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Strawbs - Of a Time CD (album) cover

OF A TIME

Strawbs

 

Prog Folk

2.18 | 2 ratings

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SteveG
2 stars Erroneously listed, IMHO, in PA under compilation/box sets, the 2012 Strawbs' album Of A Time is far from that. It is a reconstructed version of the Strawbs' proposed but never issued first album. "Of a Confused Time" would be a more suitable title. That's if you're aware of the back story behind the Strawbs' 1969 debut album and their previous incarnation with the incredible Sandy Denny, as Sandy and the Strawbs, just one and half years earlier.

The belatedly released Sandy and The Strawbs album from 1973 (originally recorded in 1967), titled All Our Own Work, helps to answer a lot of questions including how the Strawbs, minus Sandy, ended up with a recording contract with A&M records. Well, that's because the A&M bosses heard the unreleased Sandy and The Strawbs material and it was that that they were expecting when they signed the band. Even after learning that Denny had left to join Fairport Convention, A&M advanced the remaining Strawbs $30,000 USD (about $230,000 dollars in modern terms) in which to produce their debut album. Without Denny's ability to blow an orchestra off a stage, the remaining Strawbs, Dave Cousins, Tony Hooper and Ron Chesterman, proceeded to do just the opposite of that. Orchestrate the songs with all kinds of classical instruments from strings to flugelhorns. Not only was this material overproduced, but the inspiration for the orchestrations from the Beatles' milestone album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club had quickly become passé in 1969. Not to mention the Indian sitar, tamboura and tabla instrumentation commonly found on George Harrison's Beatles' songs like Within You and Without You.

But the Strawbs, along with arranger Tony Visconti, plowed full speed ahead and turned much of the Sandy and the Strawbs material into 3rd rate Sgt. Pepper's knockoffs featuring orchestral accompaniment, mystical Indian instrumentation, with even music hall pastiche thrown in and further muddling matters. The result was that A&M told the Strawbs to keep the more organic folk rock tracks such as The Man Who Called Himself Jesus and Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth? and to rerecord the others without the bombast. Or to come up with other songs. And that's what ended up the Strawbs 1969 eponymous debut.

Of A Time was the original album reconstructed by Dave Cousins in an effort to show that the Strawbs had it right to begin with. With farcical overblown songs like Sweetling and Oh Me, Oh My, as just two examples, I can't see Cousins' logic in this argument. Cousins' remarks in the liner notes also states his dissatisfaction with Gus Dudgeun's overproduction of the eponymous debut! Whatever Dave. It seems like a case of comparing oranges to tangerines. In fact, the addition of Oh, How She Changed and The Battle, on the eponymous debut, at east resulted in a decent album worthy of 3 stars, and was a inkling of the band's artistic directions to come.

So, 2 stars for Dave Cousins' wasted efforts on recreating Of A Time. Sometimes it's better to just let sleeping dogs lie. A shame really as the sound quality is quite wonderful as the album was remastered from the original session master tapes.

SteveG | 2/5 |

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