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DRAGONFLY

Strawbs

Prog Folk


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars This is the real Strawbs that everyone of us should know - the folk group. Full of delicate harmonies, simple acoustic melodies, but unfortunately not well recorded but nothing shameful either. Dragonfly is mainly two singing acoustic guitars (Cousins & Hooper) and a stand-up bass (Chesterman) and sometimes a cello (although the bassist could have used a bow on his bass) so it sounds very pastoral.

Side 1 has just song format numbers that manages not to bore you but keep your attention, of which the title track is easily the stand out. On the flipside, the highlight is the almost-11 mins Lady Of The Lake that starts as a usual Strawbs folk number like the rest of the album but soon evolves slowly into an epic on which all of the guests announced on the back sleeve appear, not the least the arrival of a drummer (yet another Dane Rotsvold) and Wakeman in his first appearance with the group (he will be much more present in Antiques and Witchwood) to finish this number of epic manner. Even though this "epic" is not a real masterpiece like those of Yes and Genesis' quality, it's definitely a great step forward in Cousin's songwriting. This song will also appear in the bonus track of the remastered version of Just A Collection.

While Dragonfly might not be a real strong album, we finally get glimpses of the prog group they will become soon enough and if you're a fan of the group, you'll eventually pick it up. While this might need confirmation, Dragonfly is the first appearance of Wakeman on a prog record along with Bowie's Space Oddity.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#19690)
Posted Friday, April 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It took me 33 years to finally get my hands on Dragonfly and I was not disappointed. Yes still very much a folk album but it had progressed from their debut album with longer pieces.Of the shorter tracks my favourite would have to be ' I turned my face to the wind' where typically Cousins has that incredible knack of putting you right there on some lonely, gloomy moor in the face of a stiff wind. He is arguably one of the finest lyricists of all time.' Josephine for better or for worse' another beautiful song.' The vision of the Lady of the Lake' undoubtedly the finest track. What is exciting about The Strawbs was their evolution or metamorphosis. Watching them grow or even seeing it in retrospect is a great experience to behold. Dragonfly is a darn good album to have.

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#19693)
Posted Wednesday, September 08, 2004 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Second album by The Strawbs had been most probably their quietest and most acoustic-type one and it was as well the only one with cellist Claire Deniz in the lineup contributing considerably to the overall mellow atmosphere. Though it might appeal more to people preferring acoustic music than their debut I've to say I found it rather less attractive than that one. Most of the songs here are pleasant folk songs, some more in a sorrowful and contemplative, others more in a cheerful mood but in some way not that effective as the mix between ethnic, classical and rock music shown in the best tracks from their first record. The only track that sounds significantly different from the rest is the 10-minute epic "The Vision of the Lady of the Lake" revealing piano play by Rick Wakeman who would soon join the band. But even this one could not fully satisfy my demands unfortunately, moreover it features some quite strange strange sound effects which I found rather disturbing than interesting. I think the better things had been still to come from them those days and I'd like to rate this one as still a solid and fairly good album but certainly not anything worth hunting for.

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#101131)
Posted Thursday, November 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "Close your eyes and go to sleep, the night will soon be gone. There'll be nothing here when the light goes out, that wasn't here when the light was on"

The Strawbs second album, "Dragonfly" saw the band retreating slightly, into their folk roots. This was not so much a strategic decision as a financial one, the record company declining to invest as heavily in the recording process as they did for the first album.

With the line up having been enhanced by the presence of Claire Deniz on cello (Sandy Denny is not the only female to have graced the band line up), Rick Wakeman was also brought in as a guest on piano on one track (prior to becoming a full band member for the next studio album, "From the Witchwood"). Wakeman, who at the time was a Sunday school teacher in London, was introduced to Dave Cousins by Tony Visconti, a well know American record producer based in London, who worked with the Strawbs on several occasions.

The first side of the LP has 5 well written but conventional folk based songs with lyrics focusing mainly on features of the countryside. Deniz's cello adds a pleasant dimension to tracks such as "The weary song" and producer Tony Visconti also plays recorder on two songs. Dave Cousins introduces the sound of the dulcimer here and there, but the music is based primarily around acoustic guitar.

The feature track is "The vision of the lady of the lake", an 11 minute track clearly inspired by Arthurian legend. It tells, in the form of a 14 (count them!) verse song, the tale of a man who is put through various trials. As his situation deteriorates, the music becomes darker and more disturbing (I won't spoil the ending!). The song is undoubtedly one of Dave Cousins most striking compositions ever, full of drama and passion while telling a damn good tale. The album closes with a very brief lullaby, whose entire lyrics are repeated above.

