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STRAWBS

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Strawbs picture
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...
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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)

3.19 | 99 ratings
Strawbs
1969
3.15 | 119 ratings
Dragonfly
1970
4.03 | 293 ratings
From The Witchwood
1971
4.15 | 396 ratings
Grave New World
1972
3.59 | 199 ratings
Bursting At The Seams
1973
2.83 | 45 ratings
Sandy Denny And The Strawbs: All Our Own Work
1973
4.15 | 411 ratings
Hero And Heroine
1974
4.01 | 228 ratings
Ghosts
1975
2.57 | 91 ratings
Nomadness
1975
2.79 | 85 ratings
Deep Cuts
1976
2.62 | 68 ratings
Burning for You
1977
2.90 | 63 ratings
Deadlines
1978
2.99 | 37 ratings
Don't Say Goodbye
1987
2.72 | 29 ratings
Ringing Down The Years
1991
2.77 | 45 ratings
Heartbreak Hill [Aka: Starting Over]
1995
3.63 | 28 ratings
Acoustic Strawbs: Baroque & Roll
2001
2.76 | 37 ratings
Blue Angel
2003
3.14 | 39 ratings
Déjā Fou
2004
3.53 | 54 ratings
The Broken Hearted Bride
2008
3.30 | 45 ratings
Dancing To The Devil's Beat
2009
3.62 | 44 ratings
Hero & Heroine In Ascencia
2011
3.07 | 33 ratings
Prognostic
2014
4.07 | 65 ratings
The Ferryman's Curse
2017
3.72 | 41 ratings
Settlement
2021
3.24 | 12 ratings
The Magic of It All
2023

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

3.65 | 90 ratings
Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios
1970
2.39 | 9 ratings
The Strawbs' Greatest Hits Live
1993
3.71 | 16 ratings
BBC in concert
1995
2.52 | 12 ratings
Concert Classics
1999
3.39 | 5 ratings
The Complete Strawbs (Chiswick '98 Live)
2000
2.79 | 5 ratings
Full Bloom, Acoustic Strawbs Live
2004
3.68 | 9 ratings
Live At Nearfest
2005
3.85 | 16 ratings
Painted Sky
2005
3.70 | 5 ratings
Recollection
2006
3.00 | 5 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
3.92 | 4 ratings
Live At The BBC Vol One: In Session
2010
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live In Gettysburg
2017

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

3.48 | 7 ratings
Classic Rock Legends (DVD)
1998
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Complete Strawbs - Live at Chiswick House
2002
4.03 | 11 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
3.00 | 1 ratings
Access All Areas
2015

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

2.45 | 8 ratings
Strawbs by Choice
1974
2.68 | 8 ratings
Early Strawbs
1974
3.85 | 10 ratings
Classic Strawbs
1977
3.94 | 12 ratings
The Best of Strawbs
1978
2.72 | 10 ratings
Preserved Uncanned
1990
3.52 | 20 ratings
A Choice Selection of Strawbs
1992
3.52 | 21 ratings
Halcyon Days (UK Release)
1997
3.75 | 11 ratings
Halcyon Days (US Release)
1998
3.00 | 2 ratings
30 Years in Rock, Classic Rock Legends
2001
3.00 | 7 ratings
The Collection
2002
4.35 | 5 ratings
Tears And Pavan (An Introduction To Strawbs)
2002
3.13 | 5 ratings
20th Century Masters - Millenium Collection
2003
4.65 | 7 ratings
A Taste of Strawbs
2006
4.02 | 10 ratings
Acoustic Gold
2011
2.31 | 4 ratings
Of a Time
2012
3.86 | 3 ratings
Witchwood: the Very Best of....
2014

