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STRAWBS

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Strawbs biography
Formed in London, UK in 1964 - Hiatus from 1980-1983 - Still active as of 2018

One of the better British progressive groups, The STRAWBS were a 60's folk and medieval band turned prog-rock with the help of Dave COUSINS (the heart and soul of this group) and Rick WAKEMAN "master of the keyboards". WAKEMAN is featured on the albums "Strawbs", "Dragonfly", "Just A Collection of...", and "From The Witchwood" before he joined YES. The line-up for the group changed markedly over the years. Their sound has been in a state of constant evolution combining English folk and progressive sounds to form their unique style. Critics seem to have a preference for the STRAWBS in the early Seventies when the group consisted of Tony & John HOOPER, John FORD, Richard HUDSON and keyboard virtuoso Rick WAKEMAN. The group ceased to exist at the end of the 1970s, and COUSINS embarked on some solo projects. STRAWBS would appeal to fans of bands like FAIRPORT CONVENTION, STEELEYE SPAN, PENTANGLE, etc.

They have recorded over 15 albums through the years, with various lineups around the core of Dave COUSINS who offered beautiful melodic compositions. Every STRAWBS album between "Witchwood" and "Nomadness" has something unique to offer. A perfect introduction to the sound of The STRAWBS is the compilation-CD "A Choice of Strawbs" (16 tracks). It features all their best material from their most creative and "symphonic" period (between '71 and '74). The music of The STRAWBS frequently ranges from folky (acoustic guitars) and classic (piano and harpsichord) to bombastic, symphonic rock (fiery electric guitar and glorious Mellotron in the vein of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST and The MOODY BLUES). The vocals are powerful with a lot of expression. Another great introduction to The STRAWBS is their live CD entitled "In concert" with BBC recordings from '73 and '74, including compelling renditions of their best works. The lush Mellotron sound evokes every time goose bumps on my skin!

1971 - "From The Witchwood" was a release that represented the transitional phase and search for their definitive sound and style.
1972 - "Grave New World" was their first symphonic album, and remained their finest moments, with great songwriting, great arrangements and superb performance all-round. This is a GREAT ALBUM!
1973 - "Bursting at the Seams" was the break through album for the STRAWBS because it marked the last major transformation of the group.
1974 - "Hero & Heroine" showed th...
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Buy STRAWBS Music


The Ferryman's CurseThe Ferryman's Curse
Import
Esoteric/Antenna 2017
Audio CD$10.90
$14.97 (used)
Hero & HeroineHero & Heroine
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Universal I.S. 1998
Audio CD$4.99
$6.94 (used)
Grave New WorldGrave New World
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Universal I.S. 1998
Audio CD$6.10
$1.38 (used)
From the WitchwoodFrom the Witchwood
Import · Remastered
Universal I.S. 1998
Audio CD$5.99
$6.24 (used)
Just a Collection of Antiques & CuriosJust a Collection of Antiques & Curios
Import · Remastered
Universal I.S. 1998
Audio CD$34.98
$29.99 (used)
GhostsGhosts
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Universal I.S. 1998
Audio CD$5.19
$6.05 (used)
Live In GettysburgLive In Gettysburg
WITCHWOOD MEDIA 2017
Audio CD$13.02
$13.01 (used)
NomadnessNomadness
Extra tracks · Import
UMe Imports 2009
Audio CD$5.32
$8.84 (used)
Dancing To The Devil's BeatDancing To The Devil's Beat
WITCHWOOD MEDIA 2016
Audio CD$10.98
$8.98 (used)
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STRAWBS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

STRAWBS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.09 | 74 ratings
Strawbs
1969
3.14 | 87 ratings
Dragonfly
1970
4.02 | 216 ratings
From The Witchwood
1971
4.15 | 298 ratings
Grave New World
1972
3.57 | 148 ratings
Bursting At The Seams
1973
2.76 | 31 ratings
Sandy Denny And The Strawbs: All Our Own Work
1973
4.16 | 295 ratings
Hero And Heroine
1974
4.03 | 160 ratings
Ghosts
1975
2.54 | 70 ratings
Nomadness
1975
2.76 | 64 ratings
Deep Cuts
1976
2.57 | 52 ratings
Burning For You
1977
2.87 | 44 ratings
Deadlines
1978
2.99 | 29 ratings
Don't Say Goodbye
1987
2.69 | 21 ratings
Ringing Down The Years
1991
2.74 | 34 ratings
Heartbreak Hill [Aka: Starting Over]
1995
3.56 | 24 ratings
Acoustic Strawbs: Baroque & Roll
2001
2.75 | 31 ratings
Blue Angel
2003
3.15 | 31 ratings
Déjà Fou
2004
3.51 | 43 ratings
The Broken Hearted Bride
2008
3.27 | 35 ratings
Dancing To The Devil's Beat
2009
3.62 | 32 ratings
Hero & Heroine In Ascencia
2011
2.74 | 26 ratings
Prognostic
2014
3.81 | 31 ratings
The Ferryman's Curse
2017

