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Strawbs - Grave New World CD (album) cover



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Sean Trane
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!

Report this review (#19658)
Posted Monday, March 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars this album is amazing . absolutely no week songs are on this disc.also the original triple gatefold cover & lyric book are a treasure.the lyrics of the title track are almost a prophecy of september11.
Report this review (#19659)
Posted Monday, March 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Bless the Strawbs

Dave Cousins efforts to move the band from folk rock into more progressive areas took another step forward here. The luxurious packaging of the original LP suggested even before hearing it, that this was going to be a confident album.

Blue Weaver, Rick Wakeman's replacement on keyboards, stamps his own mark throughout the album. He provides structured layers of sound for the band to build on, rather than the more independent sound of his predecessor. The opening track, "Benedictus" has the hymnal feel of "A Glimpse of heaven" from the previous album, but the mood soon changes with "Queen of Dreams" which comes close to acid rock. The title track "New World" was probably the Strawbs most powerful track they ever made. As Dave Cousins sang "May you rot in your grave, new world" his teeth must have ached from being so tightly clenched!

"The flower and the young man" lightens the mood again, with the folk influence more to the fore. "Tomorrow" came as something of a surprise, as it had a much more progressive structure complete with a long instrumental closing section. Thereafter there are a few brief but pleasant throwaway tracks toward the end of the album.

This was the last Strawbs album (for the time being) to feature Tony Hooper, who was apparently upset by the direction the band was moving in, his folk roots being less and less in evidence with each new album. For most of the fans though, it represented another major step forward for the Strawbs.

Footnote - In an interview around the time of the Wakeman/Cousins album "Hummingbird", Cousins revealed that "Benedictus" was written about Rick Wakeman and his departure from the Strawbs bound for Yes. The opening lines "The wanderer has far to go Humble must he constant be Where the paths of wisdom lead Distant is the shadow of the setting sun" reflected Rick's new venture. Cousins had never even told Rick of this!

Report this review (#19660)
Posted Tuesday, March 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I enter this review with my fellow reviewers seem to rave about this record. I have had quite a seance with Strawbs in my early they´re back to haunt me and that with:"Grave new world". And it is a Masterpiece!!! Masterpiece?? OHHH YES !!! Mr. Cousins are extremely sound as a composer in this world of prog music!!! Strawbs have never sounded better than this!! Actually this is kind of Strawbs´s Sargent Pepper......whats that? You dont believe me? Then go get this GEM!!From the exremely beautiful cover to the music... This is a M U S T H A V E cd!! Wonderful songs brimming with lyrically exuberance.......prog/folk the Cousins way!! If you ever needed a Strawbs album...this is the one!! GUYS (and gals) STRAWBS are a wonderful choice on the prog/folk line!! Four stars !! Well why the H... not!? Strawberrys anyone??
Report this review (#19661)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars a brilliant album that surely strikes of genius. if your a 70's rock fan verging on folk then this is one you may have missed 'heavy disguise' and 'queen of dreams' stand out but the other tracks have strong merits in the vocal arrangements and the clever use of instruments. alzo
Report this review (#19662)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Grave New World has to be Strawbs at their very finest. Between 1970 and 1976 they had quite a few essential albums but this one definitely earns the prize as being their best ever. The album starts with probably their most popular song (excluding commercial success with ' Lay Down')- ' Benedictus. If youv'e ever been to a concert and heard fans sing ' Siberian Khatru' by Yes verbatim and seen similar with Strawb's ' Bendictus' you'll understand why! One of their most spiritual songs I guess. Grave New World is a journey of a man's life from birth to death and the hardships inbetween. The title track has to be one of the most vitriolic, angry, hateful,sad,loving songs I have ever heard. If it sounds confusing give it a listen and you will know what I mean.Carried naturally by Cousin's hard hitting lyrics as well.The end piece is the ' Journey's End' and well ,now that you know the storyline it is easy to understand the metaphor of the song...death, but sung in the most humble of ways. Grave New world enriches your soul.Stop by and listen or revisit if necessary if your journey passed Grave New World by the first time.
Report this review (#19664)
Posted Thursday, September 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I read listeners who write that the departure of Wakeman from the Strawbs turned them into a regular rock band, I feel and immediate need to reply. To my humble opinion, Blue weaver is "the" progression the band needed for to step forward into the arena of the dinosaurs. Wakeman was a great virtuoso, especially on the Grand piano and on the Hammond organ. The mellotron, when used by him, sounded like it sounds in most of the early-Prog bands: a wall of sounds. Weaver tuned the mellotron into an integral part of the musical texture, as he used it's various sounds. Hearing "The Young man and the flower" with the Chorus sound-like mellotron and the Harmonized vocals of the rest four members, makes you feel like hiding from a snow storm inside a Gothic Church. Listening to the hymn "New World" were Weaver Blow his Horn-sound mellotron, together with John Ford's phenomenal Bass work, make you feel like being there - in the middle of a northern Ireland street fight in 1972, watching the blood in the dust - exactly were the cities heart beats.

Last summer, I Caught that very incarnation of the band (excluding Hooper and Including Lambert and Willoughby) in a gig in London. The Show started with the electric Dulcimer of Cousins, introducing the long-live opener Benedictus. It sound's like I was there 32 Years ago, when this masterpiece was released.

