On Growing Older" still fits quite well though sounding rather Byrds-alike (one of Cousins' big favs) whereas the pastiche to a very old English song "Ah Me, Ah My" sounds to me quite awkward and inappropriate. But the latter one is really the only redundant song of this album since the Eastern inspired "Is It Today,Lord?" with Richard Hudson on sitar and as well the final "The Journey's End" are very good tracks. The two added bonus songs on the CD reissue are admittedly weak commercial ones and rather destructive for the overall atmosphere of this excellent album.

To sum up my review this had been the best work by this band in my view, at least in terms of Prog though unfortunately their last outstanding record before they turned into more a kind of AOR band. This one together with FTW I'd consider the only albums by them to be an excellent addition to any prog collection (****1/2 really)!!

hdfisch | 4/5 |


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