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Strawbs - From The Witchwood CD (album) cover

FROM THE WITCHWOOD

Strawbs

 

Prog Folk

4.01 | 165 ratings

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seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator
RPI
5 stars While I realise that song-by-song album reviews aren't everybody's cup of Rosie Lea, all the songs on From The Witchwood (1971) deserve at least a mention. It's a particularly fine album that tends to get overlooked in favour of succeeding works such as Grave New World, which is seen by many as the archetypal Strawbs folk-prog album. It could even be argued that From The Witchwood is best known not for its wonderful collection of rural- themed songs, but for being the last Strawbs recording with Rick Wakeman in the band's line-up. For me, it's the best folk-based album by Strawbs.

The combination of, in particular, Dave Cousins' compositions and Wakeman's keyboards is what makes this album special. Wakeman employs an arsenal of eight different keyboards that contrasts dramatically with the more traditional instruments of the other musicians. This contrast is exemplified on the opening track GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN. No words of mine can do justice to this song, but the juxtaposition of phased organ and lightning-fast banjo is a masterstroke. Banjo, along with dulcimer, also features on the sedately paced WITCHWOOD. This is a typical Cousins' folkloric narrative of a man bewitched while walking in the woods. THIRTY DAYS, penned by bass player John Ford, is basically an upbeat sitar-led pop tune with strong shades of The Beatles' Norwegian Wood. Drummer Richard Hudson plays the sitar and the instrument features strongly on his composition from the second half of the album, CANON DALE. This is a quasi-religious song that also has something of a Beatles flavour, this time sounding a bit like Within You Without You. Hudson also wrote FLIGHT, which perhaps sees the band taking some tentative symphonic steps.

The remainder of the tracks are all Cousins' compositions, and the album really hangs on his two songs that straddle the album's midriff. THE HANGMAN AND THE PAPIST, a polemic on the so-called 'troubles' in Northern Ireland, and the grisly SHEEP, with its frenzied psychedelic organ runs, together practically define prog-folk. The three tracks that conclude the album are lighter in mood, although THE SHEPHERD'S SONG is possibly the most progressive piece here. Based around one of Cousins' erotic ballads, it incorporates an Hispanic influence and features stirring Mellotron and Moog. During the fade, Wakeman's piano playing mimics the militaristic drumming to good effect. IN AMONGST THE ROSES is a melancholy duet between Cousins and Tony Hooper, while I'LL CARRY ON BESIDE YOU provides a rousing finish and even contains a rare electric guitar solo. Great stuff, and it puts me in the mood to join Bob in having a wee swallie ;-)

seventhsojourn | 5/5 |

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