Report this review (#19665)
Posted Friday, December 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
5 stars This was the very first album I ever bought and I still love it 35 years on. They had a hard act to follow in From the Witchwood, made much harder by the departure of Rick Wakeman to Yes. However, Blue Weaver steps in with a radically different but superbly effective contribution, especially with his mellotron work, and the album succeeds beyond all reasonable expectations. The tracks vary considerably in style from acoustic to much heavier electric tracks, a far cry from their roots in bluegrass folk, and they utilise silver bands and sitar to broaden the sound. It broadly follows a life from birth to death and could even be classed as a concept album. Benedictus is simply a beautiful, almost hymn- like song which was a much played single, New World is angry and vitriolic and the Flower and the Young Man a gentle song about the folly of youth. Heavy Disguise and Tomorrow show the more progressive style of the band well. The last three tracks vary in style considerably but provide a perfect ending to the journey. All four vocalists are first class, the musicianship is top notch and there are no weak tracks. Add to this a cover for the LP that has artwork to die for and is probably the most lavish ever made (except perhaps Horslips' Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part!) and you have an album for which less than 5 stars would be an insult. My only regret is that it's so short - 36 minutes is nothing nowadays - but it's a triumph of quality over quantity. Buy it, but try to get it on vinyl for the cover alone!
Report this review (#19666)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The first Strawbs' album for me. I feel it's extremely modern. The magnum opus here is represented by New World which is simply superb! Also Tomorrow and Benedictus are music for my soul! And what could I say for Queen Of Dreams and The Flower And The Young Man? A masterpiece of progressive sound!
Report this review (#40161)
Posted Sunday, July 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have just purchased the CD of this album having not heard it for at least 25 years and the first listen in a quarter of a century confirmed what I already knew but had forgotten over the years, namely that this is a masterpiece of progressive folk/rock. From the exquisite, hymn-like opening track, Benedictus, this album just gets better and better. With a birth to death theme running through the album, the songs concern themselves with the journey through life of an individual and vary enormously in style while retaining the same feel throughout. The possible exception to this being the track Tomorrow, which to my mind, always slightly disturbs the mood, being far heavier than anything else on the album. There is not really a bad track on the album however, as the storming start of Benedictus is followed by the short, acoustic Hey Little Man - Thursday's Child, we then move to my personal favourite on the album, Queen of Dreams. This is absolutely marvellous, atmospheric stuff, with backward tapes being used to great effect and a psychedelic section in the middle before returning to the original refrain. I could go on all day about this album and how great it is but suffice it to say that the other standout tracks are Heavy Disguise, New World, The Flower and the Young Man. The range of instrumentation is also impressive and there is even an appearance of the sitar in the eastern tinged Is it Today Lord. I have to endorse the earlier reviewer's opinion that this is Prog. folk/rock's Sergeant Pepper, it really is that good, if not better!
Report this review (#42211)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars how is this masterpiece of folk rock gets stuck in the 365th place in the list (and while wer'e at it, why the hell isnt gryphon in the top 50 with "red queen to gryphon three"? )? such a beautiful and unique album with great harmonies and superb playing? sure, not all the songs are as greay as the opening track "benedictus" or the amazing head banegr "tomorrow".a great concept telling the story of man from birth to death. dave cousins is a great guitar player and everyone in the band are doing their job perfectly. the singing is not the best but its certainly isnt bad. great melodies, great lyrics and one of the best folk/soft prog albums.
Report this review (#47039)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I agree with Ronen completely. This is one of the finest albums of all time and should be top 20 material. There is an astonishing variety of styles but the theme which runs through it all is the life of a man from beginning (Benedictus) to end (Journey's End). Blue Weaver takes over from Wakeman and stamps his mark on proceedings with some exquisite organ and mellotron work and the other four sing brilliantly and play a dazzling array of instruments including dulcimer and sitar. The are not afraid to use orchestrations and even a silver band! Highlights are Benedictus, New World and The Flower and the Young Man, but it's all good stuff. Magic!
Report this review (#52438)
Posted Thursday, October 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The fifth work released in 1972 "Grave New World". There are completely new sounds in "New World" and "Tomorrow". Music is an exactly progressive rock. It is indeed fresh. The performance of the keyboard of Blue Weaver without inferiority with the predecessor is also wonderful. This work is a work worth listening very much. It is a masterpiece that STRAWBS invented.
Report this review (#60458)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the William Blake album cover on down, this is classic 70ies stuff, featuring strong songwriting and real heart in the playing.

The Strawbs were cautiously dipping their feet into prog-rock territory by this time, their earlier albums being mostly folk and folk-rock oriented.

"Benedictus", which starts off the set, is a tightly constructed pop-song with a delightful organ break in the middle. The chorus goes like this: "bless the soldier, bless the slave, bless the hero in his grave.." and so on...very hymn-like and very unusual rhythmically. Next, "Queen of dreams" is the most psychedelic sounding tune here. True to form the group changes style through all the songs, from gentle guitar strumming folk, via music-hall novelty songs, protest songs, to pounding rock on "Tomorrow".

The Strawbs are still going in 2005, still performing these songs on the road. Which is a monument both to longevity and the fact that these guys are REAL musicians, exceptionally talented, loving what they do.

Grave New World is one of their top 3 albums, the others being "Hero and Heroine" and "Ghosts".

Report this review (#62990)
Posted Tuesday, January 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Utterly wonderful and totally essential the Strawbs hit top form in both composition and musical skill on the LP. This is also the first strawbs LP that is more progressive than folk. Benedictus (4:24) starts side one and what a blessing this track is, great tune and a nice sentiment powerfully delivered. Hey Little Man ... Thursday's Child is a short and sweet reminder of this bands folk heritage. Queen Of Dreams , is a corking tune with an experimental middle section that reminds me of VDGG .Heavy Disguise (2:50) this is the first track on the LP without Pete cousins gravel vocals, and features John Ford, a great tune and an even better lyric and boy this band had plenty of gifted vocalists. New World (4:08) is the show stopper on side one, very powerful with soaring melletron and one of the best vocal deliveries in the history of Rock, this song has real bitterness and venom. Hey Little Man ... Wednesday's Child calms things down and prepares the listener for the 2nd side.The Flower And The Young Man is a pretty melody and again has a great vocal, the harmonizing at the start sets the course for the whole number.Tomorrow ,continues this slightly more folky side, On Growing Older, is a cautionary tale about wasting ones youth with a reaffirmation of life's wonder. Ah Me, Ah My Hoopper takes the vocal for this the weakest track on the lp 20's Wimsey. Is It Today Lord , sitars and mystical musings great track.The Journey's End is a simple and uncluttered end to this album. Of the bonus cuts I'm Going Home , only is worthwhile and neither really fit into the overall sound. On reflection side 1 is slightly better than side 2. With so much talent in one band problems were always likely and by the time this LP hit the shelves Hooper (a founder member ) had split. The strawbs never managed such a consistent and compelling LP before or after but that's not to say they did not produce many other fine works. However Grave new world is head and shoulders their strongest set. The LP is worth seeking out for it threefold cover and lyric book, the art on these is also a highpoint in cover design. Essential in my opinion worthy of 4.90 so I'll give it a five.

Report this review (#92030)
Posted Tuesday, September 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is the story of one man's life, from the cradle to the grave.This would be the first record that the STRAWBS recorded after Rick Wakeman had left the band for YES. The new keyboardist Mick Weaver, would incorporate a lot of mellotron into this record, yes !

The first song "Benedictus" is my favourite on this record. What a great sounding song with organ, piano and mellotron and the amazing vocals of Dave Cousins. I really like the line "bless Lord those who cause us pain". I guess that is like praying for your enemies. "Hey Little Man...Thursday's Child" is a vocal and acoustic guitar tune about a father giving advise to his young son. "Queen Of Dreams" sounds like a George Harrison song, it sounds fantastic. "Heavy Disguise" is another great tune with a guitar intro and a brass section sounding BEATLES-like.

"New World" is an emotional, powerful song with 12 string acoustic guitar and mellotron about war in Ireland. "Hey Little Man...Wednesday's Child" is the same as song 2, just a different day. "The Flower And The Young Man" is another great song about running through the changes of seasons, beautiful vocals as usual, with organ and mellotron. "Tomorrow" is an angry aggressive tune that Dave wrote about Rick Wakeman when he left the band. There are some very good drums and guitar in this one. "On Growing Older" features jingly- jangling guitars like The BYRDS. "Ah Me, Ah My" is funny. "Is It Today Lord" is a mystical song with sitar, tablas, autoharp and Indian harmonium. "The Journey's End" is fantastic, with vocals and piano. The two bonus tracks were recorded about the same time as this record and are both worthy additions. "Here it Comes" was actually released as a single and "I'm Going Home" was never released.

Very worthy of 4 stars.