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

3.00 | 2 ratings
Oh How She Changed
1968
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
1968
2.57 | 9 ratings
Strawberry Sampler number 1
1969
3.00 | 1 ratings
Where Is This Dream of Your Youth
1971
3.00 | 1 ratings
Thirty Days
1971
4.00 | 1 ratings
Forever
1971
3.00 | 2 ratings
Heavy Disguise
1972
3.00 | 1 ratings
Keep the Devil Outside
1972
3.96 | 4 ratings
Lay Down/Backside
1972
3.67 | 3 ratings
New World
1972
3.00 | 3 ratings
Part of the Union
1973
3.50 | 2 ratings
Shine On Silver Sun
1973
3.00 | 3 ratings
Part of the Union/Will you go
1973
3.50 | 2 ratings
Hero and Heroine / Round and Round
1974
3.00 | 2 ratings
Hold on to Me (the Winter Long)
1974
4.00 | 2 ratings
Angel Wine
1974
2.50 | 2 ratings
I Only Want My Love to Grow in You
1976
2.50 | 2 ratings
Joey and Me
1978
2.00 | 2 ratings
That's When the Crying Starts
1987
0.00 | 0 ratings
Acoustic Strawbs: Alice's Song
2002

STRAWBS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Strawbs by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.19 | 99 ratings

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Strawbs
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The proper debut album by the Strawbs (setting aside the recordings they made with Sandy Denny which were shelved and then rereleased in 1973 as All Our Own Work), the proggier side of their prog-folk blend hadn't really developed at this point, but this remains a set of endearing late 1960s-style folk rock with just enough experimental notes to hint at the more adventurous work which was to come on subsequent albums. Dave Cousins has his vocal style locked down right from the start, and the particular atmosphere of albums like From the Witchwood can already be detected here in a rough draft. Strong, but better was to come.
 BBC in concert by STRAWBS album cover Live, 1995
3.71 | 16 ratings

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BBC in concert
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars Recently I stumbled upon an album that I didn't play for a long time when I was in the mood for Mellotron friendly prog, it's entitled The Strawbs - BBC In Concert. This legendary band (featuring Chas Cronk who later joined Steve Hackett solo) gained a lot of attention with their humorous hit-single Part Of The Union, it peaked at #2 in the UK charts, in 1973. But The Strawbs are hard to pigeonhole, their sound is unique. Singer Dave Cousins plays an important role, colouring the music in a very special way with his distinctive voice, from tender to powerful, with a lot of expression.

This BBC radio broadcast contains recordings from '73 and '74. The music frequently shifts between folky (acoustic guitars), classical (piano and harpsichord) and sumptuous symphonic rock outbursts (fiery electric guitar and majestic Mellotron evoking BJH and The Moody Blues). The 15 tracks on this CD include their best work, my favorites are Tears And Pavan, Down By The Sea (what a compelling Mellotron sound), Part Of The Union and Hero And Heroine.

If you are up to discover The Strawbs this is an excellent musical encounter.

 From The Witchwood by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.03 | 293 ratings

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From The Witchwood
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by El_autista_Hans

5 stars The Strawbs at their absolute best. In this album, they begin to take a more serious step into progressive rock without abandoning their folksy spirit, introducing harder, more complex melodies mainly thanks to Rick Wakeman, whose keyboard work is immaculate (see Papist, Sheep and Shepherd's Song).

The album kicks off with a cool classic sing-along followed by the impressive title track, which evokes a strong feeling of connection with nature. Thirty days has a passable melody accompanied by a sitar, which will be present along the whole album. Flight feels like a long lost song from Pink Floyd's early post-Barrett times (in a *very* good way). Up to here, Wakeman has been sort of quiet, so I imagine anyone who may have bought this LP in search of his early works might be in the brink of desperation. But it's OK, since in the following tracks his raw talent will be "fully" released (or, at least, up to 60%). It's in this tracks where we get the best of the album. The bass is also not to be overlooked, making a superb duo with the keys in Sheep and Shepherd. After this last one we get to the acoustic In Amongst the Roses, an absolute beauty of a song, followed by the country-ish Carry on Beside you, which isn't unwelcome. The new release ends with yet another song, Keep the Devil Outside, a classic "Strawbsy" (if I may) sing-along of those which they composed with such ease. An overexploitation of these kind of songs without Wakeman along with ever more boring lyrics is the reason why I believe this is the peak of the band (not that Hero and Heroine and specially Grave New World don't have some jewels in them, though).

