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STRAWBS

Strawbs

Prog Folk


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Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Very much a folk album at this stage in the Strawbs reportoire. Therefore I suggest it as for hardcore Strawbs fans only. I like it, and it has real gems like ' The man who called himself Jesus' with Cousin's amusing narrative as well as the classic ' Tell me what you see in me', which later became a classic tune for gigs even today, remade on the Don't Say Goodbye album. ' It also includes ' The Battle' which shows glimpses of future progressive leanings that were to follow.Great addition to your Strawbs library but as I say very much a folk album.
Report this review (#19688)
Posted Wednesday, September 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Judging it as a prog album it's more of a 3 rating, but I have a folky streak to my personality, and thus I rate it higher. There are delights to be found everywhere, especially on the first half, and subsequently on the last cut, the epic The Battle, depicting in beautiful horrific lyrics the turmoil of a pitched battle near a castle, between Protestants and Catholics, apparently.

Dave Cousins wrote the often tender, often slyly observant lyrics. Musically the album veers from psychedelic pop like Or am I dreaming and Pieces of 79 and 15 (about a tenement flat singer Tony Hooper used to live in), while Where is this dream of your youth and I'll show you where to sleep shows influences from ethnic world musi. The production by Gus Dudgeon echoes his work with Elton John, fairly light and shimmery but with dark edges. Good first try from Strawbs, they ended up in another area of rock entirely.

Report this review (#19689)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The Strawbs happen to be as well on my all-time-favs list since quite a long time. Certainly their albums between "Witchwood" and "Ghost" had considerably better things to offer than their first two ones. But actually I like also very much their debut which admittedly might have been still rather folk than Prog, but hey keep in mind that we're still in 1969. And I think for that year of release this one can be considered quite a remarkable debut. Moreover I even prefer it in some way to its follow-up "Dragonfly" since it's overall more lively than that one. Though there isn't any long-track on here we get instead a track like "Tell Me What You See In Me" with a great oriental flavour, certainly the outstanding one here. But there are other highlights like "Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth" with some piano playing (not listed in the line-up!), "Poor Jimmy Wilson" though being just a rather simple song with a nice story and pleasant flute (also not listed!) or "The Battle" with keyboards that are again not listed. To sum up my review this debut might have been certainly not to be considered essential in any sense but anyway it had been a noteworthy and very good one.
Report this review (#101017)
Posted Wednesday, November 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A nice prog-folk debut. This one sounds really dated nowadays, but I love that sound and style. Folk tunes are occasionally spiced with proggy elements. For example, "All The Little Ladies" is a pure folk tune, very English. In my opinion, only AMAZING BLONDEL could come close by their "englishness". Lovely guitar work. Interesting lyrics."Tell Me What You See In Me" is breathtaking tune which combined perfectly music from India with contemporary pop and rock.

The element of psychedelia is not to be overlooked, the examples are "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" (sounds like SIMON AND GARFUNKEL with distortion) and nice "Where Is The Dream Of Your Youth" with loads of reverb - the effect that is overused in "Where Am I", which sounds quite pathetic.

"Oh How She Changed" and "Poor Jimmy Wilson" are weaker tracks, first one being pop, and second one pure folk, but they are pleasant enough.

My personal favourite, the highlight of the album is "Pictures Of 79 And 15", in my opinion one of the top 10 most beautiful songs ever written! Pretty Hammond organ work (reminds me of early era JETHRO TULL) and unbeatable, dreamy vocal harmonies. That's what this album is all about, really. One lovely dream.

A good debut, definitely not the milestone, but a fine example of late 60's music. Very pleasant work.

Report this review (#101788)
Posted Wednesday, December 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A strong statement of intent

For the Strawbs first official album (excluding their work with Sandy Denny which was retrospectively released some years later), we have to go way back to 1969. Back then, the band was an acoustic trio (even the bass here is a double bass, not a guitar) consisting of David Cousins, Tony Hooper and Ron Chesterman. Cousins and Hooper share vocal and song writing duties, Cousins being the dominant partner. The band were the first to sign to the UK arm of A&M records. In an ironic twist, the album they originally submitted was deemed too "pop", the record company insisting that they record some more progressive material.

The album has many fine tracks, offering a good indication of where the band were heading. The folk influences are strong, with acoustic instruments dominant, but there are some more rock orientated pieces.