Report this review (#99152)
Posted Thursday, November 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It had been just during the promotion tour of their FTW album when Rick Wakeman decided to leave the band for joining Yes (which was understable considering his big talents) actually without saying any word of farewell to them (which hadn't been that nice though). As if the remaining band members wanted to supply evidence that they can do very well without (not yet by then) keyboard wizard Rick they created their most abitious (and arguably best) effort, the album here in review "Grave New World". It's a concept work reflecting the story of one man's life, from the cradle to the grave. The title is most obviously a hint to Aldous Huxley's famous novel and the fantastic cover art depicts William Blake's "Glad Day" painting. As Dave Cousins points out in the leaflet notes, Tony Visconti who had produced their live album was beginning to have an increasing influence on the band during onset of this record. Let me cite here his own words: "He was into martial arts, and encouraged me to read 'The Tibetan Book Of The Dead'. I even managed 'The Egyptian Book Of The Dead' - hence the quotes on the sleeve!" He also says there, that people were beginning to write the band off after Wakeman's demise but I think this album here had been the best prove that the Strawbs were still a great band.

The opening track "Benedictus" being written when Wakeman left the band sets the tone for the whole album with its devotional and contemplative sound. Derek "Blue" Weaver took over the empty keyboard stool and he did an excellent job here I've to say. Cousins tells a mysterious story in the leaflet notes about how he came upon the words for the lyrics. He played the solo on his electric dulcimer with a steel through a fuzz box, and there are also two guest vocalists, Trevor Lucas and Anne Collins added here. After the short acoustic interlude "Hey Little Man" which supposed to tell the story about an older man giving advice to his young son, who probably didn't listen we have "Queen Of Dreams" which is the most experimental song they've ever done I'm quite sure. They used a play back in reverse of a recording of the guitar and first verse of the song for this track which provides a quite interesting psychedelic touch. Then there is "Heavy Disguise" written by John Ford and as well performed by him with a brass section played by the Robert Kirby Silver Band giving this track a nice special note. The rather bombastic but brilliant mellotron-laden "New World" is the next one and Dave Cousins tells about its creation that it had been written after he had seen a tv report about young kids in Belfast being asked to paint pictures in their art lessons, and many of them had painted soldiers lying dead in the gutter; what else to tell about such type of inspiration? After the nice acoustic folk song "The Flower." comes the next big highlight on here with "Tomorrow" with a really great symphonic sound. Next two tracks are early songs from them of which the first one "On Growing Older" still fits quite well though sounding rather Byrds-alike (one of Cousins' big favs) whereas the pastiche to a very old English song "Ah Me, Ah My" sounds to me quite awkward and inappropriate. But the latter one is really the only redundant song of this album since the Eastern inspired "Is It Today,Lord?" with Richard Hudson on sitar and as well the final "The Journey's End" are very good tracks. The two added bonus songs on the CD reissue are admittedly weak commercial ones and rather destructive for the overall atmosphere of this excellent album.

To sum up my review this had been the best work by this band in my view, at least in terms of Prog though unfortunately their last outstanding record before they turned into more a kind of AOR band. This one together with FTW I'd consider the only albums by them to be an excellent addition to any prog collection (****1/2 really)!!

Report this review (#101653)
Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Strawbs was a giant band in Prog Folk genre. They had become "a rival" with Jethro Tull as the best band in Prog Folk since late '60. With Dave Cousins as the leader, they had reached a success and for the information, the legendary Rick Wakeman (known as ex-Yes keyboardist, have succeeded in solo career and the most important thing, one of a few Prog artist who have a great personality as he willingly came to my country, Indonesia) had ever joined this band.

Automatically, they had produced some great albums, especially this one, "Grave New World". I was lucky to get it in Tokyo, the heaven of Prog Music. Just imagine, I just had about two hours to visit Harajuku (you know, at the moment I ran with my father and enter the music store just before they wanted to closed)!!! And my sacrifice was paid enough with their brilliant album.

"Grave New World" was released in 1973, the same year when Jethro Tull released their conceptual album, "A Passion Play". All the songs in this album is good enough. For example, the first song, "Benedictus", was a combination between acoustic guitar, mellotron, and autoharp (it's really a rival for Jethro Tull!!!).

For me, this album is a bit better than Jethro Tull's "A Passion Play". Why? Because you can find a dynamic Folk music in this album. For you, I just advised you to follow your instinct to buy this album. And finally, for Jethro Tull's fans around the world, I'm sorry to say that "Grave New World" was better than "A Passion Play".

Fernandi Gunawan

Report this review (#103892)
Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is very much a concept album so you are expected to live with the ebb and the flow of the songs as part of the"message". As a result to modern ears it can come across as somewhat quirky and erratic. Clearly there are a multitude of influences at work from the folk and singer songwriter performers of the time to mellotron driven bands such as early King Crimson and Moodies and indeed Gabriel era Genesis. As a result it is not a harmonious a listen as contemporary but more musically focussed albums such as Genesis's Nursery Cryme .

However some great songs particularly in the first two thirds of the album push it into the 4 star category. In my opinion its not quite a masterpiece because of some lesser filler tracks and it does kind of tail off towards the end. Very fine work though overall from a great band who I had the privilege to see live with a returning Hudson and Ford a few years ago.

Report this review (#107694)
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars A great album, one of Strawbs best. After Rick Wakeman left the band was lucky enough to find Blue Weaver, who does a great job on keyboards here, very symphonic , you won´t miss their former bandmate at all! The songwriting is superb, Cousins was very inspired, although I still think that his peak would be in Ghosts. Nevertheless, Grave New World shows the band reaching a new level.

Benedictus and the title track are classics, but the album as a whole works wonders, quite varied and inspired. the production is also better then on previous Strawbs albums. Curiously, founder member Tony Hooper looks the odd man out here. The band sound has become more and more progressive and elaborated, clearly they needed a better guitar player. The other band members were skilled enough to tackle in the new direction, but it seems that Hooper was not (or maybe he simply did not want to go that way). Cousins does some decent electric guitar solos here and there but Hooper, ever the folkish man, is clearly out of place with the new sound. No wonder he left soon after GNW was released.

Anyway, a highly recommended work.

Report this review (#125186)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The beginning of their greatest set of records. "Grave New World" sheds Wakeman who joins Yes and gains an underappreciated player by the name of Blue Weaver. The album opens up with a winner, "Benedictus" is classic Strawbs, wonderfully sung, fantastic lyrics and as catchy and gorgeous a melody you can possibly find. The Strawbs seem to open every one of their albums with a stunner and for me this is up there with "Autumn" from 'Hero and Heroine'. There are a few folky acoustics tunes that are typical for this band and a few songs from the Hudson/Ford combo which tend to stick out like sore thumbs. Yet, "New World" and "Queen of Dreams" kick in with awesome Mellotron runs by Weaver and pretty much are the prog highlights. I would say this album compares favoribly with the following three and is as strong. They still have that folky sound, yet you can hear them beginning to stretch out musically into a more rocking territory tinged with some symphonic prog thrown in. If not for a few dogs, this would have been their best ever. 4 stars easily!
Report this review (#127636)
Posted Thursday, July 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album has some fabulous moments, some average moments, and some that are completely forgettable. Because of this inconsistency, I really can't see this album as a masterpiece. The longer songs (and by long, I mean over 4 minutes), should be enjoyable to most proggers, but the shorter songs mostly likely will only appeal to those who really appreciate prog folk. Thus, I'll give this 4 stars for its contribution to the genre, but I won't highly recommend it.

