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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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INgrooves Fontana/UMe Imports 2008
$5.99 (used)
From the WitchwoodFrom the Witchwood
Universal I.S. 1998
$3.98 (used)
Hero & Heroine (bonus Tracks) (remastered) (eng)Hero & Heroine (bonus Tracks) (remastered) (eng)
Extra tracks · Remastered
Universal I.S. 1998
$3.31 (used)
Grave New WorldGrave New World
Extra tracks · Remastered
Universal I.S. 1998
$3.50 (used)
Ghosts (bonus Track) (remastered) (eng)Ghosts (bonus Track) (remastered) (eng)
Extra tracks · Remastered
Universal I.S. 1998
$6.64 (used)
The Ferryman's CurseThe Ferryman's Curse
Esoteric/Antenna 2017
$18.15 (used)
Extra tracks
UMe Imports 2009
$8.60 (used)
Halcyon DaysHalcyon Days
Universal I.S. 1997
$6.60 (used)
Just A Collection Of Antiques & CuriousJust A Collection Of Antiques & Curious
Universal Japan 2018
$25.99 (used)
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STRAWBS discography

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

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

3.09 | 81 ratings
3.14 | 96 ratings
4.02 | 242 ratings
From The Witchwood
4.15 | 323 ratings
Grave New World
3.57 | 165 ratings
Bursting At The Seams
2.76 | 33 ratings
Sandy Denny And The Strawbs: All Our Own Work
4.13 | 318 ratings
Hero And Heroine
4.02 | 178 ratings
2.54 | 75 ratings
2.77 | 68 ratings
Deep Cuts
2.58 | 54 ratings
Burning For You
2.88 | 47 ratings
3.01 | 32 ratings
Don't Say Goodbye
2.70 | 21 ratings
Ringing Down The Years
2.74 | 35 ratings
Heartbreak Hill [Aka: Starting Over]
3.56 | 24 ratings
Acoustic Strawbs: Baroque & Roll
2.75 | 31 ratings
Blue Angel
3.15 | 33 ratings
Déjà Fou
3.50 | 45 ratings
The Broken Hearted Bride
3.29 | 37 ratings
Dancing To The Devil's Beat
3.64 | 34 ratings
Hero & Heroine In Ascencia
2.74 | 26 ratings
3.84 | 42 ratings
The Ferryman's Curse

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

3.75 | 77 ratings
Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios
2.39 | 9 ratings
The Strawbs' Greatest Hits Live
3.69 | 14 ratings
BBC in concert
2.49 | 10 ratings
Concert Classics
3.39 | 5 ratings
The Complete Strawbs (Chiswick '98 Live)
2.44 | 4 ratings
Full Bloom, Acoustic Strawbs Live
3.68 | 9 ratings
Live At Nearfest
3.74 | 16 ratings
Painted Sky
3.70 | 5 ratings
3.09 | 4 ratings
NY '75
4.00 | 1 ratings
Laydown With The Strawbs
4.92 | 3 ratings
40th Anniversary Celebration: Vol 1: Strawberry Fayre
3.18 | 2 ratings
40th Anniversary Celebration Vol. 2: Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins
4.00 | 4 ratings
Live At The BBC Vol Two: In Concert
3.15 | 4 ratings
Live At The BBC Vol One: In Session
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live In Gettysburg

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

3.02 | 6 ratings
Classic Rock Legends (DVD)
4.02 | 9 ratings
Strawbs Live In Tokyo '75 / Grave New World The Movie
4.00 | 4 ratings
Acoustic Live In Toronto At Hugh's Room
3.00 | 3 ratings
Lay Down With The Strawbs (DVD)

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

2.44 | 7 ratings
Strawbs by Choice
2.52 | 6 ratings
Early Strawbs
3.82 | 10 ratings
Classic Strawbs
3.94 | 10 ratings
The Best of Strawbs
2.69 | 8 ratings
Preserved Uncanned
3.52 | 17 ratings
A Choice Selection of Strawbs
3.61 | 17 ratings
Halcyon Days (UK Release)
4.31 | 13 ratings
Halcyon Days (US Release)
3.00 | 1 ratings
30 Years in Rock, Classic Rock Legends
3.00 | 6 ratings
The Collection
4.41 | 4 ratings
Tears And Pavan (An Introduction To Strawbs)
3.21 | 5 ratings
20th Century Masters - Millenium Collection
4.72 | 12 ratings
A Taste of Strawbs
4.08 | 7 ratings
Acoustic Gold
2.00 | 1 ratings
Of a Time
3.95 | 3 ratings
Witchwood: the Very Best of....

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

3.00 | 1 ratings
Oh How She Changed
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
2.41 | 8 ratings
Strawberry Sampler number 1
4.00 | 2 ratings
Lay Down/Backside
4.00 | 1 ratings
New World
3.00 | 1 ratings
Part of the Union
0.00 | 0 ratings
Shine On Silver Sun
3.00 | 1 ratings
Part of the Union/Will you go


Showing last 10 reviews only
 From The Witchwood by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.02 | 242 ratings

From The Witchwood
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 193

"From The Witchwood" is the third studio album of Strawbs and was released in 1971. This is a landmark for the band. It represents a transitional phase on the sound of their music and a search for their definitive sound, from a bluegrass group to a progressive folk rock band. It represents a huge step forward from their two previous studio albums, too.