The only thing I miss in this record is some further development in some of the most "proggy" tracks, since some of the melodies are really good and could be experimented with a lot more. It feels like Wakeman doesn't really have the freedom to really explode and the whole thing is screaming for a 12 minute long epic which could easily fit in the whole thing. Maybe I'm just too much of a proghead. But overall an absolute masterpiece.

 Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios by STRAWBS album cover Live, 1970
3.65 | 90 ratings

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Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars "Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios" is a live album release by UK folk rock/progressive rock act The Strawbs. The album was released in October 1970 through A&M Records. Itīs the successor to "Dragonfly" from February 1970. Since the bandīs eponymously titled debut album was released in May 1969, "Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios" is The Strawbs third album released in just 17 months. Quite a few lineup changes has taken place since the preceding album as cellist Claire Deniz and bassist Ron Chesterman have left. New in the lineup are John Ford (bass), Richard Hudson (vocals, drums, percussion, citar), and Rick Wakeman (piano, organ, harpsichord, celeste). The latter already guested on "Dragonfly", but has now become a full-time member of The Strawbs. The usual suspects are Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dulcimer) and Tony Hooper (vocals, acoustic guitar, tambourine).

The material featured on "Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios" was recorded live on the 11th of July 1970 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. The original version of the album features 6 tracks and a total playing time of 40:44 minutes, while the 1998 remaster adds 3 bonus tracks to the tracklist. One of them is "Forever", which is a studio track from a 1970 single, while the other two were recorded live at the same concert as the original material.

Most of the material is pretty standard early 70s folk rock, but the addition of Wakeman brings some much needed variation and classical music influenced finesse to the recording. especially on his own penned "Temperament of Mind", which shows his diverse musical influences. It would have been interesting to hear more of his playing incorporated on the more regular folk rock tracks (he plays the intro to "Song Of A Sad Little Girl" and some nice organ on "Where is This Dream of Your Youth", but you wonīt hear him that often other than that). "Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios" features a well sounding organic production (courtesy of Tony Visconti), but ultimately itīs not the most interesting Strawbs release. Itīs a bit on the uneventful and dull side. A 2.5 star (50%) rating is warranted.

 Preserved Uncanned by STRAWBS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1990
2.72 | 10 ratings

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Preserved Uncanned
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars While rummaging through my album collection looking for a misplaced record, I stumbled upon this antique and curio from the Strawbs. It's a collection of outtakes and demos from the band's formative years up to the recording of the group's first album with A&M records in 1969. A number of songs are demos from the Sandy And Strawbs album from 1967. "Sail Away to the Sea", "On My Way" and "All I Need Is You", all recorded prior to Miss Denny joining the group, are fully formed and very quaint sounding even without Sandy's incredible voice. They don't hold a candle to the all All Our Own Work album recordings made with Sandy, but show just how good a songwriter and arranger Dave Cousins was at that early stage. These songs are fleshed out by founding Strawbs' members Tony Hooper on acoustic guitar and Ron Chesterman on stand up bass.

Demos for "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" and "Martin Luther King's Dream" actually sound fresher and more dynamic to me than their later studio and live versions found on the "first" Strawbs' album from 1969 (Sandy And The Strawbs was not released in any form until 1973), and the live Antiques And Curios album from 1971, respectively.

There are few bluegrass style banjo and guitar instrumentals that are not my cup of tea, but do show what a virtuoso banjo player Cousins was. It also shows what a good guitarist Hooper was to keep up with Dave's manic picking. Demos for more epic songs like "The Battle" and "Where Is the Dream of Your Youth?" pale in comparison to their heavily produced studio counterparts, but still demonstrate just how completely put together these songs were before all the bombast was added in their studio incarnations.