The highlights. Benedictus kicks things off, and it's really a great tune: pleasant melody, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and nice vocal harmonies. Queen of Dreams has a very spacey feel to it, with a psychadelic bit in the middle, and is pretty decent. An energetic guitar/vocal duo marks Heavy Disguise, and the lyrics are also quite good. Then we have the absolute highlight: New World. Raw and emotional, this tune is an auditory microcosm of the slighted/anger/forgiveness process. Absolutely inspired stuff, with tons of mellotron to boost the effect. There are a couple additional noteworthy tunes: The Flower & the Young Man (shows The Strawbs' symphonic side as well as their excellent vocal harmonies) and Tomorrow (the hardest rocking tune on the album, and a formidable one, at that).

The lowlights? Well, there's only one blunder, and that's the Leave-it-to-Beaver-esque Ah Me, Ah My. The rest is (in my opinion), boring, simple, and uninspiring folk. The longer songs could have been linked better, which could have been done by the shorter songs, but that isn't accomplished, and the shorter songs don't stand by themselves very well.

If you don't mind an inconsistent album, go for Grave New World. You'll find enough to justify your money, but just know that there is also a great deal of average material as well.

Report this review (#138510)
Posted Saturday, September 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars 10/10 Masterpiece

This was the first album I heard by Strawbs, and it set the stage for a musical journey that I will never forget, and continue to experience. "Grave new World" I believe is the band's greatest masterpiece, along with some other incredible albums, and is just a beautiful, epic exploration into progressive rock. Upon first listen I knew I had a gem on my hands, and a great band at that. The music on here is very melodic and beautiful, aggressive at times and strange at very few times, but overall a magnificant sound that any melodic, harmony loving person can enjoy. I cannot really pick favorites on here because the entire album is a sort of journey, ofcourse some highlights include the beginning and ending tracks as well as other incredibles as "Queen of Dreams" and "The Flower and the Young Man". These songs are just pure beauty and anyone interested here should just check this album out to hear these tracks.

This album set me off and I ended up purchasing every Strawbs album I could find, ended up seeing the band twice so far, met them at both shows and got some merchandise signed for my extreme fandom satisfaction! I love this band, the various line-ups include some of the most brilliant, nice and just plain awesome people. Highly recommended to folk/symphonic prog lovers. There is so much to say for this band I cannot help but be short and quick or else this would take years to write, but in the end I just adore the sound this band created, the vocals of Dave Cousins & Tony Hooper (who sadly left after this album, and is one of my favorite early Strawbs members), and just the overall style and sounds this band went through, all at it's true prime I feel on this album. Get ready, for a Grave New World...

Report this review (#148242)
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Fools must pretend to be wise, We've a faith that we use as a heavy disguise"

A classic of the folk-rock circles, Strawbs "Grave New World" is an album that has taken some effort for me to appreciate. The first few times I heard it I couldn't imagine what the big deal was about this album, slowly but surely I have come to appreciate it more. Although I still can't say I consider this essential it is fine piece of 70s folk rock that will please many fans of the genre.

"Benedictus" is an incredibly melodic sing-along kind of track, the kind of song that could have been on "The Big Chill" soundtrack, the kind of song that must provide an instant nostalgic flashback for those who took it to heart as a young person in the early 70s." "Hey Little Man" is an acoustic flash over before it begins, but the style was almost Cat Stevens' early albums. "Queen of Dreams" is an average folk-rock track with some trippy effects and a nice guitar solo. At 5 ½ minutes this is the longest song on the album and frankly it has trouble justifying even that length. When I first heard "Heavy Disguise" I thought for sure I must be listening to George Harrison doing a guest spot. Jeezus this sounds just like something from All Things Must Pass. The horns give it an even more eerie Beatle feeling. The lyrics are really pretty good on this one addressing the folks holding power over the masses. "New World" is very heavy with dramatic vocals, lyrics, and great bass lines, mellotron, and percussion. Then we have another interlude of the "Hey Little Man" acoustic thought. "The Flower and the Young Man" is another one that I liked with its great harmonies and fluid bass, it has a wistful longing mood. "Tomorrow" is the hardest rocking track with some crunchy electric chords and a heavy rhythm. Nice guitar and drum fireworks in the latter half of the song add some excitement. "On Growing Older" is another Cat Stevens type song with wild-eyed folkie whimsy, very cool but again short. "Ah Me, Ah My" is a cute little humorous lament about how the past always looks better than today does, a sentiment I share too often. "Is it Today, Lord?" has an eastern feel with the sitar and tablas as the lyrics talk about the end of life and the vocals have a distorted sound that I'm guessing is meant to convey death. The album concludes with the delightful piano of Blue Weaver on "The Journey's End." The old man no longer needs a friend. All is done.

The A&M remaster includes a nice bio but shame on them, no lyrics. They do tack on a couple of pointless bonus tracks which actually detract from the heavy experience of the original intended album. "Grave New World" is certainly a pleasant listen that is as good as many other singer/songwriter style folk-rock albums of its day, though at the same time not necessarily any more impressive than a Harrison, Stevens, or Drake album would be. Its strength lies in its conceptual themes of aging and its strong sense of melody and sincerity. 3 ½ stars

Report this review (#149062)
Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Tomorrow

Strawbs' previous From The Witchwood had constituted a major leap forward from the band's humble Folk beginnings. Grave New World, though a fine Prog-related Folk Rock album in its own right, find them treading water a bit. Don't get me wrong, there is lots for the Prog Folk fan to enjoy here, and the band had certainly already come a long way since their beginnings in pure Folk, but what I'm saying is that some fans of Prog in general might rightly wonder what the fuss is about considering this album. What we have here is a collection of rather short but generally very pleasant tunes, some of which are acoustic and some of which are electric, but few of which are very progressive. There is an attempt to connect them together to create something greater than the mere sum of its parts, but this attempt is not wholly successful if you ask me.

Some people consider this to be Strawbs finest hour, and even if I agree that it is indeed a very good album, I think that the creative peak of the band was yet to come at this point. At least from a Prog perspective, Hero And Heroine would be Strawbs' real breakthrough and their true masterpiece.

A good album, but not the band's best in this fans' opinion

Report this review (#177011)
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Strawbs are building up the foundations started in their previous release From The Witchwood.

Rick is now gone to perform his Yes duties, but the man in charge (Blue Weaver) delivers some very pleasant organ and mellotron lines as well. This is particularly true in the opening Benedictus. It is only a pity that vocals are here somewhat religious oriented (but it is not the first time in Strawbs career).

The band has not forgotten the psychedelic flavour and includes a very performing Queen Of Dreams which combines heavy keys, some short experimental passage and a delectable psyche sound which was more typical in the late mid sixties than at the time of this recording but it is always pleasant (at least for me) to listen to this type of songs.

The sound of this album while recorded in 72, remains surprisingly very modern and fresh (but this is maybe due to the remastering work). New World for instance offers great mellotron (yes, I'm a tron maniac) and an impeccable melody. A great feeling perspires out of this excellent song which is a highlight IMO.

There are some Beatles oriented vocal parts as well, like during The Flower And The Young Man which almost starts as Nowhere Man but evolves into a brilliant symphonic piece of music: mostly thanks to some great keyboarding.

One of the most heavy Strawbs number is definitely Tomorrow. The organ play is close to what's is featured more conventionally on some Purple, Heep or Rooster songs. But I really it: solid band and convincing vocals are such a perfect combination! It is a highlight.

