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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Compiled with care

"Halcyon days" is a superb double CD collection of many of the Strawbs best tracks, plus quite a number of rare and less well know pieces.

While there is inevitably some overlap with the widely available "Choice collection" CD, there are plenty of tracks on both which are not duplicated.

The compilation opens with the title track from the "Ghosts" album. This is rather an adventurous choice, as the track is one of the darkest and least commercial Strawbs works. That said, it is an excellent long piece. Other less obvious selections include the "Blue Angel" suite from Dave Cousins only solo album, the at times almost improvisational "Queen of dreams" from "Grave new world", the wonderful "Shepherd's song" from "From the Witchwood" featuring some fine keyboards by Rick Wakeman, and an excellent bass laden reworking of "Tell me what you see in me".

Among the more predictable, but nonetheless worthy inclusions are the troubling "Hangman and the papist", the frantic "Hero and Heroine", and two other superb tracks from the album of that name "Round and round" and "Out in the cold". "The river" and "Down by the sea" appear in the order they are performed live, rather than the other way round, as on "Bursting at the seams". The way they appear here is far more effective, the climax to "The river" bursting superbly into the chiming guitar of "Down by the sea". While various singles such as "Part of the Union" and "Lay down" are included, they are kept well in check.

"Halcyon days" also features quite a number of non album b-sides. "Why" and "Wherefore" are joined together for the first time to from a single track, while "Will ye go" is a version of the traditional song "Wild mountain thyme" (as performed by the Byrds on their "Untitled" album). "Back side" is a throwaway tribute to David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust alter-ego. A trio of tracks by the Strawbs offshoot Hudson Ford are included. Both "Burn baby burn" and "Pick up the pieces" were credible, if unchallenging hit singles.

An excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with the Strawbs work.

Report this review (#19763)
Posted Tuesday, March 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Right on Bob! Yes this is an excellent double CD totally different to the USA version of the same name.Listen out for the Hudson song ' Burn Baby Burn'. It even has that earth magic song ' Witchwood'. Overall a classic setlist and provided you get the UK copy you will be more than pleased.
Report this review (#19764)
Posted Saturday, September 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first heard STRAWBS from a compilation (not this one) I borrowed from a library, and enjoyed it so much that I bought this double-CD compilation. Later I have borrowed most of the original albums and I'm still very satisfied to own this set. It's so luxorious and done with such a good care. There's actually nothing to complain; the selection is well balanced between the most classic albums and includes next to nothing from poorer post-Ghosts stuff. Naturally I'd picked some other tracks here and there, but that's inevitable with a broad compilation.

The palette is wide from sharp prog like 'Ghosts' or 'Hero & Heroine' to simple songs like amusing 'Man Who Called Himself Jesus' or to bluesy 'Absent Friend'. An interesting ingredient are three Hudson/Ford singles which have quite a different, sunny character than (usually Cousins-penned) STRAWBS output. Some minor rarities are also added, but nothing which would taste like mere curiosities. One can proudly recommend this to a new listener as well as to anyone who doesn't already own most of the original albums. Maybe the leaflet could have a comprehensive track listing and some more discographic information... The essay on the history of the band is nevertheless well written. Dave Cousins, it claims, has clearly influenced FISH in vocal style. The line-up has seen many changes, Cousins being the heart of the band. Rick Wakeman played in Strawbs before joining Yes. STRAWBS would deserve bigger fame as a genuine and slightly chameleon-like folk prog band. P.S. I love the cover picture with a king fisher!

Report this review (#127093)
Posted Friday, June 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Picking up the pieces

This is the kind of compilation album that tries to please both the beginner and the hard core fan and collector in a single stroke. This is, of course, an impossible task and it ends up pleasing neither fully. Those beginners who are looking for a superficial introduction to the band will not want to hear rare and subpar tracks originally appearing as single b-sides or in side-projects, and those fans and collectors who already own the band's regular studio albums will not want to pay all over again for the same material just in order to gain access to said rarities. It is indeed admirable that the record company cared to include any rare tracks at all, but I think that it would have been better had they released a compilation consisting solely of rare tracks (non-album a-sides, b-sides, and the like), deliberately aimed at the fans. Several compilations aimed at beginners already existed at the time, and has continued to proliferate since.

Please don't let my low rating scare you away from a great band, my perspective is that of someone who already owns the bulk of the material on other releases. As such, my rating is based primarily on the few rare tracks that were not already included on the band's regular studio output. If you are a Prog fan, and you don't know Strawbs, I would recommend starting with the excellent Hero And Heroine and Ghosts albums, and then proceeding in backwards chronological order, picking up Bursting At The Seams, Grave New World, and From The Witchwood. Many great tracks from these albums are indeed included on the present compilation, but - at least from a Prog perspective - they are best heard in their original settings. Here, they rub shoulders with material that are not up to par. The selections from the band's two first albums, for example, are weaker both in quality and sound.

