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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Haunting

Probably the most under-rated Strawbs album, "Ghosts" was certainly not nearly as successful as it should have been commercially.

The numerous line up changes which seemed to be a feature of just about every album appeared to give the band fresh impetus each time, thus "Ghosts" had a great diversity of music, from almost fragile beauty, to very powerful pomposity.

The opening (title) track is similar in structure to "Autumn" which opened the previous album, "Hero and Heroine". It is however much darker, and heavier reflecting the "nightmare" lyrics. The three parts flow together seamlessly, with a menacing nightmare sequence before cumulating in the melodic awakening.

"The life auction" has some excellent guitar riffs, the track building quickly from the "Visions of Southall from the train" prelude, an odd multi tracked Betjamin like recital of poetry describing a less than scenic portrait of this area of West London. As the short narrative ends, Dave Cousins bursts in, his full voice almost a-cappella, the awesome power of the band only arriving for the instrumental verses. The song is bombastic, acidic, and certainly one of the most powerful pieces the band has ever done. Think along the lines of the "New world" track performed at double the speed. For the middle section, the track enters a mellower phase, with cascading keyboards and soft guitar, before returning for a magnificent climactic ending. Surely one of the Strawbs most under appreciated tracks in their entire catalogue.

With these two tracks ("Ghosts" and "The life Auction"), alone running to over 15 minutes, the band were moving further and further from their folk roots, in to superb melodic prog.

The final two tracks are somewhat softer, "You and I" is a lovely soft atmospheric piece reflecting on younger days. It builds subtly to a beautifully harmonic middle section. "Grace Darling" you either love or you hate, there really is no middle ground here. With its choir backing and swirling keyboards I love it, even if the lyrics are a bit on the soppy side!

A great album which probably demands more attention than any other Strawbs release. I say this because it is not as immediately accessible as much of the Strawbs output; that in many ways is what makes it so appealing.

Report this review (#19720)
Posted Tuesday, March 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Ghost" has an obvious acoustic dimension: lots of acoustic guitars and some percussions mixed with electric guitar sometimes rather hard rock. It is not rare to hear piano parts. There are floating loud keyboards, like organ and classic mellotron of the old KING CRIMSON's stuff. Dave Cousins' voice is good, as always, and yes it sounds a bit like Peter GABRIEL, but still remains unique and give personality to STRAWBS. "Ghost" contains many mellow and relaxing bits full of keyboards ("Remembering", "You And I", "Grace Darling"). You have to hear the choirs on "Grace Darling": majestic!
Report this review (#19721)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Ghost is definitely one of their top three albums, largely underrated due to the fact that they were just embarking on attempting to crack the USA market in a big way. Sadly it did not work, however the strength of Ghosts as a collecetive piece of music must be recognised by true fans. It has symphonic accoustic leanings, perhaps more orchestral in parts. That demonstrates it's classic sound.The album starts with a 3 piece suite' Ghosts'- Sweet Dreams the first part is richly layered and beautiful to listen to. It slowly builds to epic proportions. ' Lemon pie' follows and is one of their cleverest lyrically and very catchy too. My personal favourite ' Starshine/Angel wine ' is next. Suffice to say the climax in the song will keep you rocking for many an hour. Strawbs then began to introduce more humour into their songs with ' Where Do You Go?' The single off the album, again unsuccessful reception.' The Life Auction' starts side 2 and it is eerily disturbing, again the lyrics reading like something out of a Byron poem.' Remembering' a one minute piece by John Hawken has the most incredible keyboards. Probably his best solo contribution on a Strawbs album. The next track has IMHO the best lyrically written song ever by Dave Cousins on ' And You And I ( When we were young)' If you like nostalgia then this will hit the sweet spot. The album ends on the choir laden ' Grace Darling'. A fine way to end off another masterpiece by Strawbs. Don't get me wrong Strawbs did make some below par albums in their time particularly in recent times but Ghosts is a true treasure.
Report this review (#19722)
Posted Friday, September 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have always loved the music of the STRAWBS with "Ghosts" reaching top shelf. "Ghosts" is a musically rich and inspired album with some nice diverse moods and themes. My favourite STRAWBS tune of all time (next to "Autumn" from "Hero and Heroine") is "The Life Auction" with its clear GENESIS inspired progressive vibes and mellotron led accompaniment. "Ghosts" is also quite a diverse sounding album really with folk-like passages (aka Cat Stevens), straight ahead classic rock, pop and obviously progressive sounds. Band members include David Cousins (vox, guitars), Dave Lambert (vox, guitars), pianist John Hawken (from the first line up of RENAISSANCE), bassist Chas Cronk (from Rick WAKEMAN's band) as well as Rod Coombes on the drums. Overall a brilliant album and a definite need in your collection.
Report this review (#19723)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars ".Early birds, morning breeze, spinning leaves, sleepy trees, gently tap the window pane. It's good to see the sun again."

.and it's good to listen to another beautiful Strawbs' album in the year 1975! I don't know if Ghosts is my favourite one, but it's from the same stable as Hero and Heroine and that's enough to say it's an impressive record! All the then band members seem to be at the top of their games: David Cousins (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, recorder), Dave Lambert (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars), John Hawken (piano, electric piano, harpsichord, mellotron, moog synthesizer, Hammond organ, pipe organ), Chas Cronk (bass guitar, acoustic guitar and backing vocals) and Rod Coombes (drums, congas, percussion, backing vocals).what an excellent line-up! Great and more complex arrangements (above all on The Life Auction!), very well played and recorded music, good and catchy melodies, strong and marvellous keyboards and mellotron's waves.a pleasure for ears!