There are some flaws as well which consist of the short and transitional songs Hey Little Man, On Growing Older, Ah Me, Ah My) and a couple of weak songs featured towards the end of the album like Is It Today, Lord.

The bonus tracks aren't memorable either and all this ends up on a three star rating for this good album.

Report this review (#184688)
Posted Saturday, October 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
5 stars While "From the Witchwood" proffered a tasty platter of tunes juxtaposed and arranged with care, "Grave New World" really proposes an unbroken song sequence, in which no part can be omitted without devaluing the overall work. Comparisons to "Days of Future Passed" are valid, but in the Moodys' effort a tug of war between the band and the orchestra presented a distraction of sorts. Not only does every track, short or long, play an important role, but a few of them, especially the shorter ones, would be rudderless if plunked down into another collection.

The album begins with arguably the best thing Strawbs ever did, the generally non-denominational hymn "Benedictus". That the track is glorious in every sense is clear and remarkable in its own right, its electric and acoustic dulcimers and twelve string guitars backing Dave Cousins' reverent voice along with several sweet sounding guest vocalists. But the real miracle is that Blue Weaver has just stepped into Rick Wakeman's shoes and is being asked to play the organ and mellotron like his life depends on it, which he does. While Cousins wrote this when in anger at Wakeman for leaving the group, I daresay the song has wider applicability, and it helped propel the group onward and upward.

From here the album moves from strength to strength, whether it is the psychedelia of "Queen of Dreams", the political humor of the Tull-like "Heavy Disguise", the dramatic epiphany of the title cut, the gorgeous symphonic ballad "Flower and the Young Man", or the angry prog of "Tomorrow". In between, brief interludes like "On Growing Older" and the levity of "Ah Me Ah My" portray the human life as one of contrasts between the intense and the fluffy, with a healthy dollop of nostalgia (after all its Strawbs we're talking about). In the closer, "Journey's End", Cousins utilizes the same vocal tone as in "Benedictus", and Blue weaves a simple yet ornate melody on piano that fades out.

The bonus tracks are happily tacked on at the end so do not interfere with the core of the disk, but neither shows Strawbs in the best light. The better of the two is the poppy "Here it Comes", but a similar approach is carried out much more effectively a few years later on "Ghosts". The hard rock "Going Home" shows a side of the group that rarely works, but, when it does, it's usually Dave Lambert that instigates, and he was not yet in the group. These bonuses do help explain why Tony Hooper chose to take his leave after "Grave New World", as the group was clearly heading in a more commercial and harder rock direction, and some of their best material was still to come. But for prog folk fans who want a bit more folk, this is the place to begin serious exploration of the world of Strawbs.

Report this review (#200517)
Posted Saturday, January 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The From the Witchwood album gave me an appetite for Strawbs. That album made my heartstrings sing like never before. So I flashed my credit card in the direction of this album.

The opening track Benedictus is one of this band's best ever tracks. Dynamic and melodic at the same time. Excellent stuff ! The next track is best forgotten. The third track Queen Of Dreams is very much down the BEATLES post Revolver alley. In my views, THE BEATLES is a strong influence on the music of Strawbs. Coincidental or by purpose, but it is there. And that is a compliment, btw.

Heavy Disguise is another track with the same leanings. As with the From the Witchwood album, the music on this album is a pastorial mix of pop, folk and prog. Some songs are very catchy and almost upbeat. Others are brooding and very melancholic. The New World is one of these brooding songs. Dark as the devil's paintkit, it is. This is sort of the title track of the album and an excellent song I will remember this album by. The Flower And The Young Man is another melancholic song in the folk rock vein. The organs are superb here and another piece of organs adds a brooding feel to it. The same goes for Tomorrow. Ah Me, Ah My is a folkhall variety song which does not seems right for this album. But it lightens the mood somehow. Is It Today Lord has an GEORGE HARRISON feeling hanging over it with sitars and eastern promises. A good song which makes me miss Mr. Harrison although this is a Strawbs song through and through. The short closing track The Journey's End is almost a lament over the end of the life. Sore and beautiful at the same time.

This album is best described as watching a storm approaching. Brooding, scary, dark.... but at the same time, very beautiful. The colours, the sounds and the smell. Grave New World. The result is another brilliant album from Strawbs and one I will cherish for the rest of my life. It is not as good as From the Witchwood, but it runs it close. I am converted.

4 stars

Report this review (#209435)
Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars As far as I am concerned, this is the "perfect" Strawbs album. 1972 was a good year for prog! And prog-folk as well! This is a concept album that works. Great short soft parts such as "Hey Little Man", and "Ah Me, Ah My" work great alongside such classics as "Benedictus", "Heavy Disguise" which is my personal all-time favorite Strawbs tune, and "New World". There is no single weak part on this Strawbs effort, which I have found to be the case on everything else I have heard by them. Surely this deserves it's many 4 and 5 star ratings! I give it a 5 stars, the only one for me in the Strawbs diverse and long catalog. A few others come close, but this hits it dead on.
Report this review (#277898)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars The followup to From The Witchwood sees Wakeman depart from the band for a bigger career elsewhere, meaning that the Strawbs could only get better from here on!

I hope that you don't assume that I criticize Rick Wakeman's work with the Strawbs, I just don't think that his talent fit all that well with the rest of the band members and whenever that is the case, the best solution is usually to seek other, more compatible, carrier opportunities for both sides of the clash. The weird thing is that most references to the sound of Crosby, Stills and Nash departed with Wakeman, since Grave New World sees the Strawbs adapting the Symphonic Prog sound that began to spread in the music community of the time. Still, I personally consider this music to sound very Folk, for most part, and the first comparison I can think of, off the top of my head, is that to Jethro Tull's Aqualung. Both are loose concept albums featuring shorter 1 & 2 minute acoustic interlude tunes that keep the general flow of the record flowing quite nicely.

Blue Weaver is an excellent replacement for Rick Wakeman since his style is more subtile and tends to underline the other performances better than Wakeman's sharp presence that just can't be ignored whenever he is around. Still, it's not the change of the keyboard player that makes this album stand out compared to the rest of the band's golden years releases. Grave New World marked a time where Dave Cousins had a slight drop in his songwriting abilities and so the rest of the band had to chip in with their contributions which, for most part, actually work rather nicely. Heavy Disguise is a nice little acoustic guitar tune with brass arrangements that fit it quite well, while Richard Hudson's Is It Today, Lord? might be regarded as acquired taste by some for its extencive use of a sitar in what otherwise is a Folk music performance, but I happen to enjoy it.

The only song that I definitely could have done without is Tony Hooper's rather nostalgic sounding Ah Me, Ah My, which comes off more like a mockery, a lá Steve Hackett, to my ears. Other than that, Grave New World is definitely a step up from From The Witchwood but not enough to make it a personal favorite of mine.