STRAWBS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.74 | 71 ratings
Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios
1970
2.39 | 9 ratings
The Strawbs' Greatest Hits Live
1993
3.69 | 14 ratings
BBC in concert
1995
2.49 | 10 ratings
Concert Classics
1999
3.39 | 5 ratings
The Complete Strawbs (Chiswick '98 Live)
2000
2.44 | 4 ratings
Full Bloom, Acoustic Strawbs Live
2004
3.68 | 9 ratings
Live At Nearfest
2005
3.75 | 16 ratings
Painted Sky
2005
3.70 | 5 ratings
Recollection
2006
3.09 | 4 ratings
NY '75
2007
4.00 | 1 ratings
Laydown With The Strawbs
2008
4.92 | 3 ratings
40th Anniversary Celebration: Vol 1: Strawberry Fayre
2010
3.18 | 2 ratings
40th Anniversary Celebration Vol. 2: Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins
2010
4.00 | 4 ratings
Live At The BBC Vol Two: In Concert
2010
3.15 | 4 ratings
Live At The BBC Vol One: In Session
2010
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live In Gettysburg
2017

STRAWBS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.11 | 6 ratings
Classic Rock Legends (DVD)
1998
4.02 | 9 ratings
Strawbs Live In Tokyo '75 / Grave New World The Movie
2003
4.08 | 4 ratings
Acoustic Live In Toronto At Hugh's Room
2004
3.00 | 3 ratings
Lay Down With The Strawbs (DVD)
2008

STRAWBS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.44 | 7 ratings
Strawbs by Choice
1974
2.52 | 6 ratings
Early Strawbs
1974
3.78 | 10 ratings
Classic Strawbs
1977
3.94 | 10 ratings
The Best of Strawbs
1978
2.69 | 8 ratings
Preserved Uncanned
1990
3.52 | 17 ratings
A Choice Selection of Strawbs
1992
3.61 | 17 ratings
Halcyon Days (UK Release)
1997
3.97 | 13 ratings
Halcyon Days (US Release)
1998
3.00 | 1 ratings
30 Years in Rock, Classic Rock Legends
2001
2.81 | 6 ratings
The Collection
2002
4.41 | 4 ratings
Tears And Pavan (An Introduction To Strawbs)
2002
3.21 | 5 ratings
20th Century Masters - Millenium Collection
2003
4.23 | 12 ratings
A Taste of Strawbs
2006
4.13 | 6 ratings
Acoustic Gold
2011
2.00 | 1 ratings
Of a Time
2012
3.95 | 3 ratings
Witchwood: the Very Best of....
2014

STRAWBS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Oh How She Changed
1968
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
1968
2.38 | 7 ratings
Strawberry Sampler number 1
1969
0.00 | 0 ratings
New World
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Part of the Union
1973
0.00 | 0 ratings
Shine On Silver Sun
1973

STRAWBS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios by STRAWBS album cover Live, 1970
3.74 | 71 ratings

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Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 163

'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' is the debut live album of Strawbs. It was at the same time their third album and was released in 1970 too. It was recorded at the Queen Elisabeth Hall in London. For their benefit, this album was released outside of the UK, including the USA, giving them the international exposure they needed. It might seem a bit strange that a live album be the first Strawbs' album and the people outside of the UK have heard about. It's a very special live album, because although it was recorded live, none of the tracks were released on any studio album before, except 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth', originally released on their eponymous debut studio album 'Strawbs'.