The album has a darker and more "gothic" feel than the brighter previous 1974 album.obviously you can recognize it soon from the black cover and the strange picture of a 18th century's woman besides whom there's a little quasi-transparent boy.was he her dead child? The center of all this darker feel is represented by the IMPRESSIVE The Life Auction, a track composed by two different parts named respectively Impressions of Southall from the Train and The Auction. A low and very deep "monstruous" voice introduces the listener to the true power of the Strawbs'mellotron!! Orchestral structure and remarkable work from all these masters musicians!

The title track (including Sweet Dreams, Night Light and Guardian Angel) is a beautiful 8,30 mns opener, in a similar vein to Hero's Autumn. It's even better than it! The alternation of singing between Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert is a great combination.

Lemon Pie is another Cousins' classic and popular piece, good to lighten up. Great cowbell and chorus mid section! A delicate gem written about Dave's wife. It was one of my favourite track since the first listen.

Starshine / Angel Wine is from the pen of Chas Cronk. He wrote it for his newborn child. "Starshine" has such a pastoral lyric mood, much like Cousins' Witchwood-era. Indeed Cousins might well have had and influence on Cronks style and imagery. Soft intro part.then a strong electric guitar playing appears from behind the whispers. excellent!

Where Do You Go (When You Need a Hole to Crawl In) is an ironic and brilliant track which was originally written by Cousins during the Hero and Heroine album' sessions!

Don't Try To Change Me is a good rocking contribution from the other Dave (Lambert). Nice fantasy and delicate dreaming arrengements.

Remembering is a bridge forward You And I (When We Were Young), another darker track with soft, beautiful and sad electric piano. Remarkable sweet imagery, that makes us want to live or, if we were lucky enough, to re-live.

Grace Darling is the real keynote to the whole album! Sweet and catchy chorus opening, combining its warm feel with organ.this song really shines!! The song was suggested by the real story of a lighthouse keeper's daughter, Grace Darling, who rescued nine people victims of shipwreck! She didn't fear to row out in a small lifeboat across the raging seas! She died two years later, still living in that lighthouse, of tuberculosis.

Changes Arrange Us was written by Rod Coombes and appeared as the b-side of the Grace darling single. Added to the 1998 cd remastered version, it demonstrates the composing's high quality of the Strawbs' drummer. He has a very good melodic vein. not shadowed by the writing styles of Cousins! An important and precious bonus track!

In conclusion I cannot deny it: Ghosts deserves a five stars rating for such a high quality and imaginery! Usual qualities in the Strawbs classic 1971-1975 period!

Report this review (#57068)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The eighth work released in 1975 "Ghosts". Masterpiece to which pop sense and symphonic sound did balance. It is a wonderful entertainment with verve intellectually. A considerable charm of STRAWBS can be reconfirmed, and happiness that listens to music is made to be satisfied. Five stars again.Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music.
Report this review (#60461)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
4 stars This is a very fine album overall, but less consistent than its predecessor, Hero and Heroine. There are some excellent tracks (the epic Ghosts, Starshine/Angel Wine, and the first 4 tracks on side 2) but Grace Darling and Lemon Pie are just OK and Where Do You Go etc is an appalling piece of pop which was an attempt to get a hit single. This album didn't really get much exposure in the UK as Strawbs were off to crack the US, with some success; they are far better known over the pond. It deserved much better. It's not a masterpiece but well worth buying. And I will make sure I never visit Southall. To find out why, listen to track 5!
Report this review (#62423)
Posted Friday, December 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars With this album, the Strawbs only confirm the success of the formula of preceding H&H album, but better it slightly. Clearly this Strawbs line-up is better in place than on H&H, and the songwriting is rather more inspired. But we are still far away from the genius of the previous Wakeman/Hooper/Hudson/Ford line-up that made those classic folk- prog albums such Curios and Witchwood.

But this is a different era, and even if I fail to get over it completely, this new line-up is is gelling together and reaching top form with a more melodic prog rock approach with their small mini suites, something they had started with Tears And Pavan on the bad BATS album (this was the only good track in it) and then Autumn from the better H&H and now title track Ghosts (with its dark feelings) and Life Auction on this album. These mini-suites are unfortunately greatly erasing the folk prog roots of the roots but there are still some moments that brings you back to their heyday, but maybe this is like throwing salt on an open wound for me. Another irritating thing is the relatively more country twist (they were obviously trying to break the market in America) greatly contrasting with the proggier tracks, are creating a schizophrenic feel. But outside of those two major tracks are many more average tracks out of which only Grace Darling and the short Remembering are noteworthy.

Alas, their second peak is to end with this album (but clearly they had not reached the almost dizzying perfection of the Witchwood album) as the next few records will strongly regress gradually but steadily ending in some awful Deep Cuts or Deadline albums. The better album from the Lambert/Coombes/Cronk/Hawken line-up, clearly not an essential record: Just From The Witchwood can decently claim that pretension.

