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Strawbs - Dragonfly CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.14 | 90 ratings

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3 stars The Strawbs didn't seem to have been deterred by A&M's disapproval toward the instrumental excesses of their debut release, even when the label demanded some rework and delayed releasing it in the U.S. at all for several years. The band had been expected to provide the label with a legitimate British folk-rock act in their stable, but instead delivered a sometimes pompous affair with more electric guitar and orchestration than the record company had expected, not to mention missing the amazing Sandy Denny who had split between when the group cut their initial demo tracks and the label's signing.

Dave Cousins and company made up for the disappointment somewhat on 'Dragonfly', delivering a much more acoustic record with plenty of folk-inspired lyrics and instrumentation. But despite this the group was continuing down the road of progressive rock sometimes subtle and at other times rather overt. The most well-known track on the album, the epic-length "The Vision of the Lady in the Lake" complete with a Greek-tragedy twist, demonstrated their potential for delivering mildly symphonic and undeniably British prog rock, while most of the rest of the songs managed to fit rather comfortably in the folk- rock mode. In particular the first half of the album including "The Weary Song", "I Turned my Face to the Wind" and the title track are stellar examples of that distinctive late-sixties marriage of folk-tale inspired lyrics, oddly-tuned acoustic instrumentation and vocals steeped with a timeless tone.

As the album wears on though the sounds start to take on a bit more modern tone, beginning on "Another Day" with its pop sensibilities, light-hearted hand percussion and hippy-like lyrics. "'Til the Sun Comes Shining Through" is an all-acoustic offering dominated by two-part vocal harmonies in a style that was widely admired at the time, although from a progressive music standpoint it was a bit of a step back for the group. To a certain extent the same is true of "Young Again" although the Davy Graham/Roy Harper influences come through with an odd acoustic guitar tuning and intricate playing consisting of an easy blend of picking and strumming. Cousins was certainly familiar with Graham's work, and the young guest guitarist Paul Brett had already made a name for himself playing on Harper's 'Sophisticated Beggar' as well as Arthur Brown's as well as with Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, another band that owed a debt to Harper's unique approach to the instrument.

The other, and more notable, guest was another young up-and-comer, whiz-kid keyboardist Rick Wakeman who would join the band for a time before working his way over to a more lucrative career with Yes. Other than on "The Vision of the Lady in the Lake" his presence isn't strongly felt here, but knowing in retrospect his hands-on attitude toward studio work there's little doubt he was active in setting out this and probably other arrangements on the album.

This is one of the more well-known Strawbs albums, but in my opinion they hadn't quite hit their stride by 1970. That would come over the next couple of years, but in the meantime you could do a lot worse in looking for a well-produced, expertly played collection of folk- rock tunes with hints of progressive influence. Check 'Dragonfly' out if you are even remotely interested in the Strawbs or prog folk in general, then work your way from there to the rest of their early seventies material. I think you'll enjoy the trip. Three stars and trending upwards for the band.

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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