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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you don't have an album by Strawbs, this 16-track compilation would be a great place to start. If you only own one or two Strawbs CDs, this disc will do an admirable job of filling out your collection. (If you're already a rabid fan, who can remember when the angel-voiced Sandy Denny was their singer, there'll likely be nothing new for you here.)

Most prog fans will agree that Strawbs were a very important part of the late 60s to early 70s Prog movement. Their music is folk-based (that's where the original Strawberry Hill Boys' roots lie) symphonic prog. (Later YES keysman Rick Wakeman was an early member of the band.) For the uninitiated, you'll probably know them best from their radio/union hall-friendly single "Part of the Union." That catchy ditty is included here, but Strawbs' overall sound was much deeper than that seminal little Seventies song would seem to indicate. Lead singer/songwriter Dave Cousins' voice and lyrics are heartfelt, moving, and often intensely introspective (Roger Waters is not the sole proprietor of that oftimes disturbing musical realm). For example, here's the opening line of that other Strawbs "hit," the essential and infectious -- but disquieting -- "Round and Round," (also found here): "I drew the blade across my wrist, to see how it would feel. Looked into the future, there was nothing to reveal. For we were just a product of the ever-spinning wheel...." I can still remember being blown away the first time I heard that song on late-night FM in the 70s, and it still resonates today!

The remainder of this excellent CD is very, very good, with "not a duff track in the lot" (to quote another Prog Archives reviewer -- albeit of a completely different band and disc; thanks). Classic tracks such as "Lay Down," "Autumn," "The Hangman and the Papist," "Tears and Pavan," "To be Free" and "Down by the Sea" run the gamut of progressive rock styles and human emotion.

This is deep and tasty stuff -- redolent of red wine, fine ale, candlelight, and late nights. Strawbs have many fabulous songs and albums, and a healthy cross-section of their laudable catalogue is represented here. Just remember that there are plenty more that merit a place of honour in your collection where these came from!

Report this review (#19751)
Posted Saturday, January 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The cream of Strawbs

A very good introduction to the music of the Strawbs. While the album inevitably focuses of their more accessible and better known pieces, it does represent a good cross section of the band's work. The early, more folk influenced years are skipped over, but it is pleasing to see the excellent longer pieces "Autumn" from "Hero and Heroine" and "Tears and pavan" from "Bursting at the seams" included.

The quality control dips slightly for the pop single "Part of the union", but this is understandable given the songs massive success. Even so, "Shine on silver sun" would have been a better option. The tracks do not appear in chronological order, but they do sit well together with "Down by the sea" making for a suitably climactic conclusion.

The collection centres on the period between "From the Witchwood" and "Hero and Heroine", when the band were at their most inventive and productive, but it would have been good to see the excellent "Ghosts" being better represented. That however is a minor grumble. This superb collection of some of the best of the band's music includes many of their more progressive and melodic moments.

Report this review (#19752)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a good all round compilation from Strawbs. I can't help feeling that they were overdoing it a bit on ' Best of' type releases to fill those barren years. That aside the songs included are great with a more commercial flavour as opposed to their previous compilations.
Report this review (#19753)
Posted Saturday, September 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars In the old days before one could readily acquire (most of) the individual albums on compact disc, this was "it". At the time, I remember thinking that this was NOT a "choice selection", since it did not include most of my favorite Strawbs tracks. I think I paid just under $20 for this import CD. Anyway, my advice is to get the individual albums. There are several compilations available now, with minor differences in track selection. So, if you're one of the few people who know the band, but can get by with a questionable "best-of", this might be the one to get, if the price is right.
Report this review (#19754)
Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This compilation was released in 1992 to provide a retrospective overview of The Strawbs at the height of their creativity and commercial success. Ignoring the earliest incarnation of the band as a folk trio, these tracks are all selected from the period 1970 (the album Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios) through to 1976 (Deep Cuts), with Bursting At The Seams being represented by 5 tracks. This is perhaps fair enough, as Bursting At The Seams was arguably their best, and provides many of their most Prog moments.

There is a nice flow through the album as it has been laid out thoughtfully and intelligently rather than simply sequencing the tracks chronologically. Thus, for example, The Hangman And The Papist and New World - a pair of songs about the Northern Ireland situation - are placed logically together, while the album ends with the poppy Part Of The Union followed by a dramatic climax of the electric guitar and Mellotron riff with the London Symphony Orchestra on Down By The Sea. The packaging is good too, with extensive liner notes by John Tobler assisting the memory of Dave Cousins.

As for the songs, all the essentials are here: some might quibble about one or two choices but that won't detract from the sheer quality on offer: from Prog classics like Down By The Sea, Lady Fuchsia, Autumn and Hero And Heroine; via quieter, more acoustic type songs like Lemon Pie and Song Of A Sad Little Girl; to the rousing singles Lay Down and the infamous Part Of The Union. Through it all comes the classic Strawbs ingredients - Dave Cousins' distinctive voice, strong intelligent songwriting, high class musicianship, rousing choral harmonies, lots of acoustic guitars as well as some crunching electric ones, and of course, some magnificent Mellotron.

As an introduction to prime Strawbs, one of the best 70s melodic Prog bands, this is as good as it gets and is highly recommended.

Report this review (#77035)
Posted Wednesday, May 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Yes, Peter and Easy Livin are right when they say this compilation serves as a good introduction to the STRAWBS. This was the first CD I heard (borrowed from library - I guess it was in 1998) and I was immediately interested to hear more. Soon after I bought "Halcyon Days" 2-CD compilation with a long band history, and as I continued with their catalogue this already had fully served its purpose. So let's look back at it and its contents. For the band information it was pretty useless, if I remember right. The tracks are in uncronological order but they concentrate on the best years (1971 - 1974), albums From The Witchwood, Grave New World, Bursting At The Seams and Hero & Heroine.

One of the earliest choices is 'Song of a Sad Little Girl' from the 1970 live album featuring Rick Wakeman on piano. A good example of a less obvious but very fine choice. Mostly this attempts to be "The Best of" -sort of compilation and all the best known songs are included: hits like 'Benedictus', 'Part of the Union' (by the song-writing rhythm section of Hudson & Ford who left after Bursting At The Seams), 'Round and Round', 'Lay Down', etc. Happily Strawbs was never a single-oriented band and so "The Best" can be interpreted with artistic criteria too. And there's hardly a fan who would argue that prog songs such as 'Autum', Hero & Heroine' or 'New World' are some of the very best ones. Those are songs that lift this band among the finest acts in British prog. The rest have a decent balance between easy happy tunes ('Lemon Pie', 'A Glimpse of Heaven') and more serious tracks (the dramatic 'The Hangman and the Papist' about the religious conflict in Northern Ireland, the old music influenced 'Tears and Pavan' or 'Down by the Sea'). Not a perfect compilation but quite close, being a single CD set. Mainly for newcomers, because for more serious Strawbs listeners it will become fairly useless. No rarities or anything like that.

Report this review (#875811)
Posted Saturday, December 15, 2012 | Review Permalink

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