The line up on the album is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, dulcimer, banjo and recorder), Tony Hooper (vocals, acoustic guitar, autoharp and tambourine), Rick Wakeman (piano, organ, celeste, mellotron, moog synthesiser, clavinet and harpsichord), John Ford (vocals and bass guitar) and Richard Hudson (vocals, drums and sitar). It's also the only studio album to feature Wakeman in the band's line up, before he joined to Yes. However, Wakeman had featured on their previous and first live album "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious" too, and had also performed as a session musician on their second studio album "Dragonfly".

"From The Witchwood" has ten tracks. The first track "A Glimpse Of Heaven" written by Cousins is a brilliant song and an excellent open for the album. It's my second favourite song on the album and is a song where the band develops their musical atmosphere all over the album. This is a powerful song where the organ is played like a church organ and the vocals are performed like choruses. The song also contains an excellent example of Wakeman's keyboard talents. The second track "Witchwood" written by Cousins is a very calm and beautiful song in the style of the medieval and Celtic music. It has a wonderful pastoral melody that can catch the attention of everybody. This is a very different song from the previous one, because it presents more folk elements on it, and it's also more secret and mysterious. It's also one of the highlights of the album. The third track "Thirty Days" written by Ford is a song very close to The Beatles, and curiously, even the vocals are similar to them. It's a typical folk acoustic song, very simple and nice but, it has nothing special and is also, in my humble opinion, one of the weakest songs on the album. The fourth track "Flight" written by Hudson is a very calm and peaceful acoustic ballad without anything special to speak about, except the interesting Cousin's guitar work and Wakeman's piano, in the end. It's the second weakest point on the album. The fifth track "The Hangman And The Papist" written by Cousins is, on the contrary, the strongest point on the album. It's a very powerful song also with powerful and dramatic lyrics and is, for sure, the most progressive of all. On the song the music goes in crescendo in order to create the dramatic effects described on the lyrics and suddenly ends when the prisoner dies. Here we have a brilliant keyboard performance by Wakeman and the reason why he was invited to be part of Yes. I think we can consider this a perfect masterpiece. The sixth track "Sheep" written by Cousins is a less folk song compared with the other songs on the album and is more composed in a psychedelic style. It's a very good song and once more Wakeman continues inspired and to impresses. This song represents another good musical moment on the album. The seventh track "Canon Dale" written by Hudson is the return to the folk but it has also some psychedelic effects made by the sitar. It's a song with nice harmonies and very pleasant to listen to, but once more, I think that it no represents one of the best moments on the album. The eighth track "The Shepherd's Song" written by Cousins is another great song and represents also one of the best moments on the album. It's a song perfectly balanced with all musical instruments. The song has excellent keyboard performance. Especially the piano and mellotron are particularly enjoyable to listen to. I think we can consider that this song incorporates influences of the Hispanic music. The ninth track "In Amongst The Roses" written by Cousins is a beautiful and typical acoustic folk ballad of him. It has a very melancholic vocal duet between Cousins and Hooper and is a return to visit their almost pure folk first two studio albums. It has also a slight country feel and is very pleasant and calm to listen to. The tenth track "I'll Carry On Beside You" written by Cousins is another great folk tune where we can feel the power of the vocals and the instruments in general. It's a song that sounds more like a typical classic country folk song that we can listen to on the radio. But, this is a very nice song too.

Conclusion: "From The Witchwood" is a great album that combines perfectly well the folk with symphonic progressive rock music. It's also a very interesting and enjoyable album to listen to and represents a major step forward in their musical career. "From The Witchwood" is musically a very varied album with many different influences such as folk, country, rock and psychedelic music, although it isn't always progressive. Sincerely, I think that isn't a bad thing. We can't forget that this is a transitional album and the next studio album "Grave New World" is, in my humble opinion, a truly progressive album. "From The Witchwood" finds the band exploring new pallets of colours and starts their migration to a major prog folk band. It's also the album which allowed the migration of Wakeman to other higher flights.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Lay Down/Backside by STRAWBS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1972
4.00 | 2 ratings

Lay Down/Backside
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars While "Grave New World" was STRAWBS' biggest selling album in the UK by far, it failed to yield a hit single and it didn't quite reach the top 10. "Bursting at the Seams", recorded with rock guitarist Dave Lambert replacing a disillusioned Tony Hooper, rectified both of these problems and gave wide albeit fleeting recognition to Strawbs in their home country while building on their budding reputation in North America. The first single, "Lay Down", actually saw release in late 1972, before the album, and is a surprisingly upbeat hard rock number that nonetheless retains the characteristics of the group sound - strong melodies, hymn like aura and lyrics, and a soaking of mellotron choir. Cousins' goal here was to sound like the SMALL FACES and their gift of delivering the message that they were having fun when they performed. It seemed to resonate with the public who drove it to #12 on the UK charts and primed the pump for the even bigger albeit very different "Part of the Union" early in 1973. While many Strawbs fans decry "Part of the Union" as sell out, most agree that "Lay Down" was a fine song that made only enough concessions to achieve deserved success. Nonetheless, apart from the similar "Stormy Down" on the same album, it's an approach that the band never capitalized on again.