The strength of "Dragonfly" lies primarily in the potential of the song writing. There are clear indications throughout the album that the Strawbs are on the verge of something really special. There would be further changes to the line up before the next release, but the foundations laid here would be exploited beyond all expectations.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#123812)
Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8.5/10 Great

Oh man, what a wonderful album, and the sound Strawbs had at this time...just breathtakingly peaceful and beautiful. I can't get enough of this, and there is too little of it. In my opinion, you will find that Tony Hooper almost takes center stage with this time of the Strawbs career. Tony's vocals are simply wonderful, soft yet powerful, and his sense of harmony and simple melody is just so pleasent I can't help but wish he had done more with the band, or some solo work. This album is not very progressive, and does not reflect the later sound of the band. Instead this is a very folky album, along with the first album, and this will slowly leave the band as Dave Cousins takes more control and leads the band towards his ideas, which happen to be much more prog-like than that of Tony Hoopers. Togther, though, on this album they create a wonderful sound together. All of the tracks on here are enjoyable, nice little folky melodies, with the band hitting some very strong highs on "Till the Sun Comes Shining Through", and some proggish intensity from Dave on the classic "The Vision of the Lady of the Lake". I find "Till the Sun..." to be my favorite track, and just an astounding rainy sunday morning track for nostalgic, emotional folk out there. This one is a tear jerker, even more so when we learn of the soon to be departed Dave and Tony, and how wonderful they sounded together on this masterwork. The recently deceased Ron Chesterman plays just gorgeous cello on this track, with Claire Deniz's cello gliding throughout. Brings me to tears. "Young Again" is another melodic cake for those nostalgic moments, and I love this track just as much, especially with Tony taking lead vocal. The rest of the album is very enjoyable, peaceful music, not for anyone looking for intensity, craziness or proggish innovations. Great stuff here, an important album to me and stays with me very close and emotionally.

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Send comments to The Lost Chord (BETA) | Report this review (#148379)
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Italian Prog Specialist
2 stars Acoustic and more acoustic, in a mellow, very folkish way. Not very exciting, since the album just stands still, revolving around essentially the same structure time after time. The addition of cello is really nice, but can't save the day here. Feels simple, yet touches of delicacy shows up just often enough to keep you interested before it vanishes like a whiff of air. Very frustrating to say the least.

Of the 'standard' songs on this album only two manage to get repeated plays: Another Day - makes me happy with it's kindness and air of hope. The second one is I Turn My Face Into The Wind, which funny enough is quite the opposite of Another Day, with lyrics such as

''I huddled close against a tumbling wall Wrapped in a cloak to shield me from the bitter cold The solitude weighed heavy on my mind As I turned my face into the rain.''

Closing the album is the fantastic The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake, with one of the greatest build-ups I've experienced in music. Gradually moving from the albums standard acoustic galore, more and more eeriness creeps in behind the guitars until the drums kick in and the song takes a more sinister approach. Electric guitar in the back. 11 rewarding minutes.

2 stars for this, since only eleven out of thirty-six minutes are truly great.

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#162343)
Posted Thursday, February 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Dragonfly is a classic folk album with its ups (only a few) and downs. It is a collection of peaceful music which sounds too similar to be very exciting I'm afraid. The only above average song from the first part of this album is the melodic Josephine.

The cello work is pleasant and adds a definite value to the whole of this album, but it can't avoid some sort of boredom while one listens to these conventional folk songs. Vocal harmonies are quite decent but the overall mood is too much of a pastoral party to match my taste.

One has to wait The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake to finally discover an excellent song. A vibrant crescendo song which offers the occasion to discover a more upbeat rhythm and rocking sound. It is by far the best moment of music which is available on this album which doesn't leave a great impression to my ears.

The very short closing number Close Your Eyes (and go to sleep) is the best shortcut to this album. Two stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#184668)
Posted Saturday, October 04, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars In their early days Strawbs were very much a band that really "progressed". From the almost psychedelic 60's pop of the debut album in 1969 to the symphonic Prog Folk masterpiece Hero And Heroine in 1974 was quite a journey. And the sound and approach changed basically with every album during this creative and turbulent period. It is quite striking how different this album is from the first one. Dragonfly is basically a Folk album with acoustic guitars as the primary instrument. There are occasional drums, cello, recorder, electric guitar and a few other instruments but overall the instrumentation is very simple and almost all acoustic. Rick Wakeman appears on piano on the epic The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake, but his contribution is minimal and very subtle, it could have been anyone really. Dragonfly is also much darker and there are no humourous songs here.

The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake is the best song here, and the one closest to what the band would do later on. However, this track is also available as a bonus track on the Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios live album (in a better version), so don't rush out and try to find Dragonfly for that reason alone. Wakeman also has a much more prominent place on that live album than he is afforded here. Overall, Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios is a much better point of entry into the early period of Strawbs. At least from a Prog perspective.

I generally prefer Dragonfly over the self titled debut, but both these albums have mainly historical interest now.

Only for fans and collectors and for people who want to study the early historical roots of Prog Folk.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#199030)
Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Until "From the Witchwood" came along, "Dragonfly" was the Strawbs album that best captured their uniquely ancient sound. While it was apparently their least selling album ever, this had more to do with a retreat from some of the boldness of their self titled debut into a more pastoral and sentimental outlook. Instead of psychedelic story songs, the group embraced the wonders of the English countryside.