The line up of the group had changed drastically in relation to their two previous studio albums. Only the two founder members Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper remained, Ron Chesterman and Claire Deniz left the group. The band had the addition of two other new members John Ford and Richard Hudson, and Rick Wakeman also became a full-time member of the group. So, the line up of the album is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and dulcimer), Tony Hooper (vocals, acoustic guitar and tambourine), Rick Wakeman (piano, organ, harpsichord and celeste), John Ford (bass guitar) and Richard Hudson (vocals, congas, percussion and sitar).

'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' has six tracks. All tracks were written by Cousins except 'Temperament Of Mind' which was written by Wakeman. The first track 'Martin Luther King's Dream' is, as its name says, a tribute to Martin Luther King and was obviously written about his 'I Have A Dream' speech. It's the shortest track on the album, a kind of a folk troubadour epic which benefits from the newly acquired rhythm section and backing vocals from John Ford and Richard Hudson and the brief performance from Rick Wakeman on organ. The second track 'The Antique Suite' is a song divided into four parts, 'The Reaper', 'We Must Cross The River', 'Antiques And Curious' and 'Hey It's Been A Long Time'. It was a song written about a doctor friend of Dave Cousins and his collection of antiques. It's the lengthiest musical piece on the album and it comes on the same vein of the two folk epics of their previous studio albums 'The Battle' and 'Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake'. It's an excellent piece of music, one of their best, and an excellent example of what is the early Strawbs' musical compendium. The third track 'Temperament Of Mind' is a completely different piece of music. This is a Rick Wakeman's classical piano solo piece of music which includes several quotes from several classical musical pieces. This was the piece of music that brought Rick Wakeman to the forefront of the rock scene and shows all the virtuosity, capacity and originality, of his music in the future. The fourth track 'Fingertips' was written about a very beautiful Swedish girl that Dave Cousins met on those days. It's a more experimental song, the only real psychedelic song on the album, and the use of a sitar gives to it some Oriental musical ambience. It's an incredible track where the intimate and almost reticent vocals from Dave Cousins with the intricate instrumental performances, especially the use of sitar and dulcimer, gives to the song the final perfect touch. This is a pure genius song, probably my favourite track on the album. The fifth track 'Song Of A Sad Little Girl' was written about Dave Cousins' little daughter, Joelle. It's a very nice song that shows some intricate acoustic guitar performed by Dave Cousins and also shows a perfect interplay between Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins, which stands as one of the best examples of Rick Wakeman's integration with Strawbs. The sixth and last track 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth?', was a song released on their debut studio album 'Strawbs'. However, this live version of the original studio track may practically be considered a totally new song. The 3 minutes of the original version go to 9 minutes and it has also an extraordinary and killer performance of Rick Wakeman on keyboards. This is a perfect example how a simple and vulgar folk song can be transformed on a great folk progressive track. This is undoubtedly a truly great track.

Conclusion: 'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' is a great album and remains as one of the most memorable live performances made by the group. It isn't for sure their best or even a perfect album, but it's for sure their most pure, na've and probably the most beautiful musical working made by them. 'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' reminds me one of the earlier albums from Genesis, 'Trespass'. Both albums were released in the same year, both remain the sweetest, delicate, fragile, romantic, innocent, na've and pure albums from them and both represent the turning point into their musical careers. 'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' represents a wonderful evening with a superb acoustic concert and where a certain unknown Rick Wakeman made his first memorable performance on a live set. This album represents also the turning point on band's music, where the bluegrass, folk and medieval band, moved to a progressive rock band, in my opinion, in one of the best British progressive rock groups that ever existed.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Laydown With The Strawbs by STRAWBS album cover Live, 2008
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Laydown With The Strawbs
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

— First review of this album —
4 stars Here's a secret about the Strawbs:

Don't tell anyone, but Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk cannot harmonize well with each other and come off like out-of-tune drunken sailors on some occasions. Especially when they sing together live. Which is why I've seen a few negative reviews of this live album titled "Lay Down With the Strawbs." Even when the angry listeners get past the first three and a quarter songs, where Cousins and Lambert go on to sing magnificently by themselves.

But first impressions are the ones that last, it seems. However, I'm of the crowd that wants the harder stuff out of the way ASAP. To be honest, the lead off track of this album, "Lay Down", is one of the best live vocal versions that I've ever heard the band do. The opening chorus to "Ghosts" is just ok, but it's over so quickly that Cousins' nightmare lyrics and thrilling roller coaster music quickly take you over. "Shine On Silver Sun" was always a hard song for the group to nail live vocally, but after so many years of hearing the group kill this song in concert, I've seem to have become immune. Or perhaps it's because the songs that immediately follow are all so stellar, starting with the sublime "Remembering / You And I When We Were Young", where Cousins is comfortably back in his comfort zone with John Hawken oozing magic from his electric piano keys.

