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Strawbs - From The Witchwood CD (album) cover

FROM THE WITCHWOOD

Strawbs

 

Prog Folk

4.02 | 248 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 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*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |

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