What is most impressive about this compilation is the great sound quality of these old recordings. Mr. Cousins always seems to produce quality sounding archival material that really sounds if it was recorded yesterday. Preserves Uncanned is strictly for diehard fans but lucky are those fans that can enjoy these wonderful sounding old recordings. 3 stars.

 Ringing Down The Years by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1991
2.72 | 29 ratings

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Ringing Down The Years
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars With the release of Dave Cousins' new Strawbs outing The Magic Of It All, with its replacement musicians, I decided to backtrack on other Strawbs albums with musical chairs and found this album in my collection originally released in 1991. Ringing Down The Years finds Dave moonlighting from his job as a radio station program director and follows the similar sounding Don't Say Goodbye released a few years earlier. That album may be superior as it has less covers of past Strawbs songs but this album has a couple of bonified gems. The moving title track, an ode to the late Sandy Denny, and the very baroque "The King", with Kathy Lesurf of the Albion Band adding support vocals, genuinely stand out.

Two older once departed bandmates Richard Hudson on drums and Tony Hooper on acoustic guitar and backing vocals are onboard for this outing, with the superlative Brian Willoughby on lead guitar (replacing the great Dave Lambert who was reported to have been a ski instructor in Switzerland after his retirement from the music business). On bass and keyboards are new members Rod Derick and Chris Parren. All of the above are hold overs from the previous Don't Say Goodbye album.

If I have one big compliant against this album is its late 80s sounding production with loud cracking snare drums and muted bass, along with some new wave sounding synths, generally dragging the songs down. The two remakes, "Tell Me What You See In Me" and "Grace Darling" are especially affected by this as the new arrangements might have worked better in a more 70s production style. We'll never know. One song that does work well with the new wave accoutrements is the lead off track "Might As Well Be On Mars', which is a cover of a song of an obscure (to me) Canadian new wave group called the Pukka Orchestra. No wonder. "Afraid To Let You Go" is the better of two songs written by Parren/Hudson/Willoughby. The other being "Taking A Chance". The former sung by Parren and sounding similar to Dave Lambert, the second sung by Hudson. This does add a bit of continuity to the group's sound, whatever that's worth. As others might overlook the album's production I think that 3 stars is sufficient. Just don't look for any prog here.

 The Magic of It All by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.24 | 12 ratings

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The Magic of It All
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars Since almost the very beginning, Dave Cousins has imbued Strawbs and solo albums alike with at least one "novelty" song, one which sits outside the mainstream styles of the group. They vary in the degree to which they assist or upset album flow. For instance, "Ah Me Ah My", while completely out of character with the rest of the Grave New World album, was exactly what was needed when it was needed, momentarily lightening the angst. "Part of the Union" arguably worked because it was written and largely performed by Hudson-Ford and on a very diverse release, "Bursting at the Seams". The problem on "Nomadness" was that half of the cuts were outliers, so the album was the structural equivalent of a termite-riddled lodging. It is unfortunately that blueprint which is dusted off on "The Magic of it All", amplified by the absence of long time members Chas Cronk and Dave Lambert, replaced with rather proficient South African musicians and their influences.

Blue Weaver, keyboardist during Strawbs' most successful period in the UK and producer of the excellent "Settlement" in 2021, has returned as producer and keyboardist, while Cathryn Craig offers welcome vocal relief. Both do help with continuity but this still feels like a Dave Cousins solo album where he indulges his varied tastes in everything but rock, folk and prog for the most part. Hard to believe the album is actually decent, but not one that will win many new fans.

The most enjoyable tracks are those that generally do adhere to Strawbs' templates of the distant and near past, chiefly the middle eastern influenced opener "Ready", which is one of only 2 rockers, the wistful and autobiographical "The Magic of it All" with its shades of JADE WARRIOR in the instrumental section that probably could not have risen from Dave Lambert's picking, and the anthemic folky "Our World".

