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Strawbs - Grave New World CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.16 | 356 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!!

Yet another concept album (if memory serves me well: the hope for a better world ensuing the conquest of America), from the previously mainly folk-influenced Strawbs, this is also widely regarded as one of their best, and from their middle period, I must say I quite agree with it being their best - at least their most ambitious and paradoxically I find also their less pretentious, mostly due to the inspired songwriting. Original member Hooper having left by now might just be the strawb (oh well, I just had to try that pun somewhere down the line;-) too far and they will never be the same from this album onwards and just be a shadow of themselves.

Opening mellotrons-laden track, is a sure pleaser with most progheads, but I tend to find it a bit too repetitive and even slightly over-staying its welcome but this is a relatively minor flaw. A short acoustic solo acoustic track ensues and comes in one of the most noteworthy and experimental track, Queen Of Dreams with its reverse recorded beats and sitar playing and even hinting at early Popol Vuh or Tangerine Dream in its middle part. Unfortunately a bit too disjointed, this ambitious track is clearly the highlight of the first vinyl side. Another short acoustic guitar solo track (Ford-written) accompanied by baroque-sounding horn section leads into the mellotrons over-loaded New World (still fairly close to orgasmic-sounding, though ;-) before exiting with a reprise of the earlier acoustic theme.

A capela and harmonium staring Flower is a rather charming start (even reminding you of their earlier period) and the scorching Tomorrow shows these guys can also be a powerhouse while remaining melodious. This is The Strawbs at their best outside their debut. However after the short acoustic theme-linking tunes comes a rather out-of-place cabaret sing along track that ruins the album's continuity. The returning sitar of is It Today Lord? is unfortunately less welcome than on the first side, it is also a bit too out of context. And the Journey's End closes the album is an out-of-breath fashion.

Clearly an album that exemplifies Strawbs perfectly, with great tracks and ideas but simply too few of them per albums to have them qualify as one of the higher league groups. Starting out from the gates at 100 MPH, they simply had run out of steam by the fourth quarter of the album. Still, this album is not far from one of the best examples of what they could do best, but the album stands as one of their last one to be really folk-influenced. And certainly their last good one. The bonus tracks included (here It Comes and I'm Going Home) on the Cd releases are from a non-album single of the times, but do not bring anything more to the album and even ruin a bit the ambiance, IMHO!

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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