Report this review (#70806)
Posted Wednesday, March 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Ghosts", last Strawbs album from their classic era used to belong to my fav ones by them in my younger days. Meanwhile of course my taste has much refined and when I'm listening to it nowadays I can find only little on here that's able to keep my attention. By the time of making this album the band had been concentrating more and more on the US-market since they started to be more successful there than in their home country. So it's not that much surprising that they included more AOR elements into their music which still sounded quite good here but would develop to some rather horrible American blueprint style on their "Nomadness" - album. "Where do you go" is clearly the poppiest and weakest song whereas "The life auction" is representing one highlight of this album with the highest proportion of progressive elements. The opening multi-parted title track is certainly the second highlight on here. The closing "Grace darling" with church organ and choirs reminds of old English chorals but unfortunately became overall a bit too kitschy. The remaining tracks are mostly good more straight forward rock songs. Finally I've to say that "Ghosts" had been considerably better than the previous H&H album and for sure last one by this band to be called good at all but not essential at all in Prog. One could add an extra half star eventually!
Report this review (#101777)
Posted Wednesday, December 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars An overlooked classic by the band. Their sound may have been streamlined a tad for the US audience but they retain their more harder-edged progressive side that was showcased on 'Hero and Heroine'. Harpsicord abounds on this disc with Hawkins excellent Mellotron work also popping up all over. The title song and 'The Life Auction' keep the Strawbs firmly entrenched in the prog circle. In fact, 'The Life Auction' could be their most progressive song ever; powerfully bombastic, it is for me if not thee best at least one of their best. They do stay somewhat close to their folk roots although more on the dark and gothic side with "You and I (When We Were Young)" with a hauntingly moody beginning and ending. There's an orchestrated end song in the beautiful 'Grace Darling' and more of their peppy rocking songs, 'Lemon Pie' which is accutely spirited and "Starshine/Angel Wine" which starts out overtly mellow then slowly builds to a scorching rocker. The only burp would be the hoaky "Where Do You Go..." and the somewhat ordinary "Don't Try To Change Me" The bonus track, "Changes Arrange" is a clever rocker with nice harpsicord playing, very welcome indeed. Most songs on this disc are as good or even better then the awesome "Hero and Heroine", so if you enjoyed the one, you would be doing yourself a favor by picking this one up. Their last true prog album. 4 stars!
Report this review (#119517)
Posted Monday, April 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
5 stars Ghost was my first Strawbs LP, I bought it when I was 15. And it is still my favorite. Great symphonic folk, combining skillfully acoustic and electric instrumentation into a very own sound. Strawbs had gone a long way and now they were much more than a simply folk rock group. Ghost was the group´s peak, with every track having a different approach and still retaining the Strawbs trademark. It has, of course, their best line up. If their performance in Hero And Heroine was promising, this album fullfilled every expectation one might have about it. Everyone shines here, but John Hawken proves he is the best choice for the keys and leaves nothing to be desired even for hardcore Rick Wakeman´s fans.

Tne main piece of the record (al least for progheads) is the title track with the fine intro with harpsichord and the varied moods in its 3 parts, going from dreaming and pastoral to hard rock, then going back to acoustic again and finishing with a beautiful chorus. Life Auction is another bold track, quite experimental (for Strawbs style) and haunting. Both are the best exemples of how much this band had evolve since their early days.

All other tracks are equally memorable, but were more into the Strawbs wont. The fine musicanship of this line up works wonders on everyone of them, giving Cousins lyrics the best sound landscape he ever had. Every tune is a joy to hear. And the album closes in with one of the most beautiful ballads Í heard in my life: Grace Darling. The song´s about a true story of a lighthouse keeper´s daughter who saved the lives of 9 people after a shipwreck was recorded in a church using its pipe organ and a complete choir magnificiently arranged by Robert Kirby. The result is absolutely great. Different, but great. The group never sounded so versatile and convincing.

Ghosts is Strawb´s best, combining inspiration, right production and tight musicanship. A classic record and a must have for any prog fan who considers himself a lover of the 70´s prog scene. Fice stars with honor!

Report this review (#130212)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars 10/10 Masterpiece

"Ghosts" is yet another mind-blowing feast of greatness for strawbs fans, and even some casual music fans at that. This album is quite accessible, with tracks like "Grace Darling", "Leom Pie", "You and I (When We Were Young)", and "Don't Try To Change Me" all being very easy listening; a pretty strong change, in my opinion, from the mood, concept and overall emotion of "Hero and Heroine". I feel "Ghosts" contains so much beauty and passion that it is really the Strawbs last great album, and a complete Masterpiece at that. I do find myself giving alot of 5 star, high ratings to these brilliant albums but not everything reaches that masterpiece status like this. There is just something "there" that hits you.

Maybe it is the "Remembering - You and I (When We Were Young)" so seemlesly flowing into "Grace Darling" (my favorite Strawbs track of their entire catalogue) that just kills me at the end of this album? Maybe it's the opening Hawken keyboards on "Ghosts" and the entire greatness I just know is coming throughout the album, and it being fully fulfilled in the ending notes of "Grace Darling"? Whatever it is, it was hard for me to give this album a Masterpiece 10/10 because of how much Strawbs I have listened to, and most of it being so smilair...well, it hit me, though, and it may be the melody on here that really gets to me.