As for the other 6 tunes, the better ones are actually those that do branch out, chiefly "All Along the Bay" in which Cousins' voice adapts to a talking style reminiscent of the Irish master CHRISTY MOORE in a shuffled sax heavy number, and the Cajun-styled "Slack Jaw Alice" which might be a tribute to Gertrude Stein's spouse, she of the famous hash brownies recipe. Ironically, "Everybody means something to someone" and "Wiser Now" are similar to some of his work on "Deep Cuts" and "Burning for You" that never really moved me and still don't, but at least "Wiser Now" maintains his high poetic standards.

Of the two bonus tracks, "Lady of the Night" is more of the same, while "Christmas Ghosts", written and sung by John Ford, sounds wonderful but is ill timed and a bit too optimistic perhaps, but not the action oriented optimism of a "We Have the Power", but one reserved for believers if you will. In all, they don't affect the overall score here.

Strawbs' final performance was at FAIRPORT CONVENTION's Cropredy festival in August, as Dave Cousins' declining health precludes further touring. This may or not be their last album. It's nowhere near as strong as the 2 preceding releases but is still reflective and heartfelt, just too mellow and eclectic for its own good. But Mr Cousins has earned the right to do as he pleases. It's a real head scratcher how a mildly successful group has survived and thrived for 50+ years, even if he has been the only founding member since 1972. And that perhaps is the real magic of it all.

 The Magic of It All by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.24 | 12 ratings

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The Magic of It All
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars My God, one could go bonkers trying to figure out the riddle behind this latest Strawbs outing. Particularly in trying to figure out why veteran Strawbs members Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk, on lead guitar and bass respectively, are missing from the album's lineup, as are one of the two veteran rotating drummers of either Rod Coombes or Tony Fernandez. This rendition of Dave Cousins' Strawbs consists of Cousins himself on acoustic guitar and vocals, former keyboardist Blue Weaver, along with former member John Ford, who is credited with lead vocals on only one CD bonus song while not contributing instrumentally. Both have not been official members for at least 17 years in Weaver's case, and more in Ford's case as he bailed out back in the 70's. More mystery to boggle the mind. And don't get me started on the album cover art.

I'm going to guess the obvious and say that this album started life as a Cousins' solo album, with heavy input from Weaver in producing and arranging, with parent record company Esoteric probably having pushed Dave into branding the album a Strawbs recording. Strawbs being a much bigger and familiar name than David Cousins, that's for sure. And Ford's name was tossed in to make it look more like a proper Strawbs album.

The album was recorded in Cape Town, South Africa, with a cast of crack South African studio musicians and the mix does turn out well. The lead off track "Ready (Are We Ready)" is the most Strawbs sounding, with Weaver's bombastic mellotron and organ blasted into the sound mix after the song's catchy choruses. A nice beginning that also features a wonderfully rhythmic drum and bass interplay throughout the song. The title track "The Magic Of It All" is an introspective as well as retrospective ballad that is quite poignant given Dave's serious health issues of late. It's melodically quite beautiful and Weaver's keyboard work is exquisitely understated but hitting all the cues that an emotional ballad like this requires. Again, it's beautiful. "All Along The Bay" is a jazzy lounge like song that features multiple saxophone parts. It's nothing to get excited about but breaks up the serious mood with its fun lyrics and bouncy rhythms. "Everybody Means Something to Someone" and "Our World" are more heartfelt introspective songs which feature rich female vocal harmonies (a first for a Strawbs' album) and lush musical arrangements. They are not as strong as the album's two opening songs but still enjoyable.

