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Strawbs - Ghosts CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.02 | 192 ratings

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5 stars A brief cacophony of harpsichord notes dissolves quickly into one of the signature melodies of the Strawbs' progressive knockout titled "Ghosts", and we're off to listen to the last great prog album from this seminal 70's prog act. Where singer and songwriter Dave Cousins took us all on an introspective journey with the band's previously released prog classic Hero And Heroine, Cousins returns to more topical subjects before giving us one last glimpse into his psyche. And what could be more introspective than a nightmare about a visitation from a weathered angel with "eye's a bloody red"? It's the magnificent music conjured up by the exact same musicians that gave us the Strawbs' last classic (a rare occurrence for this band) that gives us the searing impressions of Hell that Mr. Cousins' implores us never to see. Yes, the three part "Ghosts", apart from being so incredibly melodic and atmospheric, just moves the prog song goalposts a little farther and is one of the few title tracks that's actually worthy of the honor.

To back track a bit, Hero And Heroine was recorded by a very different line up from the group's successful UK hit album Bursting At The Seams, and was all the stronger for it. By strange Strawb's fortune, this line up remained intact long enough to record "Ghosts" before uber keyboardist John Hawken went off to reform a variant of his early UK band, Renaissance, which they titled Illusion, after the title of the early Renaissance band's second album.

Hawken tones down his space age synth sounds on Ghosts and stays with more orchestral sounds generated from his icy Mellotron, organ, pianos and harpsichords. Guitarist Dave Lambert takes on more lead work or counter melodies with with his always deft and atmospheric guitar, and the man can shift from a country hoedown to Who-like bombast while always fitting in perfectly with the music. Bassist Chas Cronk is more melodic this time around while drummer Rod Coombes comes close to sounding like an octopus with his busy fills and inventive rhythms.

But it's Cousins that really sells the album with superb pop rock on "Lemon Pie" and the quirky "Where Do You Go (When You Need A Hole To Crawl Into), the moving ballads "Remembering/ You And I (When We Were Young) and "Grace Darling", the album closer which features both a full choir and magnificent church organ. Sandwiched around these classic songs are more prog fests such as "Starshine/Angel Wine" and the breathtaking two part suite called "The Life Auction", which seems to summon more ghostly specters to visit you on this album.

Producer/engineer Tom Allom also returns from the previous outing to help give Ghosts another dynamic full sounding production, while cleverly dodging any attempts to do a Phil Spector and reduce the sound to a claustrophobic fog. The sound of Ghosts is as clear as a bell while being very much in your face. No small feat either. Another 5 star album that starts off with a bang and goes out with one as well.

SteveG | 5/5 |


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