The rarer selections include three tracks from a Hudson Ford side-project, none of which are essential, and only one of which - Floating In The Wind - is good. One excellent non- Strawbs track is Blue Angel from Dave Cousins' first solo album from 1972, but many fans are likely to have that album in their collections anyway. If not, they would be better off buying that one. Besides, this track was later re-recorded by the band for the album of the same name. Here It Comes is a non-album a-side that was later included as a bonus track on the Grave New World CD. Backside (aka Ciggy Barlust) is indeed a b-side, and it is a kind of tribute (?) to Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie. Finally, there is a traditional number in Will Ye Go? that is not available elsewhere as far as I know. It is pleasant, but hardly remarkable.

Only recommended to those fans who don't mind paying twice for stuff they already have in order to gain access to a few rare, but unessential, tracks

Report this review (#702460)
Posted Sunday, April 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Review Nš 614

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

The UK version of "The Very Best Of The Strawbs: Halcyon Days" has thirty-six tracks. From "Strawbs" we have "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", "Oh, How She Changed", "The Battle" and "Tell Me What You See In Me". "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" is an excellent song, one of the best moments on that album. "Oh How She Changed" is a short beautiful song. "The Battle" is an epic with the glimpses of their future progressive lines, the highest point on their debut. "Tell Me What You See In Me" is a nice song with an oriental flavour. From "Dragonfly" we have "I Turned My Face Into The Wind". It's a nice simple song with some pastoral feeling, basically a piano and cello driven song. From "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious" we have "Martin Luther King's Dream". It's a nice song, a kind of a folk troubadour epic with a good rhythm section and organ. From "From The Witchwood" we have "Witchwood", "The Hangman And The Papist" and "The Shepherd's Song". "Witchwood" is a calm and beautiful song in the style of the medieval and Celtic music with a wonderful pastoral melody. "The Hangman And The Papist" is a powerful song with dramatic lyrics, the strongest and most progressive on that album. "The Shepherd's Song" is another great song, a song perfectly balanced and with excellent keyboard performance. From "Grave New World" we have "On Growing Older", "Queen Of Dreams" and "Benedictus". "On Growing Older" is a short cool folk acoustic song that sounds as an old English song of the 60's. "Queen Of Dreams" is an ambitious song with psychedelic influences with its beats recorded in reverse. "Benedictus" is a well constructed song with a delightful organ break in the middle. From "Bursting At The Seams" we have "Stormy Down", "Lay Down", "Part Of The Union", "The River" and "Down By The Sea". "Stormy Down" is a mix of rock, folk and country and is performed in a ballad style. "Lay Down" is a nice strong pure rock song, very enjoyable, well sung, with lots of Mellotron and a good guitar solo. "Part Of The Union" is an amused song very controversial due to its lyrics. "The River" is basically a folk song, played in a slow rhythm, which gradually develops into a melancholic track. "Down By The Sea" is a powerful song, very symphonic and with a magnificent triumphant choir. From "Hero And Heroine" we have "Hero And Heroine", "Out In The Cold", "Round And Round" and "Shine On Silver Sun". "Hero And Heroine" is a strong energetic song, with great musical moments and a variety of instrumental choruses. "Out In The Cold" is a good song with intricate guitar work, good harmonica and nice drumming. "Round And Round" is a very progressive song with a beautiful and brilliant keyboard work by John Hawken. "Shine On Silver Sun" is a typical classic song of them with nice vocal harmonies, good Mellotron work and a catchy piano harmony. From "Ghosts" we have "Ghosts" and "Grace Darling". "Ghosts" is a gorgeous melodic song with multiple musical instruments such as harpsichord, acoustic guitars and church bells. "Grace Darling" is a beautiful piece with fantastic keyboards and a beautiful majestic choral accompaniment. From "Nomadness" we have "The Golden Salamander", "Tokyo Rosie" and "Absent Friend (How I Need You)". "The Golden Salamander" is an excellent song in the traditional vein of the great songs of the band. "Tokyo Rosie" is a vulgar commercial song but it's pleasant enough to be heard. "Absent Friend (How I Need You)" is a good song, but it's a bit strange and bizarre too.

The compilation has also more ten songs, six non albums tracks "Let's Keep The Devil Outside", "Back Side", "Here It Comes", "We'll Meet Again Sometime", "Why And Wherefore" and "Will Ye Go?", a Cousins song "Blue Angel" also recorded on Strawbs' album "Blue Angel" and three Hudson Ford songs "Pick Up The Pieces", "Burn Baby Burn" and "Floating In The Wind". These songs are also good and a nice reason for people can decide to buy this compilation.

Conclusion: We can say that "The Very Best Of The Strawbs: Halcyon Days" is a good compilation album of Strawbs. It covers the career of the band from 1969 to 1975 that belong to their first nine studio albums with the exception of "All Our Own Work". So, some of their best tracks are included here making of it a nice showcase for those who aren't familiar with the band. Besides that, it has also six tracks from the band that only appeared as singles or bonus tracks on the re-mastered versions of the albums. It has also three rarities, the tracks that belong to Hudson Ford's career.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2881271)
Posted Thursday, February 9, 2023 | Review Permalink

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