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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Number six in a series of one

Rather a confusing title here, as the album bears the legend "Volume 6" on the cover. This is not however volume 6 as far as the Strawbs are concerned, it is volume one. (Volumes 1-5 of "Concert Classics are by other artists). While this is not their first live album since the very early "Antiques and Curios", when compared to other bands, such releases are few and far between.

This recording dates from around the time of the "Deadlines" album, well after their creative peak. As the Strawbs developed so did their live act, and even today they put on a great show. Unfortunately, "Concert Classics" does not capture the essence of their live performances particularly well, and the packaging is less than informative (one track, "Cut like a diamond" is omitted from the track listing all together). Nevertheless, it does provide a rare "Glimpse of heaven", for fans of the band.

The tracks are taken from their (at the time) more recent albums, the oldest being from "Hero and heroine". In truth, quite a few of the selected tracks could never be listed among their best. "The last resort", "No return", "Simple visions" etc. are all average Strawbs tracks which, while reasonably well suited to a live performance, where the band wish to "get the audience going", do not sound particularly impressive in the audio only situation of a CD.

At times, the harmonies are poor and out of tune, especially on the opening track, "The last resort". Stand in keyboard player Andy Richards adds some fairly up front synthesiser effects, which were not originally there, to tracks such as "Ghosts". These are bit hit and miss in terms of whether they benefit the tracks. The best track is probably "Out in the cold" (from "Hero and heroine"), which is has far more emotion to it than any of the other tracks.

"Concert classics" must go down as something of a missed opportunity. It fails to capture the band at their live best, and does not consistently represent their best works. Hopefully one day, a definitive live album spanning tracks from throughout this great band's career will be forthcoming.

Report this review (#19766)
Posted Monday, October 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Have to agree with the other reviewer, sound quality is somewhat garish with some instruments more prominent then others. But I will say that David sings his butt off and gives it his best. Especially when you consider that it was their last tour with a major record label, (which Dave makes a joke of before they start 'Ghost'). I do enjoy the somewhat longish ending for 'Ghost' and some of the later period songs, especially 'Simple Vision', (I have a soft spot for that one). I wish it wasn't so short, though. I wanted to hear songs from their older albums, but I guess with the line-up they had for the tour it wasn't a good idea to play the more involved songs instrumentally. Ratings-wise, my head says 2 stars. But because I love David's enthusiasm, and I haven't heard any other live things by them on disc I'll throw him them a bone and round it off to 3.
Report this review (#71592)
Posted Friday, March 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars While this is not really a "bad" release, I'm sure their must be better examples of the Strawbs live act (although I don't own any of their live material except this). Songs from their late-70's albums dominate this set of only 8 tracks. None of them are bad choices as examples of this time in the bands career, but none are really inspired either. These are mainly "hits" rather than longer interesting pieces. How about "Beside the Rio Grande" or "The Soldier's Tale"? These would have been interesting live tracks here.

I also have a big problem with the sound. Cousins has a great voice through much of this and seems to be trying, but the background music and singing is murky and discordant at times. This takes away from my ability to enjoy this release. I am only able to give it 2 stars, which is the lowest of any Strawbs album I own.

Report this review (#280534)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars This live artifact dating to the 11th hour of STRAWBS' middling commercial reign was available in several forms as a bootleg called "Live in London", in which "Lay Down" was the opening number, and even another called "Live in America", in which it wasn't. To the best of my knowledge, the concert was taken from an appearance on BBC Radio One "Sight and Sound" in February 1978, the same performance that has been cleaned up and presented on DVD as a bonus to a 2019 re-release of "Deadlines" on Esoteric. This makes sense since that doomed release was the one being promoted at the time. Still, if you don't need the visuals, "Lay Down" and apparently "Sealed with a Traitor's Kiss", and don't want to fork over the $25+ USD that it's fetching, this budget release can be a low-fi stand-in, and appears to be available on streaming sites.

First of all, the sound quality is rough and ready, and the song selection favors the backsliding years of the late 1970s, so this probably shouldn't be the first live momentoe of the group you sample. But that same weakness is also a strength, as there simply aren't any other performances from that era available at this time. More so, by this time Andy Richards had already taken over from the duo of Robert Kirby and John Mealing on keyboards and his style is distinctive if not a tad overbearing. That means versions of rockers "Cut Like a Diamond", "Heartbreaker", and "Last Resort" rule the day here, while classic mid tempo track "Simple Visions" is spirited. The album does close with a few "Hero and Heroine" standards, the title track being absolutely crackling. Unfortunately, "Ghosts" is a little too off kilter or out of tune even for the live setting, and "No Return" is by far the weakest number here, with little to redeem it.

All told, "Concert Classics" is mostly one for the fans, and, at this point, specifically those who might want to sample it before deciding to splurge for the DVD as part of "Deadlines", thus rendering their prior versions of that album obsolete. 2.5 stars rounded down.

Report this review (#2245945)
Posted Friday, August 23, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Concert Classics is a kick *** live album capturing the late 70s Strawbs who were on fire and with Dave Cousins' voice in absolutely tip top shape. Naturally, Cousins and guitarist Dave Lambert once again struggle to harmonize on the intro to "Ghosts" (it's always amazed me how these two excellent vocalists can sing so well individually and always sound like scalded cats when singing together) while keyboard player Andy Richards supercharges the song with synths while still keeping the gorgeous melodies originally played by the great John Hawken on mellotron. Stunning stuff. Chas Cronk on bass and the incredible Tony Fernandez on drums round out the line up.

The late 70s rockers "The Last Resort", "Heartbreaker" and "No Return" get amped up enthusiastic run throughs, but it's the prog classics "Simple Visions", "Cut Like A Diamond" and "Out In The Cold/Round And Round" that make this album a treasure. And a heavy version of "Hero And Heroine" closes out the album in fine style.

The recording is clear and detailed but sounds a little rough around the edges. However, it actually does sound like a live concert performance, as opposed to the modern trend of sound mixing and mastering that tries to make a live performance sound like a studio recording. Another plus. 4 stars.

Report this review (#2316182)
Posted Friday, February 14, 2020 | Review Permalink

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