Yes, the old magic comes floating back in for the fantastic version of the "Life Auction'"suite and the always lovely "Out In The Cold" which segues into a storming version of "Round And Round." The Last three being from the classic Hero and Heroine album, with all three songs being some of best live versions ever recorded by the Strawbs. And that's all from just the first CD of this double disc.

The Strawbs brought their "A game" to this concert as it was also recorded on DVD for the European market with this audio CD coming out one or two years later. Highlights of the second CD include a great version of "Autumn", followed by a rare drum solo from Rod Coombes that fits somewhere between Ginger Baker and Ravi Shankar's percussionist that segues into a power version of "Hero And Heroine". That in turn is followed by a wonderfully psychedelic version "Round And Round (reprise)." Again, I cannot stress how perfect Cousins and Lambert sing on their own, with Lambert letter perfect on guitar throughout. Chas Cronk returned to the deep boom of his Fender bass, while Cousins is always perfect on all the his acoustic guitar parts and banjo playing, especially on an inspired version of Lambert's "Cold Steel" from the Deja Fou album.

For the fans that enjoy the song, there's a decent version of "Part Of The Union" song by a guesting John Ford, who also joins the Acoustic Strawbs on the album's bonus tracks that include inspired acoustic versions of "Tears and Pavan" from the great album Bursting At The Seams , as well as Ford's "Heavy Disguise" from the album Grave New World.

And here's one more secret you should know about the Strawbs. If you concentrate on their top notch live performances, which are many, you will be thrilled to death by this still capable and engaging prog group. 4 stars.

 Blue Angel by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2003
2.75 | 31 ratings

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Blue Angel
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

2 stars The only place to go from here is up.

Well, that's what I said to myself the first time I heard this strange concoction from Dave Cousins and company. And I mean company, as in battalion. Or perhaps legion is the proper word. All I know is that back in 2003, Dave assembled the Acoustic Strawbs consisting of himself, Dave Lambert and Brian Willoughby, and remade an album by Cousins and Willoughby titled The Bridge with help from former Strawbs' members Chas Cronk , Richarard Hudson and Blue Weaver. He even threw in a lush remake of his solo epic song "Blue Angel" form his 1972 solo album tilted Two Weeks Last Summer with the great Mary Hopkin on backing vocals. And it doesn't quite work.

All the right ingredients are there but the recipe is missing. To put it plainly, if anyone thought that that Two Weeks Last Summer lacked a cohesive band dynamic, then that goes double fold for this album. It's way too over produced, contrived, and at times, lacking the spontaneity and organic feel for the music that's on offer. "Blue Angel" is actually better served with Blue Weaver's Mellotron flute and strings, but Dave seemed to be bent on this version being so markedly different form his original that this song's chorus of many sounds like a staid choir, while Willoughby seems to have been pushed to play something extra "Willoughby-like" to distinguish him form the rocking Miller Anderson who almost steals away the original song with his heavy and loud electric guitar lead playing. If you by chance happen to hear the "Blue Angel" version on the Strawbs' 40th Anniversary live CD set, the song is better served with the Mellotron of Weaver and the electric lead guitar of Willoughby this time playing a version of the song that's halfway between Dave's original version and the lusher studio remake. It has an organic feel and flow to it that puts both prior versions to shame. Chas Cronk playing bass and Tony Fernandez playing drums greatly helped to usher in a true band dynamic. Both Cronk and Fernandez were not on the studio remake, as ex Strawbs Rod Demick and Richard Hudson played on that track. To make matters more confusing, former member Rod Coombes also plays a few of the album's tracks! (Confusing isn't it? Remember that I said that Cousins employed a cast of thousands?)

The incredible Miss Hopkin seems too high gloss as a singer to partner with any of the Strawbs. Unlike Cathryn Craig, she can't reign herself in enough not to crowd Mr. Cousins' nasal rasp.

Blue Angel, the album, isn't all bad. "There Will Come A Day" is a stellar track, as is "The Plain' and, to a lesser extent, "Further Down The Road."But these three songs can't hold up the ten other subpar tracks that are included on this CD and force a two star rating. Don't fret. As I said, it all gets better from here on in.