The opening track, "The man who called himself Jesus" is a strange tale set in the present which reflects on how society might react if Jesus, (or someone claiming to be him) was to return. The song was written by Cousins following an experience a friend of his had in Copenhagen, Denmark. While his friend working in a shop there, a man walked in an introduced himself as "Jesus". This got Cousins thinking about the fact that Jesus had (according to Christian belief) indicated he would return one day, and he (Cousins) wondered how Christ would be able to convince people of his authenticity. The track was a controversial selection both for the first track on the album and as a single, being quickly banned from broadcast by the BBC.

"Pieces of 79 and 15" has some fine unaccredited mellotron, while the early version of "Tell me what you see in me" here has a slightly eastern feel. The song would be completely transformed decades later into one of the bands most powerful numbers ever. "Or am I dreaming" also contains enhanced orchestration, the track having a Simon and Garfunkel like relaxed but upbeat mood.

"Where is this dream of your youth" is one of the more ambitious pieces, but for the definitive version of the song look to the "Antiques and curios" album, where Rick Wakeman hijacks the song with a lengthy organ solo. The closing song "The battle" is a complete story in 11 verses. There is perhaps a nod to Bob Dylan in the style of the composition, but the song is a strong statement by the band which whets the appetite for the albums which follow. Once again, the song benefits from significant supplementary instrumentation.

While the acoustic basis of the album inevitably leads to the music being described as folk orientated, there is more to "Strawbs" than is at first apparent. The songs are wonderfully composed both in terms of lyrics and melodies with underlying complexities which cannot be simply dismissed as folk music. "Strawbs" may be the start of the journey, but it is nevertheless a wonderful, album in its own right. Its importance in the history of prog folk should not be underestimated either.

RIP Ron Chesterman, who sadly passed away while I was preparing this review.

Report this review (#118486)
Posted Monday, April 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This debut from Strawbs is a gentle and peaceful piece of music. Mostly acoustic, it features some fine vocal harmonies (Pieces Of 79 And 15), some weak song as well (All The Little Ladies and Oh How She Changed). The opening track is too much religious for my ears (The Man Who Called himself Jesus).

The music you can find here is hardly essential and sounds pretty much outdated. The psychedelic and early Floyd oriented Tell Me What You See In is my fave out here. There are some nice Oriental influence as well (percussions, violin).

When one listens to Or Am I Dreaming, it is impossible not to think about The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel). Paul Simon wrote it in 68 though.

The album weakens substantially from there on and offers some childish mood and frankly poor songs like Poor Jimmy Wilson and Where Am I. The closing track is another good part of this debut album. It is much more constructed and consists of much more mature music. There is a fine keyboards play in the background, and the crescendo approach is rather efficient. A second highlight.

I will upgrade this album from five out of ten to three stars mainly thanks to three songs (but which accounts for almost half of the running time). But, be aware that the band will sound more progressive in later releases (some years after this release).

Report this review (#183681)
Posted Friday, September 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars I was quite surprised when I heard this album. This music is firmly rooted in 60's pop and it reminds me a lot of Donovan and even The Beatles, much more so than early Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span. Some songs even remind me of David Bowie's funny self titled debut album, especially Or Am I Dreaming?, All The Little Ladies and Poor Jimmy Wilson. Some songs here are even humorous!

The song Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth? was later recorded live for the album Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios. Here it is just over three minutes long and on Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios it is almost ten minutes, with a long psychedelic organ solo by Rick Wakeman.

This is a cute Folk pop album with a strong 60's sound and it has very little to do with the Prog Folk band they later became. If you want to find anything progressive on this album, I guess you have to look towards the closing number The Battle which is over six minutes long and reminds slightly of The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake from the next album.

Only for fans and collectors, I suppose.

Report this review (#199022)
Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Strawbs is the self-titled debut studio album from British progressive folk/ rock act Strawbs. This is on of those bands that I have never had the time to check out and in retrospect that´s actually a bit sad as much of this album is right down my alley. Well I´ll redeem myself by getting more of their albums in the future because this debut from the band has certainly given me the promise of even better things to come.

The basis in the music is British folk with lots of beautiful acoustic guitar and double bass. The vocal lines are strong, memorable and beautiful and both Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper have the voices to carry those melodies home. There´s also a symphonic element in the music which sometimes remind me of Genesis. Best examplified in Pieces of 79 and 15 and the ending 6:30 minute long epic The Battle. Other favorites for me on the album are The Man Who Called Himself Jesus, That Which Once Was Mine, All The Little Ladies and Poor Jimmy Wilson. The folk element isn´t that strong in the music ( it´s not the Celtic violin kind anyway) so don´t worry if you´re not interested in that genre.

