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Strawbs - From The Witchwood CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.03 | 261 ratings

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5 stars As classic prog has come to be signified by it's overuse of synths and mellotrons, of which the Strawbs themselves were to be soon to be guilty, From The Witchwood remains incredibly fresh, unique and wonderfully enigmatic. The second album to feature Rick Wakeman and his first studio outing finds the future synth and mellotron wizard sticking to his wonderful arsenal of piano, organ and celeste and absolutely making the most of his accompaniments and solo spots on virtually every song on this mostly acoustic guitar driven album. Ok, there is a bit of mellotron and Moog C1 (901) synthesizer on perhaps the album's best track titled "The Shepard's Song" but it's not overdone. Its still Wakeman's dramatic and elegant playing that elevates this song, as does Wakeman's solo on the manic track tiled "Sheep" which climaxes with superb crescendos and high piercing organ notes, as well as the equally manic time changing organ solo on the ultra pastoral hymn like track "A Glimpse Of Heaven."

Dave Cousins' song writing topics now includes everything from polemic, physical love, social critique and mysticism without ever coming off as preachy or pretentious. Cousins just sings, with his distinctive voice, way too convincingly. The now full on rhythm section of John Ford and Richard Hudson, on bass and drums respectively, are a bit of the band's secret weapon on From The Witchwood, as they are the propulsive engine of songs like "The Hangman and The Papist", then afore noted "Sheep" and "The Shepherd's Song", while not drawing attention to themselves, while also adding a grounded groove to the sublime song from which stellar album derives it's name, "Witchwood". Hudson and Ford add the first of their songwriting contributions to an Strawbs' album. While not as strong as Cousins' material, the songs "Thiry Days", "Flight" and "Canon Dale" totally fit the pastoral and unique tone of this album. Hudson even adds some wonderful sitar to several songs, especially on his own tune "Canon Dale" which he keeps tasteful and far from sounding like the psychedelic musical motifs that were so rampant at the dawn of this album's decade.

For better or worse, the Strawbs would never again sound so individualistic in their on again/off again career. This uniqueness and the inclusion of the stellar bonus track "Keep The Devil Outside" pushes this gem right into the 5 star category. From The Witchwood is simply a prog folk classic.

SteveG | 5/5 |


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