***** star songs: New World (4:11)

**** star songs: Benedictus (4:27) Hey Little Man ... Thursday's Child (1:06) Heavy Disguise (2:53) Hey Little Man ... Wednesday's Child (1:08) The Flower And The Young Man (4:18) Tomorrow (4:51) On Growing Older (1:56) Is It Today Lord (3:09) The Journey's End (1:43)

*** star songs: Queen Of Dreams (5:32) Ah Me, Ah My (1:24)

Report this review (#293692)
Posted Saturday, August 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Like I said in my review on "Bursting at Seams", I consider "Grave New World" of STRAWBS, a underestimated pearl of Prog Folk . In my conception it is one of the most emblematic works in the career of this British band. The album already begins with fantastic "Benedictus", a ballad , where once again stands out the "minstre voice" l of Dave Cousins and the soft Blue Weaver's keyboards mainly the Hammond Organ (during most of Track) and Mellotron (in his final passage). The disk possesses great moments practically acoustic among other the track 4 "Heavy Disguise" with a lonely guitar, that it receives the support of a brass secction. But it is in moments in that the acoustic and the eletric are fuse that are the best moments of the disk as in the case of the track 5 "New World" with their initial chords of electric guitar and 12 strings guitar accompanied by the mellotron (that simulates a coral in this initial section of the music) and once again the great vocal interpretation of Cousins. The track 7 "The Flower and The Young Man " on of they stand out the Jonh Ford's bass guitar and the Blue Weaver's keyboards . The track 8 "Tomorrow" is without a doubt the most progressive moment of the disk with a lot of variations, where the whole band has the opportunity to show his great musical capacity, "parading" weight and lyricism with class and style!!! For these countless reasons my rate is 5 stars!!!
Report this review (#299610)
Posted Saturday, September 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Grave New World was quite a revelation when I first heard it when it came out. So much so that I carefully copied the Strawbs logo complete with fruit and painted it on to my bedroom wall - my dad wasn't too chuffed!

This treasure is one of the best by Strawbs. It's full of obscure symbolism and Dave Cousins' unique brand of mysticism - to the point where I'm still not entirely sure what one or two of the songs are actually about - but how much does that matter? You can certainly feel a lot of power throughout and often make up your own visions here as overall it depicts the story of one man's life. The outstanding opening piece - Benedictus - has always been special for me - as well as for other fans. It's just a lovely tune with wonderful lyrics and for me sums up how you live your life.

The rest of the record has many smashing, well-crafted tracks that complement each other: some jolly and sing-along, which bring in some humour, others are thoughtful and reflective, some full of venom and bitterness. I love the "Hey Little Man" songs in which a man talks to his son about having fun together without a care in the world. Very nice touch indeed.

"Queen Of Dreams" is simply magical and another favourite. "New World" is really amazing too. Dave's voice is at its best - very powerful, wide ranging but controlled. The arrangements in the songs are also fantastic. As well as the folk influences, they have the psychedelic flavours that was on both "Witchwood" and their first album; just enough to make things interesting without being overwhelming or obtrusive.

I've always liked how the keyboards fit in on this album. Blue Weaver [great name] replaced Wakeman with some excellent work particularly from the mellotron. "Is It Today Lord?" and "The Journey's End" are very touching pieces that close off the record. If you haven't heard this band's music, then you really should and GNW would be a great place to start. It is a masterpiece. Incidentally, the front cover is a beautiful reproduction of William Blake's Glad Day.

Report this review (#440292)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Simply stunning. It is very, very rare, even among 5 star albums, to find something this consistent. This is only a 35 minute album, but, like many others, its brevity works in its favor, as every single song is strong. This is one of the most "listenable" albums I've ever heard, in the sense that there's not a single moment spent thinking on or waiting for "the better parts," because it's all good. Hopefully that makes sense.

The music here is fairly straightforward; there are no 10 minute solos or grand multi-part albums, but, again, this works in its favor. The songs say what they need to say and nothing more. Regarding the music, this is definitely more folk than straight up prog, but the songs are exceptionally well composed and there's enough here to keep it interesting.

Lyrically, this is a concept album, but, like many concept albums, I don't really know what the concept is. It doesn't matter, the lyrics work well with the music.

Highlights, in my mind, are "Heavy Disguise," a nice horn-accompanied folk song, and "New World," which uses a lot of synths over a simple guitar chords and has easily the best vocal performance on the album; very passionate. As I said though, the whole album is good, and at no point do I ever feel the need to skip a track. Easily a masterpiece and required listening for any fan of progressive folk.


Report this review (#469634)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The departure of Rick Wakeman didn't stop the Strawbs from fully embracing a sort of "symphonic folk" song, but it did shake the band's confidence - especially band leader Dave Cousins, whose feelings of betrayal at the time leak out in the lyrics to Tomorrow on here. Depressed by this turn of events, Cousins turned to the rest of the band members for songwriting support, but the end product is both extremely consistent and, what's more, conceptually cohesive, the album tracing the journey of an everyman protagonist from cradle to grave.

Blue Weaver's keyboard style is less prone to showboating than Wakeman's, but arguably that's what was needed at this juncture - someone to provide keyboard textures whilst the other band members demonstrate their instrumental and vocal chops. The band absolutely needed to prove that there was more to them than Wakeman's technical virtuosity - some sectors of the music press thought that Wakeman leaving would spell the end of the band, which in retrospect seems crazy but considering what a major presence he was on From the Witchwood does kind of make sense. The group step up to the challenge admirably, play their hearts out, and sing beautifully - the harmonies on opening track Benedictus are simply divine.

With a heavier dose of acoustic guitar than most prog bands of the time (aside from Jethro Tull), and a new willingness to get experimental - there's some really *strange* instrumental tracks on Queen of Dreams, Grave New World sees the band perfecting their own model of progressive music which is uniquely theirs. It might not be as complex as their competitors, but it's certainly powerful and emotionally moving - as on the best song on the disc, the harsh and biting New World. This album is the first real Stawbs classic.

Report this review (#488169)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars With 'Grave New World' Strawbs fans really began to see (and hear) the emergence of a musical form Dave Cousins would later label 'baroque & roll', a difficult to describe but very easy to recognize blend of rock and classical arrangements using a combination of electric guitars, acoustic folk instrumentation, classical accompaniment, and plenty of keyboards but not in the overpowering style of heavier rock bands of this era. The vocals are really what separate the Strawbs from more conventional rock bands of the early seventies, while the keyboards and other electric instruments keeps them from being comfortably pigeonholed as folk-rock. And the lyrics, delivered by typically understated folksy British vocalists, tend to mark the band as more of a retro-sounding progressive band in the vein of Genesis circa 'Wind & Wuthering' or Gentle Giant without the jazz leanings.

The lineup changes continued unabated in 1971 with Rick Wakeman departing to join Yes before the Strawbs had even completed their supporting tour for the 1970 release 'From the Witchwood'. He was replaced by Derek "Blue" Weaver who left the short-lived Andy Fairweather-Low project Fair Weather to take up keyboards for the Strawbs. Fotheringay guitarist Trevor Lucas (a residual connection to Sandy Denny who had herself briefly been with the Strawbs in 1967) sang backing vocals on the opening "Benedictus" for some reason, perhaps because he was in the Island stable at the time and parts of the record were recorded at their studios in London. Guitarist Tony Hooper was still with the group but growing disenchanted with their movement away from more acoustic-oriented folk. This album wouldn't do much to assuage that concern and he would depart following its release leaving Cousins as the only original member.