 Painted Sky by STRAWBS album cover Live, 2005
3.75 | 16 ratings

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Painted Sky
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars The third in a series of albums from the mid 2000's Acoustic Strawbs trio featuring Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and a rejoining Chas Cronk replacing the recently departed Brian Willoughby. Recorded mainly to ingratiate the arrival of Cronk on 12 string acoustic guitar, bass and foot pedals, the group once again goes over past favorites, as well as a few new surprises such as a stellar all acoustic version of "The Antique Suite" first found on their live Just a Collection Antiques and Curios album as well as some very good versions of "Oh How She Changed", "Grace Darling", "Benedictus", and a decent version of "Autumn", This version of "Autumn" features some washes of synthesized bass peddles from Cronk but is not as good as the version found on the previous acoustic album "Full Bloom", or reprised on the stellar acoustic Strawbs' compilation album titled "Acoustic Gold" which has the added benefit of excellently remastered sound. 3 stars seems about right for this all acoustic offering from the venerable Strawbs as the previous acoustic albums "Baroque and Roll" and "Full Bloom" both seem much more essential and enjoyable.
 The Ferryman's Curse by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.81 | 31 ratings

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The Ferryman's Curse
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars I had to wait quite a while to actually hear this album properly as I needed some scar tissue removed from my left ear and sufficient time for the procedure to heal. I only hoped that this album, along with several others, was worth the wait.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Ferryman's Curse by the Strawbs, while not being a great album, was indeed a very good one. New keyboard man Dave Bainbridge, on loan form the prog group IONA, brings composing skills as well as multi keyboards and additional electric and acoustic guitar to the Strawbs' arsenal. Super drummer Tony Fernandez ("Thunder Fists" to his friends) returns to the fold in place of Rod Coombes. The ever ready Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk return on lead guitar and bass respectively.

Producer Chris Tsangarides does an excellent job of keeping old Dave Cousin's voice from croaking and, in fact, most of the material is almost spoken at times, so Dave seems well aware of his vocal limitations these days and this album seems all the better for it. Cousins is an accomplished enough songwriter to reign in his voice while still composing an engaging song.

The album starts with an a nice orchestral instrumental titled, appropriately enough, "In The Beginning". that places the listener in the proper frame of mind while slightly telegraphing what to expect from the present incarnation of this famous prog band. The short 2 minute instrumental merges easily with the song "The Nails From The Hands Of Christ" which is quite stunning with it's "Another Brick In The Wall" walking bass lines and all manner of sampled mellotron-like strings, flutes, etc., from Bainbridge (as Ken Levine correctly pointed out in his review of this album.) Bainbridge always manages to sound reverent but never retro, a rare gift for a for someone in the newer end of prog rock and makes for a very subtle but essential contribution to this album's sound.

The follow up song titled "The Song Of Infinite Sadness" would be pretentious is it was composed and performed by any other artist than the Strawbs. So identified with this type of slow melancholic acoustic based ballad, its as if the Strawbs are paying homage to themselves. The equally slow paced " The Familiarity Of Old Lovers" finds Cousins in his lyrical element where the old boy can wax lyrical about his past, all the while hidden in allusions, while Lambert and Bainbridge add a stunning twin lead guitar coda to this wonderful song.

"When The Spirit Moves" is, for me, the high point of the album as it's one of those great transcendent Strawbs' songs that evokes the sentiment of past classic Strawbs' songs like "Benedictus" and "Lay Down". The semi choral effect of Lambert and Cronk matched against Cousins' wonderfully engaging yet simple acoustic guitar chords reaches a dramatic climax with Bainbridge's soaring keys, Fernandez's elegant drumming and Lambert's engaging electric guitar leads.

"The Ten Commandments" by Lambert does keep the semi spiritual vibe going even if it seems like a Slow Hand era Eric Clapton track with it's bluesy riffing, hard luck lyrics and stabbing organ. It seems that this out of place track would have been a nice palette cleanser had the following songs been as good as the album's first five.

