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Strawbs - Strawberry Sampler number 1  CD (album) cover

STRAWBERRY SAMPLER NUMBER 1

Strawbs

Prog Folk


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kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars One of three late 1960s STRAWBS albums with a very similar track list, "Strawberry Sampler" has a lower Sandy Denny vocal presence than "All Our Own Work" and "Sandy and the Strawbs". Her performances seem closer to those on the other albums, while the Cousins' and Hooper songs are sometimes dominated by orchestra in the manner of arty pop music. Most of those tracks were rejects from the first A&M Strawbs album, as executives were searching for a more psychedelic folky groove.

It's hard to recommend any one of the three recordings above the others. This one is more artifice than article because of the different sources, and the objective of marketing Strawbs as songwriters worthy of adaptation by accomplished pop vocalists. This also makes it arguably more eclectic and a better advertisement for the group's breadth. It was also so rare in vinyl form that it retains a certain cachet that the others cannot match. Still, progressive it isn't, and the bluegrass derivations are nowhere to be found The only heretofore unavailable track is "Whichever Way the Wind Blows", an innocent and precious product of its time, and only lovable as such, while the most progressive outings are the haunting "Two Weeks Last Summer" and the ingeniously miserable "I turned my face to the wind". Others like "On Growing Older" and "Ah me Ah My" appear in identical or superior form on "Grave New World". "Josephine for Better or Worse" with its 80 piece backing brass band gives the best clues as to how the group blew its A&M advance on their self titled album and had to record the sophomore "Dragonfly" on a shoestring. It wasn't money well spent.

Unless you are a completist or the above description is appealing, this is probably a larger sample of the SANDY DENNY era than you will ever need.

Report this review (#260592)
Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars A bit of flotsam and jetsam in the Strawbs' ocean, Sampler Number 1 was a demonstration record issued in 1969 featuring both material that was rejected for the Strawbs first A&M album, along with material from the aborted Sandy And The Strawbs sessions from 1967. The major difference between the material is the obvious inclusion of the great Sandy Denny on vocals and her absence as well as a good dose of over production in an effort to compensate on the material recorded later without her.

Once again, the material featuring Denny is better as it has an unmistakable group dynamic and is mostly upbeat acoustic folk rock. Highlights are "Sail Away To The Sea", "Two Weeks Last Summer" (Which would be resurrected later by Cousins on his first solo album) and Sandy's sublime first recording of "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" Even the Cousins sung songs from these sessions are good and include "My Own Worst Friend" and "Nothing Else Will Do."

What doesn't work are the post Sandy songs that are strangled with all type of ornate orchestration and these include "All I Need Is You", "And You Need Me", "Josephine For Better or For Worse" and the absolutely garish "Oh Me, Oh My". "Josephine" would be re-recorded and go on to become a Strawbs concert staple while "Oh Me, Oh My" would be placed, unchanged, on the Grave New World album, where it remains forever out of place given the gravitas of that album.

An album that's half good seems to deserve a rating of 2.5 stars (rounded down to 2 stars) and that's just fine for the Strawbs' Sampler Number 1.

Report this review (#2313941)
Posted Saturday, February 8, 2020 | Review Permalink

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