I am a melody fiend when it comes to my music, and Strawbs hit so many wonderful melodies on here, and even a darkness to light transition on "The Life Auction" (something I love from bands like Comus and Van Der Graaf Generator) which gives this album that extra edge over the rest. This and "Grave New World" just "have it" for me. When I first heard "Grace Darling" I played the track at least fifteen times to the point where my sister had to pull the speakers out of the wall. "Remembering" and "You and I" just kill me on a nostalgic note, and "Ghosts" and "Starshine" contain similair moods that I cannot describe but love so much. Lambert brings in his rocking on "Lemon Pie" and "Don't Try to Change Me" and has some amazing moments, and "Where Do You Go" always reminds me that Dave Cousins is THE MAN.

Bitersweet for me because I have yet to get the same feeling for "Ghosts" in any of it's successors, but what an experience it has been. Highly recommended, this is musical genius. Beautiful! "The rest is yours, and welcome..."

Report this review (#148391)
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
5 stars This is one of my favourite albums ever, a progressive (and a rock) masterpiece of the seventies. The whole album is perfect and so underated, and here's why:

1. Ghosts - An epic nonetheless, but is not too long nor too short, just right to keep the listener interested. It progresses from a quiet to a driving prog song in the space of 4 minutes, and the remainder is brilliance IMO. Shame about the ending, as it does go on for a bit too long. (8/10) 2. Lemon Pie - A ballad with some kick to it and beautiful harmonies. Some nice guitar work also. (8/10) 3. Starshine / Angel Wine - The masterpiece of the album: one of my favourite riffs of all time, so simple yet so good! You will find me singing along to the whole song on the train to keep my mind off the dismal journey to New Street Station, it cheers me up in any situation, and is technically brilliant at the same time. (10/10) 4. Where Do You Go (When You Need A Hole To Crawl In) - Good, but it seems nothing compared to the previous song. A nice song, but not very strategically placed on the album! (8/10) 5. The Life Auction - Yet another superb song, this time with a dark ambience that reminds me a bit of early genesis. The riff is also very good at 1.46, with an interesting key transposition. Serves as an epic, despite not being that long. (10/10) 6. Don't Try To Change Me - Yet another good conistant song. (8/10) 7. Remembering - A nice little filler, doesn't really serve as much but that though. (7/10) 8. You And I (When We Were Young) - They were always good at the prog ballad, and didn't stop here. A sweet jazzy touch as well with a fender roades in the quieter areas. A semi-climatic end as well. (9/10) 9. Grace Darling - Now to non-classical ears this may seem a little dull, but to mine it is the third masterpiece of the album. It progresses perfectly from just a thin choir sound, to the vocals and drums and finally to the organ and very climatic ending, similar to afterglow by genesis. (10/10)

Overall, a consistant album with a lot to offer, and is necessary to any prog fan's collection. (4.5/5)

Report this review (#157529)
Posted Thursday, January 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars My initial problem with the whole prog genre was trying to find albums with just the right amounts of rock and prog in them. Balance is the key. And while that problem is long gone by now, had I stumbled upon Ghosts back then, it would have been an instant five stars. At the time of it's release, in the distant past of 1975, Strawbs were heavily marketing and introducing themselves in the States. That speaks for itself in the music. Call it an 'introduction to Strawbs'. Grand symphonic parts right next to joyful, jumpy songs, stunning mellow beauty and hard rocking electric guitar work. All that with quite a few dollops of folk sprinkled over for good measure.

Instantly catchy, with many great sing-along refrains and riffs that sets your foot tapping along with the music, it is in many ways a streamlined '70s prog/rock album. Not in the hard 'n' heavy way of Purple and Heep, and much less drenched in rumbling, raw Hammond than those bands are. Instead we get a lighter, more delicate mix. Acoustic guitars often take a leading role or form textures behind the overlaying electric counterpart, adding depth and crispness to the music. The keys are full of enchanting Mellotron waves when at their best, filled with a jumpy boogie-piano feel when at their worst. Still fun, though. I much prefer the way they add that defining elegance (warm and peacefully noodling along in the background) to most of the tracks here. And just because Remembering is fifty-four seconds long doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable: a gentle, slightly sad introduction to You And I (in which the theme continues), which showcases John Hawken's ability to add emotion and richness with his playing.

For me there's no doubt whatsoever that the stand-out tracks found on Ghost are the the mini-epics, namely the title song and The Life Auction.

The first develops from a positive acoustic/keys/folkish-theme, gradually adding foreboding twists and turns until the song kicks off for real. Unleash the organ and e-guitar, and with a solid drum fill and bass you're in for a real treat for the remaining five minutes of the song. Probably the most emotional singing I've heard from Dave Cousins so far. Rich, mostly due to the heavy key-laid atmosphere, is once again the word. The Life Auction starts off in a most foreboding way, with deep, echoing guitar and narration like that found on Rush's The Necromancer. Another soaring, emotional effort with Dave Cousins in his prime with a great recurring theme with interplay from all instruments. Menacing.

But even if my heart says otherwise, my brain tells me that these two songs are most likely the only true reasons for buying the album. Nothing else is really up to par with them, that's for certain. I love the album for a casual listen, and repeatedly play the stand-outs. 3 stars? (really 3,5 for all that's worth...) Yup, that's it. Good, but non-essential.