"The Time Has Come (for Giving Back)" is a catchy rocker with slashing guitar chords and and a hook laden chorus by Dave and the girls. It's another stand out track. "Slack Jaw Alice" is a goofy throwaway song that showcases the album's musicians, especially the rhythm section, who really swing when required. "Paris Nights" is an atmospheric song about Paris at night, naturally, with accordion supplied by Weaver. The first on a Strawbs album. It's the subtleties in the arrangements that keeps the song interesting. "Wiser Now" is another introspective ballad of someone who has lived, learned and is grateful to have done so. As someone battling through a life threatening illness this song, like several others here, no doubt reflects Cousins' wistful state of mind. A perfect album closer. The two bonus tracks found on the CD edition are nice, and the John Ford written and sung "Christmas Ghosts" features an other worldly lyrical twist. Both songs are worth having. The album is beautifully recorded, mixed and mastered by Weaver and is well polished without sounding too slick. And Cousin's vocals are superb throughout.

For an album with so many question marks, no folky acoustic guitar interplay and a lack of any prog songs, it's incredibly enjoyable on it's own terms. Truth be told, this album is not light years away from its predecessor in both style and execution. And perhaps that's the real magic of it all. 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

 The Magic of It All by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.24 | 12 ratings

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The Magic of It All
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by Heart of the Matter

3 stars Probably, one of the most defying challenges in the life of a band with a long career behind, is carrying that past against which their new album needs to live up to, if it's going to be embraced and appreciated by long-term followers. In that sense, the previous album by Strawbs had managed to pass a test, where this one fails. In effect, Settlement feels like a solid piece of that vintage prog-folk sound that used to characterize the band's early seventies output. The Magic Of It All seems to be more of a mixed bag, with other things thrown in for good measure.

The opening track, Ready (Are We Ready), sounds almost like a slice of AOR spiced up with Rhythm'n'Blues stylings, in a fashion not entirely dissimilar to Trapeze. A good, but maybe, for this band at least, unexpected touch. Track 2 finally delivers The Magic Of It All, and it does it so with a delicious vocal melody wrapped up in warm crystaline harmony. Tracks 4, 5, and 6 keep the melodic folk legacy of the band up and shining, with the help of choir and percussion wearing the local South African flavour on the sleeve.

Perhaps a less satisfactory result is to be found in tracks 3 and 7, where the ethnic simplicity of rhythms and choir doesn't seem to achieve the goal of freshness, but more likely a moment where everybody involved feels relieved from duty, and indulges in sheer fun and a sense of communion. Touching, in a sense, but hardly progressive, if you ask me.

Track 8, Paris Nights, is a rather obvious piece of parisienne charm, complete with accordion and French vocals by Dave Cousins himself, who is in fine form, in despite of his serious health issues. One maybe could feel that, in order to close the album on a high note, a song with strong solos is required. Well, don't worry then, because that's precisely what the closer brings out, with slow-burning contributions by piano and, of course, heartfelt electric guitar.

Not everything I was expecting, but surely good for its great moments.

 Halcyon Days (US Release) by STRAWBS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1998
3.75 | 11 ratings

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Halcyon Days (US Release)
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nš 620

'The Very Best Of The Strawbs: Halcyon Days' is a compilation album of the English progressive rock band Strawbs that was release in 1997. The compilation was released as a 2 CD set in the UK and US in 1997 and 1998, respectively. However, the US release has a slightly different title, 'The Very Best Of Strawbs: Halcyon Days ' The A & M Years' and a slightly different track listing too. About half of the tracks that appear in both versions are common to the UK and US versions. Although credited to Strawbs the UK version does contain three Hudson Ford tracks and a Dave Cousins solo track and the US version does also contain a Dave Cousins solo track. The cover image of both versions is very similar with a common kingfisher, which is a reference to the mythical kingfisher of Halcyon days, in the Greek mythology.