But in the meantime the band was riding rather high on the wave of consecutive UK Top-40 live and studio albums in the prior year and a half, and despite Wakeman's departure managed to land well with Weaver doing a more than decent job filling in on keyboards though certainly not replacing Wakeman's very dominate and gregarious style especially on organ, although Weaver does make an impression with liberally sprinkling of Mellotron on the first half of the album. On the more acoustic second half of the record he all but disappears, delivering just a bit of piano and harmonium and providing the vocals on the closing "The Journey's End" while Cousins tinkles the ivories in his stead. And maybe it's a good thing Weaver managed to reduce emphasis on keyboards considering the volatility of the band's lineup during those years. Losing a strong personality like Wakeman might have been a much more critical blow to the band had he managed to establish himself as a member for a longer period than the year or so that he did stay with them. One can only wonder at what might have become of an assemblage that included the strong songwriting of Cousins, Wakeman's prowess on keyboards and the vocal talents of Sandy Denny. Talk about a band skirting the fringes of mega-stardom!

Still, the Strawbs did enjoy success with the loosely-themed 'Grave New World' which managed to break into the Top-20 in the UK and became their first studio release in the U.S. as well. Cousins does an admirable job of sequencing the record, and one has to wonder if he resorted to the biographical theme as a way to indulge the disparate musical interests of the various band members. Richard Hudson and John Ford continued to contribute original material, although Ford's "Heavy Disguise" is a surprising acoustic piece with nothing more than some brass accompaniment to Ford's strumming and singing provided by future Strawb the late Robert Kirby. Ford has acknowledged the piece was inspired by listening to Jethro Tull and apart from the horns the song does have the sort of timbre that distinguished Tull music during the same period.

Tony Hooper's affection for more traditional folk is also indulged with his own spotlight solo "Ah Me, Ah My" (with choral and orchestral backing), a brief ditty that sounds more Tin Pan Alley than anything else. Otherwise Hooper appears only as a rhythm acoustic guitarist with some backing vocals on the album and a brief bit of autoharp on the eclectic "Is it Today Lord?". Speaking of that song, Richard Hudson once again breaks out the sitar as he did on 'From the Witchwood' which along with his tabla playing, Cousins on recorder and Weaver's harmonium makes for a very Incredible String Band-sounding acoustic number that wouldn't be repeated often on future Strawbs albums.

And Cousins continued to write folk-inspired songs which occupy a big portion of the album, but with the absence of Wakeman he seems to be determined to leverage the wide range of instrumental prowess of his band lineup to fill in the gaps. Besides sitar, tabla, recorder, harmonium and guest brass, vocal and string accompaniment, Cousins and Co. manage to work in an amped-dulcimer, clavoline and quite a bit of hand percussion on all but a few tracks with the net result being a very full-sounding album from a musical standpoint.

I personally have never been able to really connect with this record as much as I have with some of the later Strawbs albums that delve more fully into electric folk-inspired rock, but for its time this was a fairly eclectic offering and a rather remarkable achievement for a band that had just suffered the significant loss of Wakeman's two hands. While they could have easily reverted to staid acoustic folk or folded altogether, the Strawbs managed to instead deliver a solid and well-received record that finally broke them into the U.S. market and led to a few years of relative popularity in the States even as their appeal waned with audiences back home. For that the album deserves four stars and a strong recommendation, although I would say for anyone who is interested in discovering the band during the seventies period I would encourage you to start with 'Hero and Heroine' or 'Ghosts' first (the latter especially for American fans) and then graduate to this one.


Report this review (#501565)
Posted Thursday, August 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars actualy 3.5

Grave new world from 1972 finding Strawbs in an almost new light, musicaly speaking. Being considered as a folk rock band with progressive leanings with this album they enter in symphonic prog zone but aswell keeping the folk flavour of previous albums. Is a transitional album for them and is clear in some of the pieces presented here. Considered for many as one of the best albums they ever released, to me is only an ok one. With the exceptions of high class pieces and aswell the most progressive ones from the album The Flower And The Young Man and the excellent Tomorrow the rest of the album is pretty much ok but no groundbreaking moments, at least for me. To much acustical passages with pieces that are under 2 min. The baroque and pastoral feel of the album might be intresting in places but as I said is less enjoyble and solid then their next copuple of albums. Anyway a worthy one if you are a Strawbs fan but I don't think is quite inventive and great in terms of quality as Hero and heroine for instance.

Report this review (#756993)
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Bless this album. No doubt about that!

"Grave New World" is a great album, though probably not as much as the previous "From The Witchwood". The style of the band remains approximately the same: the album consists of quite simple and mainly acoustic songs, however, compared to "From The Witchwood" the electrical equipment begins timidly to be used by the band. Another difference between the two albums is that Wakeman has been replaced by Blue Weaver: instead "Merlin The Magician" the new keyboardist use mellotron much more.

Listening to the album is very pleasant, certainly undemanding, with the nasal voice of Cousins in evidence in songs like Benedictus or New World, an excellent song features a redundant mellotron arrangement and the use of winds.

Tomorrow is the most "proggy" song of the album, with amazing changes of moods and rhythm, no doubt another highlight of the album. Anothew winner is the beautiful, but unfortunately too short, Hey Little Man, an acoustic song with Cousins on vocals, divided into two parts. Heavy Disguise is one of my favorite Strawbs songs ever: the style reminds me something of Tull and Beatles, with an excellent winds arrangement . Interesting the intro of Queen Of Dreams played in reverse.

The rest is still good, though perhaps not at the same level. Compared to the songs of "From The Witchwood" is most commonly a lower desire to experiment: The Flower And The Young Man and On Growing Older are nice but a little obvious. Oh Me, Oh My is funny but a bit out of place.

In any case this is a great album, less courageous than "From The Witchwood" but probably more pleasant to listen, because it does not demand much attention. If you are intrigued by the band and f you are searching for an album to start with, this is for you.

Final rating 7/10.

Best song: New World

Report this review (#823293)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album puts on display a more acoustic, more raw rock version of The Strawbs. It also exhibits a more 60s-sounding production value. I happen to enjoy this less-electric enmeshed sound--it makes for a much more consistent sounding and feeling album. Though the band would peak, in my opinion, with the perfectly blended Ghosts in three years, Grave New World is a wonderful album of truly folk-founded progressive rock.

Favorite songs: the two amazing anthems, 5. "New World" (4:13) and 1. "Benedictus" (4:25) (10/10); the TULL-like "Heavy Disguise" 4. (2:53) (9/10); the psychedelic 3. "Queen of Dreams" (5:32) (9/10); 7. "The Flower and The Young Man" (4:18) (9/10), and; 6. "Hey, Little Man" (1:07) (8/10).

Report this review (#843827)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Strawbs is a fantastic band and this is probably their best album. Compare it to Queen´s "Night at the opera" and you will find that? well, it doesn't sound like Queen at all, but the album´s are arranged with pretty much the same kind of craziness. Its a real adventure to listen through Grave New World, cause just like "Night at the Opera", it got so many different kind of songs and every one of them offers something new to listener, may it be a political folk song, an epic mellotron-smelling aggression song, a loony barbershop-ish song or metallic roaring guitars. With Grave New World Strawbs created a real rollercoaster of an album, but still it all fits together so fantastically well.