Another good but short instrumental "The Reckoning" presages the albums' title track. "The Ferryman's Curse" is a follow up of sorts to "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" from 1970's Dragonfly album. While well played by all, especially Lambert and Cronk, who give the song some balls, this type of Strawbs' song with extensive verbiage was never a treat for me, but lovers of Dragonfly might find it essential. "Bat's And Swallows" is more upbeat but not engaging, while "We Have The Power" tries to resurrect, once again, the spiritual uplift of "When The Spirit Moves" but falls short. The song's jagged abrupt ending doesn't help it's cause and would have been a wonderful opportunity for the group to go ballistic on an instrumental coda.

So, what starts off with a bang, ends in a wimper. However, that this mature prog group can still make enjoyably compelling albums without trying to clone itself is both a wonder and a gift. Just in time for the holidays. 3.5 stars rounded off to 4.

 The Ferryman's Curse by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.81 | 31 ratings

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The Ferryman's Curse
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars The hourglass is emptying for veteran bands like STRAWBS and their small but ardent following. Each much anticipated release is coddled with the understanding that it may be their last, and a glance at the titles and lyrics of "The Ferryman's Curse" concedes nothing so much as a pious man contemplating his worldly past and his otherworldly future. It might not be the coda for Dave Cousins and company, but it is certainly compiled with an appreciation of that prospect.

A bit of background would be helpful. Strawbs enjoyed some level of commercial success in two forms in the 1970s: as an earnest prog folk band cum pop stars in the UK ("Grave New World" and "Bursting at the Seams"), and, with a 60% lineup change, as a symphonic prog band with folk underpinnings in the US ("Hero and Heroine" and "Ghosts"). The band never completely eschewed conventional song structures even at their most adventurous, but have been able to straddle the boundaries of their various genres. In recent years it's the members of the later incarnation that have been recording and touring, meaning Dave Lambert (guitars) and Chas Cronk (bass) are in the fold, augmented by Tony Fernandez (drums) who was with the group during the late 1970s and Dave Bainbridge (keyboards) of prog folk band IONA. Bainbridge has writing credits on 5 of the 10 tracks, including two instrumentals, and exerts considerable influence on his Strawbs studio debut, as does returning superstar producer Chris Tsangarides, who manages to equalize the highs and lows of Cousins' septuagenarian vocal chords. They remain an acquired taste in their CAT STEVENS meets PETER GABRIEL and FISH mode. I'm glad I acquired it years ago.

The first instrumental, "From the Beginning" offers a contemplative introduction to the album, with piano and orchestral strings eventually bolstered by drums and organ. As it segues directly into "The Nails from the Hands of Christ", we begin with just a hypnotic beat that recalls nothing more than the PET SHOP BOYS' hit from 1984, "West End Girls". The lyrics and vocals are classic Cousins though, and his sense of humor is intact, particularly when the gift shop manager tells the protagonist that the nails are "kosher", and when he comments that the nails were rusty and bent, "as if to make a point". Lead and rhythm guitar suffuse additional drama, as does mellotron choir in the theatrical buildup. Speaking of mellotron, I suspect they are using samples rather than an actual flesh and blood beast, but they are as welcome as the album.

In the tradition of sedate somewhat morose ballads of the past (Barcarole from "Burning for You", Sealed with a Traitor's Kiss" from "Deadlines", and "Copenhagen" from "Dancing to the Devil's Beat" all come to mind), "The Song of Infinite Sadness" downshifts for the duration. A bit too funereal for me, it does sound better with time, and, again, the lyrics are typically insightful. This wisdom is again evident on "The Familarity of Old Lovers", one of my 2 favourites. The delivery is a touch playful if resigned, and the lead guitar figure is succinct and addictive. The outtro involves both Lambert and Bainbridge interjecting each other on lead guitar, and is a winning idea.

Now to the heart center of the album, "When the Spirit Moves", in which Cousins dons his "Benedictus" voice for a rare occasion of unabashed spirituality, backed in choral style by his bandmates. Musically, it develops the ideas on "When Silent Shadows Fall" from the prior album into a triumphant statement that is compelling from the first to the last note, attaining a crescendo that is suited to a closing number, and indeed it would form the end of Side 1 on a vinyl copy.