The US version of 'The Very Best Of The Strawbs: Halcyon Days' has thirty-five tracks. From 'Strawbs' we have 'The Man Who Called Himself Jesus', 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth' and 'The Battle'. 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth?' is a good song with a simple structure. 'The Man Who Called Himself Jesus' is a great song, one of the best moments on that album. 'The Battle' is an epic with the glimpses of their future progressive lines. From 'Dragonfly' we have 'The Weary Song' and 'I Turned My Face Into The Wind'. 'The Weary Song' is a nice typical acoustic folk song. 'I Turned My Face Into The Wind' is a nice simple song with some pastoral feeling, a piano and cello driven song. From 'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' we have 'Song Of A Sad Little Girl'. It's a nice song showing the perfect interplay between Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins on Strawbs. From 'From The Witchwood' we have 'A Glimpse Of Heaven', 'Witchwood', 'Sheep', 'The Shepherd's Song' and 'The Hangman And The Papist'. 'A Glimpse Of Heaven' is a powerful song where the band develops its atmosphere brilliantly. 'Witchwood' is a calm nice song in the style of the medieval and Celtic music with a great pastoral melody. 'Sheep' is a good song made in a psychedelic style. 'The Hangman And The Papist' is a powerful song with dramatic lyrics. 'The Shepherd's Song' is a great song perfectly balanced with excellent keyboards. From 'Grave New World' we have 'Benedictus', 'Queen Of Dreams', 'Heavy Disguise' and 'New World'. 'Benedictus' is well constructed with a nice organ break in the middle. 'Queen Of Dreams' is a song with psychedelic influences and recorded in reverse. 'Heavy Disguise' is short with a great tune and good lyrics. 'New World' is a fantastic song, the most powerful song ever made by them. From 'Bursting At The Seams' we have 'Part Of The Union', 'Tears And Pavan', 'The River', 'Down By The Sea' and 'Lay Down'. 'Part Of The Union' is an amused controversial song due to its lyrics. 'Tears And Pavan' is divided into 'Tears' and 'Pavan'. 'Tears' is sad with some emotional parts and great Mellotron lines and 'Pavan' is a dance tune with twin nice acoustic guitars and a great harpsichord work. 'The River' is a folk melancholic song played in a slow rhythm. 'Down By The Sea' is powerful, very symphonic with a magnificent triumphant choir. 'Lay Down' is a pure rock song, very enjoyable and well sung. From 'Hero And Heroine' we have 'Autumn', 'Hero And Heroine', 'Midnight Sun', 'Out In The Cold' and 'Round And Round'. 'Autumn' is a varied song with great moments and nice choruses. 'Hero And Heroine' is a strong energetic song with great and varied moments. 'Midnight Sun' is a short melodic and beautiful folk ballad. 'Out In The Cold' is a good song with intricate guitar work, good harmonica and nice drumming. 'Round And Round' is a very progressive song with a beautiful and brilliant keyboard work. From 'Ghosts' we have 'Ghosts', 'Grace Darling' and 'Lemon Pie'. 'Ghosts' is a gorgeous melodic song with a multiple use of instruments. 'Grace Darling' is a nice piece with great keyboards and a beautiful choral accompaniment. 'Lemon Pie' is a catchy song in their most folk traditional roots. From 'Nomadness' we have 'To Be Free', 'Hanging In The Gallery' and 'The Promised Land'. 'To Be Free' is an energetic hard rock, pleasant and well constructed. 'Hanging In The Gallery' has great lyrics and a nice vocal interpretation. 'The Promised Land' is strong and has powerful keyboards, great guitar, good lyrics and singing.

The US version of this compilation has more four tracks. It has two non-albums tracks of Strawbs, 'Forever' and 'Here It Comes'. Both were only released as singles and appeared as bonus on the remastered versions of 'Dragonfly' and 'Grave New World', respectively. We have also two Cousins' solo tracks 'Two Weeks Last Summer' and 'Blue Angel' that appeared on his first work 'Two Weeks Last Summer'. The last one was later recorded on 'Blue Angel' of Strawbs.

Conclusion: The US version of this compilation album is also good as happened with its UK version. It also covers the career of the band from 1969 to 1975 that belong to their first nine studio albums with the exception of 'All Our Own Work'. Still, this US version is more focused on the more known Strawbs material. With the exception of four tracks, the two non-albums tracks and the two Cousins' tracks, the rest on it is more conventional material that was taken from their regular studio albums. So, this is probably a better option for those who aren't very familiar with the band's work.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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