Report this review (#167500)
Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars this album most certainally has some 5 star quality songs on it ,but it must be said that most of the shorter songs are weak.the title track is however brilliant.begining with ghostly harpsichord ,oh, here comes dave cousins to lull the kids to sleep with a lullaby.the mood soon changes as the scary surruondings in the house and the kids imagination are illustrated.what ensues next is a rocking nightmare ,and dave lambert takes vocal command.great lyricsas the lions eyes dance before me they are kindly but bloody red..the song ends gently with the sunrise cousins voice. the next song is lemon pie,man i just never cared for this song. starshine/angel wine is the chaz cronk contrabution and both these songs blend together nicely. where do you go i believe cousins wrote to give the band a hit single .it didn,t work on any auction is on the same level as the title track,amazing.cousins wrote this song with dismay as noticed how people behaved like vultures as they squabeled and hageled over a recently dead woman,s possesions.don,t try to change me is a dave lambert song ,skip it.remembering you and i when we were young,is one of the most lovely songs on this or any other album.the album climaxes with grace darling,complete with chuch organ and choir.i still think hollywood missed the boat when they were looking for a blockbuster to follow titanic ,grace darling story was beging to be told.and this song could have been utilised.
Report this review (#170286)
Posted Friday, May 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Do you believe in Ghosts?

Ghosts follows in the footsteps of Hero And Heroin, building on that album as a blueprint. As on Hero And Heroine we find here the same well balanced mix of folky elements, progressive elements and more straightforward rock elements. However, on closer inspection you can detect a tendency towards emphasising the straight-ahead rock elements and toning down the progressive elements. Indeed, only the two multipart suits, the title-track and The Life Auction, are truly progressive. And while there were a couple of more straightforward rock songs on Hero And Heroine as well, they were so well integrated into that album as a whole. This is not as well achieved on Ghosts. The two longer tracks just mentioned are also the only ones that are really up to par with the Hero And Heroine material.

Just like Hero And Heroin, Ghosts begins with a multipart song of around eight minutes in length and continues with a number of shorter songs. The songs do not flow into each other as they did on Hero And Heroine and which was one of the things that made that album so great.

Also, despite the colours of the cover art for the two albums, Ghosts is a bit less dark compared to Hero And Heroine. The material is melodic and sometimes even light-hearted here. The lyrics and vocals are still romantic and haunting, though. The beautiful Grace Darling is especially moving. There is an interesting story behind that song too, about a woman living in a lighthouse and saved a number of people from drowning after a shipwreck.

While Hero And Heroine is a masterpiece, Ghosts is only very good but still an excellent companion to that album.

Report this review (#177280)
Posted Saturday, July 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The band keeps on with their symphonic prog orientation. After some good albums from that vein, Ghosts is another fine symphonic contribution of Strawbs.

The opening number though almost starts as a folkish tune (but this aspect is probably due to the acoustic intro). It rapidly changes into an excellent and almost Genesis track full of lush keyboards, passionate vocals and a fiery beat. It is an excellent counterpart of Autumn that brilliantly opened their previous album. It is a highlight here as well.

There won't be much songs with such a great mood, unfortunately. Some more straight rock music like Starshine which is fine with me but holds little prog elements (being symph or just folk ones). It follows a more traditional Strawbs song (Lemon Song). More on the acoustic side, it features nice vocals but it sounds too much American style to my ears.

It is the perfect introduction of the poor country & Western Where Do You Go which is probably the one & only press next type of song from Ghosts.

The concept of mini-suite seemed to work fine since the previous Autumn, the band is back with another jewel: The Life Auction during which Cousins seems to be willing to recreate the Gabriel voice. If you add the great mellotron lines, you almost get another Genesis song. Which sounds pretty good to my ears. It is probably unexpected but this is another highlight from this album. One of their best tracks ever IMHHO.

The next one that is moving me is the very melodic You & I. The impeccable vocal harmonies combined with such fine keyboards are just a wonder to listen to. It is really a shame IMO that Strawbs didn't capitalize more on such tracks. But maybe I'm too much biased with their very good symphonic songs which I much more like than their average and religious oriented Grace Darling style.

Three stars for this good album.

Report this review (#185305)
Posted Saturday, October 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A terrifying specter

The Strawbs certainly have had a varied career over the course of their discography. Ghosts is the 8th studio album from the band to this point and one of their highest rated on ProgArchives, and it's pretty easy to see why. With a couple of monster tracks which could qualify as mini-epics flavored in the traditional form of Strawbs (English folk, a strong blues presence and progressive styling) the album certainly appeals to the eyes and ears of proggers across the globe. This is a little bit trivial, however, because over the course of the album it becomes pretty clear that their other albums have had superior moments even rooted simply in their shorter structure. An album like From The Witchwood didn't need any long songs to make it the glory that it was, but with that said, the longer tracks on this album certainly don't hurt. On the whole the disc feels hit and miss, but with a couple of home runs that problem becomes forgivable.

What does hurt on the album is that the short songs feel weak. As mentioned before, The Strawbs have made some fantastic short form prog such as songs like Witchwood and The Hangman and The Papist which are emotional, moving, and have all the structure of an epic compressed into a more concise form. On this album the short songs feel mundane. They don't have anything to prove with other, longer, more complex songs on the album, so for the most part they fail to be amazing, although some of them are enjoyable. The somewhat dirty Lemon Pie has some pleasant harmonizing and a nice melody to it while others such as Where Do You Go are a little more heavy in subject matter, although still enlightening to listen to. Many of the short songs on the album are simply forgettable, not that they have any one thing wrong with them. The majority of the second side, for instance, is so horribly overshadowed by its opening track that songs like Don't Try To Change Me and The Remembering (ironically, considering the title) becomes simple tunes that pass through your ears and wander off, forgotten.