Next up is Dave Lambert's sole songwriting and lead vocal contribution, the bluesy "The Ten Commandments", which was written some years ago but fits thematically with the religious directives on the disc. While a break from Cousins' voice is welcome, it's perhaps my least favorite track, and initiates the listener into the weakest part of the album. "The Reckoning" is a decent instrumental with haunting mellotron flutes and piano by Bainbridge as well as pleasant acoustic guitar, but as lead in to the epic title track, it fails to impart sufficient gravitas. However, as it turns out, it imparts more than the title track merits! "The Ferryman's Curse" is the sequel to "The Vision of the Lady of the Lake" which appeared on "Dragonfly" back in 1970, which was the sole prog-oriented piece on that early album, a multi verse epic with a lovely melody and occasional hard rock accompaniment. Lyrically, this update resolves some questions that lingered for 47 years, and spins a fascinating tale in which the same number of years has ostensibly elapsed since the first misadventure. As poetry this is brilliant, particularly some of the Greek mythological references and how, in typical Strawbs fashion, the story itself seems to unfold outside of any specific historical setting. Unfortunately the whole 9 minutes is delivered as a dirge. Admittedly, the original piece was a challenge even for a young Cousins' pipes, so perhaps a decision was made to compose the piece for a narrower vocal range where he could still emote away but all studio mirrors and singer would be safe! Within all these constructs, the one hard rock moment on the album is the blistering instrumental break towards the climax, which isn't my cuppa but which might ignite some new fans if they only get that far...

The final two tracks adopt a far more optimistic and vivacious tone. While such tendencies have never been Strawbs' strong suit, both are handled better than in the past, and achieve respectable equilibrium as pop folk music, particularly "Bats and Swallows", an account of a Mediterranean vacation and the human and animal sights and sounds perceived by Cousins. The highlight instrumentally is the geographically appropriate bouzouki solo by Bainbridge, The main musical theme of "We Have the Power" is delivered on synthesizer, and the song structure, and perhaps even the lyrics, are like a much sunnier take on "Call to Action" which appeared on "The Broken Hearted Bride". The ending seems a bit off kilter though, leaving me wondering if it was intentional or not, since so much TLC clearly went into the making of this release. Unless they ran out of studio time?

When I began writing mental notes towards this review, I had intended to award a solid 3 stars, but it really breaks out at 3.5 stars, and not rounding up in this case is tantamount to elder abuse, both of the band and its longstanding fans who are still standing. Let's not pay the ferryman just yet.

 The Ferryman's Curse by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.81 | 31 ratings

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The Ferryman's Curse
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by The Jester

3 stars Starting this, I should say that I consider myself as a fan of Strawbs. Maybe not the greatest fan, but if you consider that I am listening to them for more than 25 years now, and I have in my music collection about 13-14 of their albums, I think I have a rather detailed opinion about them. Truth is that, their career has gone downhill for many years now, but they do release a good album every now and then; but to be honest, I don't know if The Ferryman's Curse is one of those albums. I know very well how good and important band Strawbs was, and I will not form an opinion based on their 23rd studio album. But, that doesn't change the fact that 'Ferryman's' is a very mediocre album. Yes, it includes some fine moments, like When the Spirit Moves for example, but most of the songs would never fit into the band's older albums; and that definitely tells us something about the overall quality, correct? Not to mention Dave Cousins vocals, which are not so good I'm affraid. The Ferryman's Tale is one more piece in a line of not so good ' but not bad - albums, like Prognostic, or Hero & Heroine in Ascencia, among others. For all those things, I don't think I can give more than 2.5 - 3.0 stars (out of 5.0) Favorite songs: When the Spirits Move, We have the Power and The Ferryman's Curse
 Live In Gettysburg by STRAWBS album cover Live, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Live In Gettysburg
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

— First review of this album —
4 stars I'm not sure who has milked their biggest album more. Roger Waters with his never ending Wall remakes and newer concert performances, or the Strawbs beating Hero And Heroine to death with this surprisingly good concert performance of the entire album, from the 2016 Rights of Spring Festival, that features some wonderful new keyboard links from guest player Dave Bainbridge.

For all intents and purposes, this album is really a live rendering of the Hero and Heroine remake from 2011 called Hero and Heroine In Ascencia. What really drives this concert is that Dave Cousins is in fantastic voice and knows it as he excitedly pushes his voice beyond the limit once or twice, which is audible on this album's fine sounding 5.1 ch DVD. It's wisely edited out for the CD master as there's no visuals of an excited Cousins to gloss over the two flubs. No problem, as this is Cousins finest vocals as of late and the band, especially Bainbridge and super drum Tony Fernandez, are on fire. Dave Lambert is also is fine voice and is note perfect in his brilliant guitar playing.

