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Strawbs - Sandy Denny And The Strawbs: All Our Own Work CD (album) cover

SANDY DENNY AND THE STRAWBS: ALL OUR OWN WORK

Strawbs

 

Prog Folk

2.79 | 37 ratings

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SteveG
4 stars Tracing prog back to the egg usually has diminishing returns. An exception would be this nascent collaboration between Dave Cousins' songwriting and a young Sandy Denny convincingly owning this work shortly before her more complex collaborations with Fairport Convention's classic albums Unhalfbricking and Liege And Leif.

Recorded in Copenhagen in 1967 and not released in the UK until 1973, All Own Own Work is a folk/pop/rock album that can stand up on it's own if viewed separately from prog rock. Often compared to their closest sounding competition, The Momas and The Popas, Sandy Denny and The Strawbs were totally unique. Where The Momas and the Popas had more doo wop in their singing, Sandy and the Strawbs did their own take on the Beatles' three part harmonies and, surprisingly, their voices, including Dave Cousins (!), sound splendid together and work quite well. Where either Cousins or Tony Hooper could come off as overblown, Denny had the vocal strength needed to engulf the two and almost make a fourth voice. The sound is also totally acoustic with Denny, Cousins and Hooper playing 6 and 12 strings and Ron Chesterman playing double bass. A session drummer adds deft percussion and completes the mix.

But what's so engaging is that Denny could take Cousins' "feel sorry for me" lyrics and truly make them believable. Included in the 2010 remaster from Witchwood Records is a rough restructuring of the first Hallmark Record edition of this album, with the string accompaniment deleted from four the album's best tracks. This includes the remarkable first recording of Denny's classic lament and signature song "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" Wow. Just Sandy and an acoustic guitar. And remastered form the original three track tapes to boot.

"On My Way", "Tell Me What You See In Me", "Nothing Else Will Do" and "You Believe In Me" stand up as great folk/pop that could have given The Momas and the Popas, as well as The Lovin' Spoonful, a run for their money if this album was released in the US during the Summer of Love. Unfortunately,or perhaps fortunately for prog fans, that never happened and both Denny and the Strawbs went their own progressive ways a few short years later.

Hooper does two generic "British Invasion" sounding songs "You Were Always On My Mind" and "Sweetling", while Cousins does two proto Strawbs songs in the social critique "Everyone Except for Sam Was A Hypocrite", "I've Been My Own Worst Friend", and an early ethereal version of "Two Weeks Last Summer" with Denny handling the solo lead vocal. (Offered on a later reissue from Hannibal Records and included here)

Cousins' Witchwood Label reissue, aside from sounding fantastic, includes all previously released song mixes from both the Hallmark and Hannibal LPs, as well as demos and outtakes.

I have wondered if Sandy Denny dying so young would have a biased effect on my reaction to this reissue. And I've concluded that it was a good record of it's kind without any sentimental attachments. Sandy Denny was truly a great artist and this wonderful sounding reissue is a great tribute to her.

SteveG | 4/5 |

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