Still, there's a couple of absolute killers on here. The longer songs exemplify what The Strawbs do best - take for example the opening title track, Ghosts, which shows Cousins at his scariest with emotional shouting and some killer melodies (''I hope your dreams ~ are not ~ like mine!'' - chilling). Starshine/Angel Wine is another tune that can bring a chill to your spine and a tear to your eye as the Angel Wine section of the song kicks in with Cousins' terrifyingly touching guitar playing comes in with a stellar riff. On the second side, the song guilty of making all the other songs on the side seem obsolete is the malevolent The Life Auction which takes the best parts of the other two songs (sad and scary) and mixes them together with some more excellent folk melodies to make for an impressive opus which leaves a mark on the listener.

Ultimately this is a very good album which has some amazing songs which overshadow a bunch of good ones. The folk melodies should be a draw for most listeners, although if you're not into the folk scene the symphonic tenancies of the longer songs should still have you kicking around. Fans of the band should definitely own this album, new listeners should backtrack to From The Witchwood and start there instead. 3 ghosts out of 5 - good, but not essential.

Report this review (#191845)
Posted Thursday, December 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
5 stars "Ghosts" marked the first studio album by Strawbs to contain the same personnel as its predecessor since "Strawbs" and "Dragonfly" at the turn of the 1970s. With some modicum of stability, the group was able to improve upon the best qualities of "Hero and Heroine" and even return back to their folkier roots, while tastefully aiming for the US market.

The title and opening cut is an epic more than a suite, as it symmetrically introduces themes and returns to them in reverse order. It was inspired by a rather frightening lit-up monument in downtown Indianapolis where the band was staying. The wall of harpsichords and ponderously strummed acoustic guitars give way to more ominous bass lines, waves of mellotron, and troubled whispered vocals as the protagonist surrenders to restless slumber. The middle section sees Lambert take over on both vocals and careening lead guitar. The track ends with the opening melody enhanced by mellotron choirs, and segues brilliantly into "Lemon Pie". While a poppier song, it starts off on gentle acoustic guitars and almost southern Rock-sounding chirrups from Lambert's lead. It too features harpsichord, with an irresistible hook and chorus. So somehow Strawbs manage to juxtapose 2 drastically different tracks and yet provide links between them. A mini-suite follows, the first part with Cousins' more reflective vocals over piano and even Clare Deniz on cello, another nod to their early days. The second part is one of the album's more convincing rock numbers, with Lambert singing, and sounding like Clapton on guitar. Mellotron strings build up throughout the piece and some congas are present. The original side one ended with "Where do you go", another poppy, if lyrically dark track that was actually recorded before "Hero and Heroine" and intended for single release at that time. It is very reminiscent of CAT STEVENS and is notable for its strong tune, recorder playing by Cousins, and excellent honky tonk piano from John Hawken.

"The Life Auction" stands as one of Strawbs' most progressive tracks, beginning with a depressive spoken diatribe by Cousins, before the main song begins, all about the picking apart of one's possessions after death. Haunting and ultimately affirming of what is really important, it unites mellotron laden verses, hard rock guitar, and a beautiful middle break. "Don't Try to Change Me" is another chart ready song, this time penned and sung by Lambert, with a catchy melody and chorus. While "Hero" was a work of near genius, it also teetered on the edge of insanity at times, especially in the angst-ridden closers. Comparatively, Dave Cousins returns to a more contented and romantic vision in the wrap up to "Ghosts", with 2 of his best songs ever. "You and I When we were young" (bracketed by Hawken's haunting solo "Remembering") is highlighted by jangly acoustic guitar, nostalgic lyrics, sweet lead guitar solo, and harmonious third verse, almost like the third part of "Autumn" but done with more restraint. "Grace Darling" is about a lighthouse keeper's daughter who saved shipwrecked sailors, and is nearly usurped by a young choir, with Cousins' inspired singing almost as accompaniment at times. It remains one of Strawbs' most emotive and transcendent songs, and this is the definitive version.

The bonus cut was written by Rod Coombes and it sounds like he may also be making his only vocal appearance with the group. It's decent but quite unremarkable.

"Ghosts" marked the end of an amazing run for Strawbs of 4 utterly dominant prog folk albums, with varying degrees of each, but always with an uncanny melodic sense, and an awareness and appreciation for darkness and light, the old and the new, the tragic and the celebratory, as being merely alternate and necessary components of the whole. This body of work ensures that the Ghosts of Strawbs will survive us all.

Report this review (#201026)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This was the STRAWBS last "classic" album released in 1975. It did pretty good in the USA as it was their highest charting album in that counrty, although overall it didn't sell as well there as "Hero & Heroine". Chas Cronk and Rod Coombes joined the band on bass and drums respectively after their band STEALER'S WHEEL had broken up.They were on the same label so it was a smooth transition. Interesting that Cousins wanted TEN YEARS AFTER's rhythm section and they wanted to join but Lambert wasn't for it. I like this album a lot but I must admit there are some very ordinary songs on here which keep me from offering up the fourth star.Too bad because there are some great tracks on here.

"Ghosts" is my favourite. I like the intro where they used harpichords that were put down on ten tracks at random.So it sounds pretty cool as strummed guitar joins in then vocals. Mellotron follows as it turns haunting. It's heavier 3 minutes in then it picks up. Prominant bass followed by some passionate vocals. Nice. "Lemon Pie" was the first single that didn't do much for them. I like the intro but the rest doesn't do much for me. "Starshine / Angel Wine" opens with reserved vocals and piano. The second part is much better especially the guitar.