The musicianship is a great asset on this album. Those vocals are very enjoyable and the acoustic guitar playing too. I could have done without the cheesy string sections that mare a couple of the tracks ( a bit too trapped in the sixties) but the instrumentation is generally very tasteful.

The production is very good. Warm and pleasant.

Strawbs is a very good and slightly progressive folk/ rock album. I enjoy it greatly and was considering giving it 4 stars. There are a couple of flaws on the album like the strings sections I mentioned above that means that this album ends on a 3 star rating though. A great surprise.

Report this review (#199780)
Posted Monday, January 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Strawbs have such a weird and wonderful history that this "first" self titled album is only their initial record label release, not actually their debut recording. For that, one has to dig out "All Our Own Work", "Sandy and the Strawbs", or even "Preserves Uncanned". But since this was the first album to be released, it deserves consideration as such.

Already in 1969 the group is blending Dylan and Ray Davies styled storytelling with nascent progressive rock to produce a rather unique British take on folk rock, parallel to but no less impressive than Fairport Convention, even if they are rarely credited on the same level. Songs like "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" and "The Battle" demonstrate an already mature narrative style and a fascination with acid rock, not to mention some adventurous approaches in accompaniment and vocal harmonies. The album is almost entirely acoustic but lead guitars do appear here and there as does the odd electronic keyboard.

Elsewhere, several classics make their first appearance here, such as the Arabian influenced "Tell me What You see in me", the surprisingly rocked up "Where is this Dream of Your Youth". Even the more dated songs are lyrically quirky and shine through with a certain sunny 1960s slice of life quality. This earnestness permeates even later classics such that the value of a full fledged prog rock group having its roots in English folk music can be fully appreciated.

No band has had a trajectory anything like that of Strawbs, nor a commitment to quality that only rarely has flagged, and this was true from the moment they became A&M's first signing and released this historic work. Recommended for completists and those with a hankering for moderately brocaded folk music of the decidedly English variety.

Report this review (#212524)
Posted Sunday, April 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Strawb's debut is a forgotten gem. There is so much quaity in the compositions and performance here.The arrangements are top notch and give a colourful and interesting setting. The music has a few flavours, going from sparse folk to pop-psychedelia (sometimes in the same song!) Dave Cousins is really a genius of a songwriter and his singing also seems to suit the songs well.

I admire everything on this album. The tracks have a peculiar Englishness about them. They are absolutely wonderful, charming, very original and each is different from the next. Best moments are "The Man Who called Himself Jesus", "Or Am I Dreaming", "Tell Me What You See In Me" which has a mixture of middle eastern, and western arrangements, and the epic 'The Battle' although as I said, everything is a winner.

Listen for the melancholy melodies and lyrics in "That Which Was Mine", "All The Little Ladies" and the sad tale of "Poor Jimmy Wilson". They are really stunning! Fans of late sixties quirky Psychedelia, folk, and early progressive pop/rock will adore this album!! The best music may have come from the band later on, but I also love the early classics very much indeed. Well worth the repeated listens. Four solid stars.

Report this review (#427724)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Dave Cousins and Company had managed to secure themselves a recording contract with the up-and-coming American label A&M in the spring of 1968, largely on the strength of material they had recorded in Denmark with then-band member the late Sandy Denny. Its unclear today whether A&M realized Denny had already left the group when they signed the Strawbs, but the label was definitely looking to expand their portfolio into the folk-rock arena. They began with the Strawbs but would eventually add Cat Stevens, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and others, and would manage U.S. distribution for several of Joe Boyd's Island Records acts including Fairport Convention, which of course is where Denny had landed by the time the tracks for the Strawbs debut had been recorded.

A&M must have been taking a pretty conservative trek into progressive music of the British or folk variety though, as they originally limited distribution of the band's debut to Britain. It didn't find its way into U.S. release until 1973 by which time the band had established itself as a serious prog folk force.

In some respects this is a transitional album even though it is technically the band's first. Their earlier work as the Strawberry Hill Boys was limited to a couple demo singles steeped in skiffle, folk and pop blues; while the band adopted a convincing electric folk-rock sound during Denny's brief tenure in 1967. They would eventually grow to be a fairly mature and complex progressive rock band with symphonic leanings and hints of the blues, but in 1968 the group was still pretty committed to developing their folk-rock sound.