The album is blessed with one of the finest opening tracks I know, the organ loaded "Benedictus", and ends with the calm piano song "The Journeys End". Like seeing the sun rise in the morning and settle in the evening, it gives the album a great frame! In between waits lots of great tracks, not a single album filler! I will mention some of them. For fans of the odd side of Beatles and George Harrison you have "Is it today my lord?" with some smooth sitar playing and a slightly spiritual mood. For people waiting for the unexpected and crazy you have the barber shop-ish "Ah me, ah my" and fans of more heavy rock will get their fix when listening to the angry "Tomorrow!" with howling guitar and Deep Purple-ish organ playing. "Hey, little man?" is divided in two songs and are great, relaxing tracks about stop caring about problems for an hour or two. And to take a pause of stress and misery is pretty fitting on a crazy album like this, especially the second one of the two parts which comes after the epic and mind blowing "New World". Dave Cousin sings his heart out on this mellotron heavy gigant of a song, adding a lot of drama and frustration to the text. It really is one of those songs which grabs hold of the listener and doesn't release until the end of the song.

It hard to say if there is a best track of the album, which I often like to see as a proof of a really good album. But I think the greatest one of them would be "The flower and the young man", a really touching song with great song melody and wonderful arrangements. Is more sad than most songs on the album, yet more colorful.

All in all, Grave New World is a majestic and powerful record, full of adventure and beauty! Its not hard at all to get into, but it offers most things a prog fan could ask for!

Report this review (#1161295)
Posted Monday, April 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars ''From the witchwood'' was the last contribution of Rick Wakeman to the sound of Strawbs, as he decided to leave the band in 1971 and join Yes in a move stated by himself as ''beneficial for both sides at this point'', even if Dave Cousins thought about the opposite.Who would imagine though that Wakeman would be so prophetic.He moved to on to create some prog monuments with Yes, but also Strawbs found a great replacement in the face of Blue Weaver, former organist of the Psych/Pop act Amen Corner.Strawbs released shortly afterwards one of their best works ever, the concept album ''Grave new world'', on A&M Records, telling the story of a man from his baby years till' his last day.

By the time the Folk and progressive influences of the band appear to be about equal and ''Grave new world'' sounds like GENESIS in reverse order, not a group with major symphonic arrangements and folky hints, but a Folk Rock band with an evident symphonic tendency.Acoustic guitars, British Folk tunes, fading psychedelic touches and clean singing still have a major role in Strawbs sound.But Mr.Weaver seems to be the missing piece for a trully great album by the Strawbs.With an armour of Mellotron, organ, piano and clavioline, his contribution to the album is phenomenal.Strawbs' sound starts to incorporatre a strong orchestral content, supported by Cousins' poetic voice, and the acoustic textures are complemented by huge, symphonic Mellotron waves and soft organ themes.Plus the electric melodies played on the guitars are beautiful and memorable.The album is divided in 12 short pieces with an obvious thematical connection and the songwriting is absolutely great with dramatic moments, sensitive passages and grandiose soundscapes in one of the most versatile and flexible albums created by a Folk-tinged British band.Vocal melodies are excellent, the musical depth is more than sufficient and most of the compositions are amazing with the keyboards in evidence and the concept flowing in a tremendous way.

A highlight of Strawbs' discography and the year 1972.Right description would be as paradox as ''keyboard-led Prog Folk'', but that's the true.Very original and pleasant album, no less than highly recommended.

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Posted Friday, May 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars February, 2016. I'm back from UK. I was with my friend Tim Hunter recording our first album (Silver Hunter's debut). He told me that Strawbs were going to play in his hometown, Knaresborough (Yorkshire). I knew only two recent albums by this British folk outfit. And I read long time ago that Rick Wakeman played with them before joining Yes. Actually, the Strawbs are not very popular in France and I have to admit that the 'folk' label is not really a guarantee for a prog lover like me. But, guided by Tim, I bought some 70's productions by this band and... was completely seduced. This album for instance is a delicious blend of mellotron in the way of early King Crimson and the Moody Blues with some welcome Beatles' hints (the sitar and effects remind me of "Sgt's Pepper's") and David Cousin's vocals very close to Peter Gabriel's. Vintage symphonic fans will love that disc as I did. Highly recommended.
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Posted Monday, February 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars A key Strawbs album.

With a few of their best tracks, Grave New World remains today one of the Strawbs most important albums. The first without Rick Wakeman, it features Blue Weaver on keyboards, and he does a good job here (lots of mellotron!). The standout track here, ain my opinion up there in the list of the three best Strawbs songs of all time, is "New World", among the best anti-war songs ever written. But the rest of the album is great too. The two "Hey Little Man" short vignettes are wonderful thoughtful pieces that offer some welcome wisdom, and John Ford's "Heavy Disguise" is a great great song. "Benedictus", "The Flower and the Young Man" and "Queen of Dreams" are all great songs too. The second side of the album is a bit slower, with some filler, such as "On Growing Older" and "Is It Today?", but Tony Hooper's "Ah Me, Ah My" is a huge highlight here, a poignant 1920s-like riff on the feelings of nostalgia. All together, including the filler material, I give this album 8.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 4 PA stars.

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Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars With Grave New World, the Strawbs stepped forever out of folk prog and became a full blown symphonic prog group with the inclusion of new keyboardist Blue Weaver's icy Mellotron. "Benedictus", perhaps the album's finest song, seems to take the more pastoral workings of "Glimpse of Heaven" from Tales from The Witchwood and supercharges the ethereal visions of Heaven that Cousins imagined both literally and musically with a mind blowing choir for the song's chorus, and an electric lead played by Cousins with an electric dulcimer that was played through a fuzz box! Weaver used string, flute and organ settings on his Mellotron to supplement his actual organ and cascading piano. It's an incredible opening to this or any album and the group would only come close to a song as good with the equally arresting title track.

Songs immediately following such "Queen of Dreams", which at first features psychedelic backwards guitar, Mellotron flutes, muted drums with it's stop and go rhythm breaks, is quite good as is bassist John Ford's Jethro Tull like "Heavy Disguise", which Ford performed solo on acoustic guitar apart from catchy backing from a brass section.

"New World", the album's ersatz title track, is a monster with Weaver supplying just brass and string Mellotron chords and melodies over the six and twelve six strum of Cousins' and Tony Hooper's acoustic guitars. Cousins released his most vitriolic vocal delivery ever as he condemned the violence in Northern Ireland so prevalent at that time in the UK's history. Ford and drummer Richard Hudson seem to go the extra mile on this song and the result is an absolute Strawbs' classic.

After that remarkable aural assault, the following songs seem less impressive but show off the group's strong points with the pleasantly acoustic "The Flower and the Young Man" and heavily progressive "Tomorrow". "Ah Me, Ah My" is quirky with it's British dance hall music accompaniment. It's only a minute and half long, and seems to clean the palette for the searching "Is It Today Lord?' which features Hudson on some wonderful sitar, and the album's closer "Journey's End", which features some philosophical musings from Cousins accompanied only by Weaver's moving piano. The two bonus tracks add nothing to the album and are forgettable.

All in all, Grave New World is an impressive prog album, but slows down a bit too much towards the end to warrant more than 4 stars (3.8 rounded up). But fear not friends. The Strawbs would offer some 5 star prog masterpieces in just a few short years to come.

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Posted Wednesday, March 8, 2017 | Review Permalink

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