"Where Do You Go" is a poppy, uptempo tune. Not a fan at all. "The Life Auction" is a really good tune opening with those ghostly vocals then kicking in after a minute. Mellotron too. Some powerful outbursts at times and a spooky ending. Great track. "Don't Try To Change Me" is another poppy tune with vocals. "Remembering" is a short dreamy intro to the next track "You And I (When We Were Young)".This track has to be a top three for me. Fragile vocals join in then tasteful guitar. Love the imagery given by the lyrics. "Grace Darling" has these choir-like vocals throughout. Not sure what to think of this one.

So lots to like but there's also some throw away tracks too. 3.5 stars it is.

Report this review (#293488)
Posted Thursday, August 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Dave Cousins and Company managed to pull off a first with 'Ghosts', namely keeping the same band lineup together for a second consecutive studio album. They even brought back Claire Deniz from the 'Dragonfly' days for a spot of cello. The recording sessions for 'Ghosts' began late spring the year after 'Hero and Heroine' and musically the sound is much the same with plenty of Mellotron, piano and organ and a very accessible blend of acoustic and electric guitar. The emphasis is much more on blues-based rock rhythms and riffs than their earlier work, presumably in deference to the U.S. market the group was trying to make inroads with in light of their waning popularity back home in Britain.

'Ghosts' has been described as a darker album than the band's prior work and musically there is some validity to this, particularly the use of more minor chords and heavier, more rock-driven tempos on tracks like "The Life Auction" and the second half of "Starshine/Angel Wine". But lyrically Cousins and Chas Cronk, who wrote and sang much of the material, tended to focus more on relationships and in a mostly positive way though the meaning of several songs tends to get muddled a bit in the overall musical mood.

"The Life Auction" is admittedly a rather dark theme, that of sorting and parting with the material effects of a recently departed loved one. Not the sort of thing that tends to get audiences toes tapping, but a very emotive and engaging song nonetheless.

"Lemon Pie" offers a rather personal insight into Cousins' relationship with his then- girlfriend (later wife), while the opening title track is something of a child's lullaby lyrically. And Cronk seems to combine both a love song and a sort of life yearning on "Starshine/ Angel Wine".

The first half of the album is much more commercially oriented with the tempo-shifting 'Angel Wine', the straight-ahead rocker "Where Do You Go (When You Need a Hole to Crawl In)" and the poppish "Lemon Pie". On the back side Cousins, John Hawken and Dave Lambert put together the more progressive, multi-part "The Life Auction" that uses piano and electric guitar riffs to accent rolling drum fills and numerous tempo shifts for a track that seems to go on even longer than its six and a half minutes.

After that things get a bit more acoustic and laid-back, even on Lambert's somewhat contradictory love song lyrically somewhat in the vein of Boston's "Man I'll Never Be". Cousins brings the mood way down on his nostalgic "You and I (When We Were Young)" with moody organ and acoustic guitar, while the closing "Grace Darling" (also a Cousins composition) takes a step back in time to earlier, baroque-folk times for the band complete with a church pipe organ and choral arrangement. The band wouldn't record too many more like this one, and by the time 'Nomadness' released they had pretty much settled on a more commercially-oriented rock direction that would remain until years later after the breakup and into various reformations in the eighties and nineties.

While Cousins' personal life was a bit more settled during this period he was also having health problems and during the sessions was recovering from a spinal tap procedure that was part of his treatment for a suspected brain tumor. He spent much of the time in the studio on his back, exerting himself between rest periods to play and sing his parts on the various songs. This may account for some of the darker mood on 'Ghosts' than what can be heard on previous records.

I personally find this to be the Strawbs album I'm most likely to play today, and count it as my favorite of theirs even with the more commercial sound and comparative lack of progressive folk influence. It's not a perfect record, but has a overall character that is quite attractive and a cohesion that most of the following records would lack. For that reason I have to say this is another four star affair, and I would recommend this first for anyone who has not previously discovered the Strawbs and essential for any fan of progressive folk music.


Report this review (#502983)
Posted Sunday, August 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another string Strawbs album with some absolutely groundbreaking tracks from the band, including the haunting title epic which sees some of the most frightening and dark musical output the band would ever produce, with Dave Cousins' vocal performance being one of the most evocative of his career. Lemon Pie, which follows it up, rather wrecks the momentum it establishes and seems a bit overlong to me, so I can't give this one a perfect score, but the rest of the album meets the high standards of Hero and Heroine or Grave New World. And even Lemon Pie isn't quite as irritating as Part of the Union from Bursting At the Seams, so I'd say that this album should be amongst the first Strawbs releases you sample.
Report this review (#527373)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was one of my favourite albums of the 70's. The Strawbs were always a very interesting and tastefully complex band without being overblown and with compelling lyrics. Without a doubt they were one of the best acoustic/electric rock bands of the decade that too few people know about. "Starshine/Angel Wine" is my favourite song here, almost like a children's lullaby with a great cello mixed with piano and soft drums before breaking into a rockier second half with an excellent guitar riff. "Don't Try to Change Me" is similar, beginning as a light upbeat acoustic tune, and then introducing a biting electric guitar at the 1 minute mark. But the real masterpieces here are "Ghosts" and "The Life Auction", as well as the two very moving and haunting acoustic ballads, "You and I" and "Grace Darling". Not much I can say except all four of these songs are stunning. "You and I" ends with a great lyric that symbolizes the carefree youth of the day: "The road to nowhere never climbs we changed direction a dozen times That was you and I when we were young". This band always had time for one or two fun tracks on their masterworks too, "Where Do You Go (When You Need A Hole To Crawl In)" breaks up the pace of this album perfectly. A beautiful work that should not be overlooked! Five stars
Report this review (#572746)
Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars STRAWBS started as a folk-rock band but gradually turned into a prog band; this album is from their strongest - and most rocking - period. The more folk-oriented members gone, Dave Cousins is accompanied by keyboardist John Hawken (of Renaissance Mk 1 fame), guitarist Dave Lambert (the head of psychedelic one-album act FIRE), bassist Chas Cronk and drummer Rod Coombes - the same line-up was already on Hero & Heroine. A very strong group, and the sound has a nice sharpness.