As with the Denny material though the group realized the need for an ear-catching potential single to open the record, and provided the same here with the pop-folk story-song "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", a deity-disguised-as-commoner ditty in the vein of the later Joan Osborne mega-hit "One of Us". The style is closer to pop than either folk or prog rock but the song achieved its goal of getting the band some attention, namely a ban from BBC for lyrics that the company's censors apparently never really listened to.

With that out of the way the band turned to creating a collection of pleasant and period- appropriate pop-folk numbers with obvious awareness of what was happening musically in both England and the U.S. at the time. The blend of acoustic folk and electric guitar instrumentation was quite popular in the late sixties and Cousins tried to capitalize on this with his own brand folk-rock that was beginning to show signs of progressive leanings. The band employed elaborate string arrangements on the Moody Blues-sounding "Pieces of 79 and 15" and "Oh How She Changed"; some Arab instrumentation on the mildly psych- tinged "Tell Me What You See in Me"; and hand drums with "Where is this Dream of your Youth?" which Cousins had originally penned in hopes of getting a regional vocal folk group The Young Tradition to record. Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and sometimes- Rolling Stones keyboardist Nicky Hopkins also appear on the album.

The band revealed future directions with the sprawling, Gregorian-steeped symphonic piece "The Battle" that closes the album. They would pick up where this song leaves off when the returned to the studio for a follow-up album.

A&M originally rejected the album as too bombastic and non-commercial, not really surprising considering they had been sold on the band based on the comparatively stolid folk-rock material the group had presented them from the Denny-lead Denmark sessions. The record would be released in Britain after some rework and eventually in the U.S., but for the most part the album had scant promotion and made little impression at the time.

Despite the poor initial reception, this has become a well-regarded debut for the band in retrospect. While the group would move into a much more progressive direction in the ensuing years, and eventually away from folk almost completely in the eighties and nineties, this is a great example of the unique blend of pop, folk and rock that would endear the band to their fans in the early and mid seventies. A solid three star effort and recommended to any Strawbs fan that didn't become aware of them until the 'Dragonfly' days or later.

peace

Report this review (#499564)
Posted Monday, August 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Strawbs is debut album from the British folk/rock group called Strawbs, released back in 1969. It's mostly acoustic sounded and although not so bad it is only a shadow of the music they are going to make in the years to come. First song "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" is trying to attract attention with its lyrics and catchy poppy sound and although not so bad it is nothing really special. Other songs worthy of mentioning are "All The Little Ladies" reminds me of piggies from the Beatles. Some parts of the "Pieces Of 79 And 15" sound nice. "Tell me What You See In Me" melodic acoustic ballad with sounds of both Arabic and Indian in it is probably best song in album. Another ballad "Oh How She Changed" is full of melancholic melody. "Or Am I Dreaming" is also nice song . It has that catchy sound of 60's. "The Battle" second highlight of the album. It's a folksy mini epic. I cannot say that even one song here is bad, album is full of nice acoustic melodies but in other side there is not even one song that is special in any way. All together I thing it is fair to rate this album as Collectors/fans only.
Report this review (#513114)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Excellent 'Debut'.

Well, not actually their first album, as both 'All Our Own Work' and another ill-fated attempt to record a first album, came beforehand (but both released later). But this one began their public career, and it is excellent. The opener, "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" starts off the album very well. It seems strange the BBC and other radio banned it at the time, as it doesn't seem that controversial nowadays. The real interest is not the controversy (which is dated), but the lyrics which are quite thoughtful. Indeed, this is a word that characterizes the entire album. Songs like "All the Little Ladies", "Where is this Dream of Your Youth?", "Poor Jimmy Wilson", and "The Battle" are all very thoughtful, and thought-provoking, while also being very human and life-affirming. And many of the tunes are quite catchy (including "Oh How She Changed", used as a single). While not as musical as a number of albums that would follow (including 'Dragonfly', which is SO musical and one of my favourite albums), this album serves as an indispensable introduction to the early Strawbs. And some of the tunes ("Tell Me What You See in Me", which was also recorded for 'All Our Own Work', and "I'll Show You Where to Sleep") are indeed very musical. A very important album not only for people here on PA but for the history of music in general. I give this 8.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 4 PA stars.

Report this review (#1697654)
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2017 | Review Permalink

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