The sound mix and mastering of the CD by bassist Chas Cronk and is very dynamic and is full of presence. Indeed, its very big and detailed sound is very reminiscent of the recording work done by producer Tom Allom on the original Hero And Heroine album. Imitation, it seems, is still the highest form of flattery.

I know that Live In Gettyburg will only appeal to die hard fans, but there's not that much live Strawbs of such wonderful sound and video quality available. I have played it every other day since receiving it in the post two weeks ago, as It's a live CD&DVD that just grabs you. 4 Stars.

 Live At Nearfest by STRAWBS album cover Live, 2005
3.68 | 9 ratings

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Live At Nearfest
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars To come to full circle with the classic Hero And Heroine and Ghosts line up of the Strawbs, this 2004 headlining concert for NEARfest reunites the Strawbs with the great John Hawken. Returning with Hawken was his magical Mellotron with tapes borrowed from fellow Mellotron master and ex Moody Blues' Keyboardist Mike Pinder. Talk about prog royalty. And with the Strawbs focusing on four cuts from H&H, along with other assorted prog antiques and curios, a good time was had by all.

What really makes this particular concert stand out, aside from the band bringing their A game, was that Dave Cousins' voice was still effective at this stage and had very good range, albeit a tad deeper with just a touch of croakiness. This was to change quickly as the 2004 progressed up until the present day where Cousins rusty rasp has become too grating at times. So, take this rare gem for what it's worth. Cousins in good voice with inspired singing as well as inspired playing by Dave Lambert, Chas Cronk, Rod Coombes, and the already mentioned John Hawken who also dazzles on some mind blowing and very bass heavy (for a live recording) synth tones. Excellent recording, mixing, and song selection puts this live archive in the 4 star range.

 Ghosts by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.03 | 160 ratings

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Ghosts
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

5 stars A brief cacophony of harpsichord notes dissolves quickly into one of the signature melodies of the Strawbs' progressive knockout titled "Ghosts", and we're off to listen to the last great prog album from this seminal 70's prog act. Where singer and songwriter Dave Cousins took us all on an introspective journey with the band's previously released prog classic Hero And Heroine, Cousins returns to more topical subjects before giving us one last glimpse into his psyche. And what could be more introspective than a nightmare about a visitation from a weathered angel with "eye's a bloody red"? It's the magnificent music conjured up by the exact same musicians that gave us the Strawbs' last classic (a rare occurrence for this band) that gives us the searing impressions of Hell that Mr. Cousins' implores us never to see. Yes, the three part "Ghosts", apart from being so incredibly melodic and atmospheric, just moves the prog song goalposts a little farther and is one of the few title tracks that's actually worthy of the honor.

To back track a bit, Hero And Heroine was recorded by a very different line up from the group's successful UK hit album Bursting At The Seams, and was all the stronger for it. By strange Strawb's fortune, this line up remained intact long enough to record "Ghosts" before uber keyboardist John Hawken went off to reform a variant of his early UK band, Renaissance, which they titled Illusion, after the title of the early Renaissance band's second album.

Hawken tones down his space age synth sounds on Ghosts and stays with more orchestral sounds generated from his icy Mellotron, organ, pianos and harpsichords. Guitarist Dave Lambert takes on more lead work or counter melodies with with his always deft and atmospheric guitar, and the man can shift from a country hoedown to Who-like bombast while always fitting in perfectly with the music. Bassist Chas Cronk is more melodic this time around while drummer Rod Coombes comes close to sounding like an octopus with his busy fills and inventive rhythms.

But it's Cousins that really sells the album with superb pop rock on "Lemon Pie" and the quirky "Where Do You Go (When You Need A Hole To Crawl Into), the moving ballads "Remembering/ You And I (When We Were Young) and "Grace Darling", the album closer which features both a full choir and magnificent church organ. Sandwiched around these classic songs are more prog fests such as "Starshine/Angel Wine" and the breathtaking two part suite called "The Life Auction", which seems to summon more ghostly specters to visit you on this album.

Producer/engineer Tom Allom also returns from the previous outing to help give Ghosts another dynamic full sounding production, while cleverly dodging any attempts to do a Phil Spector and reduce the sound to a claustrophobic fog. The sound of Ghosts is as clear as a bell while being very much in your face. No small feat either. Another 5 star album that starts off with a bang and goes out with one as well.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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