The opener title track is a definitive highlight in the Strawbs career altogether. Tightly progressive and powerful in emotion, dealing with nightmares. 'Lemon Pie' is a happy, folkish (but not acoustic) song with good vocal harmonies. Another proggy highlight is the sinister 'Life Auction'. A female choir backs up the closing love song 'Grace Darling'. The rest of the material falls somewhere between quite ordinary folk-tinged (prog) rock and mellow acoustic stuff, but always sounding distinctively Strawbs. Ghosts is among the albums that make The Strawbs deserve their place as one of the better British prog bands.

Report this review (#606550)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 really

Ghost from 1975 follows the attitude and atmosphere as on previous album keeping the symphonic/folk arrangemnst on entire album. Regarded as the last true great album of Strawbs, and is consisten most of the time mostly because it has same personnel as on Hero and heroine. Opening with great little epic Ghost where the voice and overall string arrangemenst are top notch, very good and in a perfect Strawbs tradiotion. Another well known and recived piece from that period is Lemon pie and up tempo positive and full of joy tune for sure. The rest of the album goes between acustical folk moment with more rockier passages. Life auction is nother good tone that woth mentioned with dark haunting atmosphere like on Ghosts. In the end another worthy and full of pleasent moments, but I don't think this album tops Hero and heroine definetly their most acomplished work from their catalogue and aswell one of the better known album from mid '70's. 3 stars rounded up because of the title track and Lemon pie the rest are ok but nothing really impressive.

Report this review (#756997)
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Often overlooked as outside of the "classic" period of Strawbs "masterpieces," this album is so well produced, the sound so good, and the song-writing so tight and mature I find it hard to not consider one of the finest achievements of Prog Folk. As a matter of fact, as highly touted and revered former Strawbs' keyboard contributor Rick Wakeman is, I prefer the work of John Hawken. I love ways in which he combines the harpsichord, organs, piano and Mellotron better than those of Maestro Wakeman.

1. "Ghosts" (8:31) From the opening weave of multiple guitars (some 12-stringed!) and harpsichord, the amazing vocal dynamics, awesome lyrics, and excellent keyboard layering into the jam-on adrenaline bursting "Night Light" middle section of the title song, this is a prog masterpiece. (10/10)

2. "Lemon Pie" (4:02) seems to follow the format of previous Strawbs albums in that a socially-significant pop- oriented anthemic tune is second on the album, following the opening "epic"--and "Lemon Pie" does not disappoint. It delivers with it all of the zest and vigor one would expect of Dave Cousins' best efforts--with some delightfully playful lyrics. (9/10)

3. "Starshine/Angel Wine" (5:14) opens with two minutes of nice folk rock before an almost-"Layla" electric guitar riff opens up the heavier, more dynamic second section. (8/10)

4. "Where Do You Go (When You Need a Hole to Crawl in)" (3:04) has a kind of CAT STEVENS "Peace Train/Another Saturday Night" calypso feel to it. Upbeat and bar-room appropriate. (7/10)

5. "The Life Auction" (6:52) opens with some cool piano effects which is gradually joined by a low PETER GABRIEL- like half-spoken poetic story telling before the song bursts into a full blown bombastic Very Trespass-era, "Knife" or "White Mountain"-like--complete with defiant affect and flange effects on the vocals and electric guitar "power chords." Very cool song! (10/10)

6. "Don't Try to Change Me" (4:29) takes the listener back to a pleasant, innocent time like the Flower Child 1960s--at least until the shock of the emphatic first chorus at the one minute mark. now wide awake, we travel through the rest of the song on the nice verses fully expecting and ready for the rather abrasive shout of the chorus repeats. (8/10)

7. "Remembering" (0:59) (10/10) is a beautiful little interlude of electronic keyboard and cymbal play that turns out to be the introduction to the next song, my favorite song of theirs,

8. "You and I (When We Were Young)" (3:59) is a Cousins-Hawken collaboration which is pure perfection to these ears and, lyrically, to my mind as well. Pop music doesn't get better than this. (10/10)

The album's finale, and a John Hawken song, 9. "Grace Darling" (3:57), is another gorgeous song founded on a rock combo with the lovely accompaniment of a full chorus throughout and, later, from an awesome church organ. (10/10)

Side 2 makes up my favorite single side of Strawbs songs and Side 1 is not too bad either. A masterpiece and, in my opinion, an exemplary representative of the best of what Prog Folk has to offer.

Report this review (#1504369)
Posted Sunday, December 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1706404)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2017 | Review Permalink

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