The B side was a very proggy and ribald send up of the David Bowie "Ziggy Stardust" persona, and is even more a showcase of Dave Lambert's passionate lead guitar than the A-side. The extended instrumental coda showcases the band's new-found confidence. The fact that this song did not make the album cut is testament to the free flowing creativity of the group at that time.

Unless you are a vinyl collector, both of these tracks can be found on the CD reissues of "Bursting at the Seams", with "Backside" as a bonus. Still, these are two excellent tracks that document the Strawbs' fleeting chapter as one of the top bands in their homeland.

 Part of the Union/Will you go by STRAWBS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1973
3.00 | 1 ratings

Part of the Union/Will you go
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars The curse of "Part of the Union" was that it was on a Strawbs album, and didn't mesh well with the earnest folk rock from which they were slowly detaching, nor did it sit with its hands neatly folded in its lap next to the prog epics they were beginning to explore. A Hudson-Ford penned and sung tune that was about to be released as a single under the name "The Brothers", "Part of the Union" was ultimately selected for the "Bursting at the Seams" album by band leader Dave Cousins. He reasoned that it would become a huge hit and fragment the band if released under separate cover. Ironically, the band imploded anyway, and when the dust settled the reformed Strawbs were a full blown prog rock group with reasonable success in North America and Hudson- Ford were pop hit makers in the UK.

This is actually a catchy pop tune that flies in the face of the prevailing styles of its day. An oom pah pah beat, no electric guitar, a sing along chorus, and enough irony to leave its intent ambiguous, were all qualities lacking in most pop music at the time. Its adaptation of an old WOODY GUTHRIE tune "Union Maid" was a further departure for the charts. The barrel house piano by Blue Weaver and the simple trick of each chorus being introduced with an additional bar all augment the production by Tom Allom. In retrospect, the band should have somehow held it together after its march to #2 in the UK charts along with the album, as their mix of the familiar and the stately, along with 4 vocalists, had little competition. While they claim they were short of material for the album, the B side "Will You Go" is a rough cut gem that didn't even get onto the LP release, an "almost" traditional Scottish song often called "Wild Mountain Thyme", featuring more vocal harmonies, accordion, and an arrangement similar to a more laid back "Lay Down".

At this point, the only reason to procure this single is if you are a vinyl only collector, as both tracks are on the CD reissues, the B side as a bonus. It's a fascinating historical document of the ephemeral nature of pop success. For every 1 QUEEN or ROD STEWART there were dozens if not hundreds of STRAWBS who could not comprehend or sustain the magic they fleetingly held in their hands.

 Part of the Union by STRAWBS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1973
3.00 | 1 ratings

Part of the Union
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars Bassist John Ford and drummer Richard Hudson had been members of STRAWBS since the beginning of the 70's, and before that they played together in Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera. Gradually they started writing and singings songs for Strawbs (which was practically led by Dave Cousins who wrote and sang most of the music). They found so much hit potential in themselves that after the 1973 album Bursting at the Seams they both left Strawbs to form Hudson-Ford.

'Part of the Union' appeared on Bursting at the Seams and was quite popular at the time. It's an upbeat song with an enormous amount of mind-sticking catchiness. As the title suggests, it's about working life, a celebration of individual worker's rights and safety as part of the union. "You won't get me, I'm part of the union - til the day I die", declares the very singalong type of the chorus. Judged in that context of empowerment, the song truly hits the bull's eye, but despite being so catchy, it strangely also manages to avoid being irritating piece of music, at least in my opinion. And I don't usually enjoy ear-worm hits.

The B-side of this single has an earlier "pre- Hudson-Ford" song 'Heavy Disguise' (penned by john Ford), which originally appeared on the previous Strawbs album Grave New World (1972). Unlike 'Part of the Union' this is not a catchy song seeking commercial success, not at all, instead it's just a well-done album track and its main purpose is to add variety to that very strong Cousins-centred album. It's interesting that Strawbs, or their record company, chose this song on the B-side instead of some other song from Bursting at the Seams, or a non-album song. Almost as if it was paving way for Hudson and Ford's decision to form a band of their own.

Hudson-Ford released four albums in 1973 - 77, but each subsequent album made smaller impact, and they called it a day in '77. But they continued working together: their next bands The Monks and High Society (I was reading while writing this) I've never even heard of.

 Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios by STRAWBS album cover Live, 1970
3.75 | 77 ratings

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

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

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
3.74 | 16 ratings

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
3.84 | 42 ratings

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
3.84 | 42 ratings

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.

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

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