The dual voices of Cousins and Hooper shine separately and in tandem. The greater prominence of Clare Deniz on cello helps to bring about the intended effect on the listener, particularly in the exquisitely dour "I Turned my Face Into the Wind", and the decidedly more contented "Another Day" and "Till the Sun Comes Shining Through". Hints at the surreal are found in "Weary Song", "Dragonfly", and especially the epic "Vision of the Lady of the Lake" featuring Paul Brett's fiery lead guitar. While it sounds a trifle trumped up today, this track begins Cousins' long run through mythological references of love and sin which was resurrected on Strawbs 2008 release in the form of "Through Aphrodite's Eyes" in a less long winded but equally melodramatic form.

If you have explored the back catalog of Strawbs but not checked out anything prior to "Witchwood", may I plant a bug in your ear and suggest you check out this early and gently buzzing beauty.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#200568)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This one belongs to the golden triad by the Strawbs. The band was still closely connected to the "folk tradition" and the album has a very acoustic sound.and pastoral feeling that In some ways reminds me of Nick Drake and some other artists on the Island label. This does not mean its not original - no other record sounds like this.

The opener, "The weary song" sets the tone, followed by a string of Dave Cousins classics. It is difficult to choose any favorite since all tunes are fantastic. There is not one weak tune on the album. The epic "The vision of the lady of the lake" shows us were the band was going next - eg. into a more electric sounding band.

I was close to forget to mention the other two records in "the golden triad". They are of course "From the Witchwood" and "Grave New World"

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Send comments to Dr Pripp (BETA) | Report this review (#250113)
Posted Thursday, November 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is a more striped down affair if you compare it to their first release. There's a more pastoral feeling and it sounds a bit like Nick Drake's first album. Fans of folk music should really love this. The tracks are mostly acoustic and often feature some cello and piano too.

There are no highpoints on the album, since all the songs, written mostly by Dave Cousins, are of highest standard, but if I have to pick a few favorites it will be the melancholy "I Turned My Face Into The Wind", which brings some dark imagery of the moody English countryside, "Josephine" and the jolly, uplifting "Another Day" are also wonderful. "Til The Sun Comes Shining Through" is absolutely gorgeous and I love the title track very much as well.

You won't miss the lengthly 'The Vision of the Lady of the Lake' which combines Dave Cousin's flair for story telling with Arthurian imagery and Catholic morality problems. This one builds up and becomes quite aggressive, with some energetic drumming. It really is English folk rock at its best.

For years, this has not been available and to own this on vinyl would be a valued treasure for me. Unfortunately, such copies have long since gone to ground. Therefore, its release on CD was very welcoming. Dragonfly and their album called just "Strawbs" are vintage classics. The band changed their direction a bit after this, with some more varied influences, more to the attention of prog fans. The music here is still beautiful stuff though, from a truly great period. Four and a half stars.

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Send comments to Frankie Flowers (BETA) | Report this review (#427728)
Posted Tuesday, April 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars The Strawbs didn't seem to have been deterred by A&M's disapproval toward the instrumental excesses of their debut release, even when the label demanded some rework and delayed releasing it in the U.S. at all for several years. The band had been expected to provide the label with a legitimate British folk-rock act in their stable, but instead delivered a sometimes pompous affair with more electric guitar and orchestration than the record company had expected, not to mention missing the amazing Sandy Denny who had split between when the group cut their initial demo tracks and the label's signing.

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#500778)
Posted Tuesday, August 09, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dragonfly is second studio album from Strawbs. Its a nice melodic folk album. Its even more acoustic than theirs first studio release "Strawbs" but also richer in sound ( thanks to the great cello) and like that its a progression forward. That is " visible " in first two tracks "The Weary Song" and "Dragonfly" which clearly gain another dimension with appearance of cello. "I Turned My Face Into The Wind" its a piano and cello driven song. No matter that is (musically) very simple somehow is typical Strawb song with its mystical lyrics. "Josephine, For Better Or For Worse" is a beautiful acoustic love song. "Another Day" is also worthy of mentioning it's a cheerful little number. " 'Till The Sun Comes Shining Through" and " Young Again " are two weakest trucks on album not considering the last one (which I am not considering at all). They are to simple and bit of a boring with the groovy filing they are sending. "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" is the only song here in which we are treated with a story. Music starts in a similar folksy way as the others track while singing slowly introduces us with a tale. Everything flows normally when after exactly 5 minutes after surprising drumming roll music evolves in much stronger progressive sound. Really great last five minutes of track with strong music and singing full of passion, like band was only showing what are they capable of.

General feeling is that this album could be much more if it was released (or created) later in their more progressive period because songs are very well written and they have very god potential. But in other way maybe this was only a step in progression they had to pass. Anyway. No matter that this is not a prog album music here is still surprisingly fresh and rich and I thing it has more to offer than to collectors and fans only. Non-essential but good.

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Send comments to Archangel (BETA) | Report this review (#513117)
Posted Friday, September 02, 2011 | Review Permalink

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