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STRAWBS

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...
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STRAWBS discography


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

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

3.13 | 87 ratings
Strawbs
1969
3.15 | 105 ratings
Dragonfly
1970
4.02 | 257 ratings
From The Witchwood
1971
4.16 | 343 ratings
Grave New World
1972
3.57 | 173 ratings
Bursting At The Seams
1973
2.78 | 36 ratings
Sandy Denny And The Strawbs: All Our Own Work
1973
4.13 | 351 ratings
Hero And Heroine
1974
4.02 | 187 ratings
Ghosts
1975
2.52 | 76 ratings
Nomadness
1975
2.77 | 71 ratings
Deep Cuts
1976
2.58 | 54 ratings
Burning For You
1977
2.89 | 50 ratings
Deadlines
1978
3.01 | 32 ratings
Don't Say Goodbye
1987
2.71 | 23 ratings
Ringing Down The Years
1991
2.74 | 36 ratings
Heartbreak Hill [Aka: Starting Over]
1995
3.57 | 25 ratings
Acoustic Strawbs: Baroque & Roll
2001
2.75 | 32 ratings
Blue Angel
2003
3.15 | 34 ratings
Dj Fou
2004
3.51 | 47 ratings
The Broken Hearted Bride
2008
3.32 | 39 ratings
Dancing To The Devil's Beat
2009
3.66 | 36 ratings
Hero & Heroine In Ascencia
2011
2.89 | 25 ratings
Prognostic
2014
4.13 | 52 ratings
The Ferryman's Curse
2017

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

3.74 | 78 ratings
Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios
1970
2.39 | 9 ratings
The Strawbs' Greatest Hits Live
1993
3.69 | 14 ratings
BBC in concert
1995
2.52 | 11 ratings
Concert Classics
1999
3.39 | 5 ratings
The Complete Strawbs (Chiswick '98 Live)
2000
2.44 | 4 ratings
Full Bloom, Acoustic Strawbs Live
2004
3.68 | 9 ratings
Live At Nearfest
2005
3.83 | 15 ratings
Painted Sky
2005
3.70 | 5 ratings
Recollection
2006
3.09 | 4 ratings
NY '75
2007
4.00 | 1 ratings
Laydown With The Strawbs
2008
4.92 | 3 ratings
40th Anniversary Celebration: Vol 1: Strawberry Fayre
2010
3.18 | 2 ratings
40th Anniversary Celebration Vol. 2: Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins
2010
4.00 | 4 ratings
Live At The BBC Vol Two: In Concert
2010
3.92 | 4 ratings
Live At The BBC Vol One: In Session
2010
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live In Gettysburg
2017

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

3.02 | 6 ratings
Classic Rock Legends (DVD)
1998
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Complete Strawbs - Live at Chiswick House
2002
4.02 | 9 ratings
Strawbs Live In Tokyo '75 / Grave New World The Movie
2003
4.00 | 4 ratings
Acoustic Live In Toronto At Hugh's Room
2004
3.00 | 3 ratings
Lay Down With The Strawbs (DVD)
2008
3.00 | 1 ratings
Access All Areas
2015

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

2.44 | 7 ratings
Strawbs by Choice
1974
2.67 | 7 ratings
Early Strawbs
1974
3.86 | 9 ratings
Classic Strawbs
1977
3.94 | 10 ratings
The Best of Strawbs
1978
2.69 | 8 ratings
Preserved Uncanned
1990
3.52 | 17 ratings
A Choice Selection of Strawbs
1992
3.61 | 17 ratings
Halcyon Days (UK Release)
1997
4.31 | 13 ratings
Halcyon Days (US Release)
1998
3.00 | 1 ratings
30 Years in Rock, Classic Rock Legends
2001
3.00 | 6 ratings
The Collection
2002
4.41 | 4 ratings
Tears And Pavan (An Introduction To Strawbs)
2002
3.21 | 5 ratings
20th Century Masters - Millenium Collection
2003
4.72 | 12 ratings
A Taste of Strawbs
2006
4.08 | 7 ratings
Acoustic Gold
2011
2.00 | 1 ratings
Of a Time
2012
3.95 | 3 ratings
Witchwood: the Very Best of....
2014

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

3.00 | 1 ratings
Oh How She Changed
1968
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
1968
2.30 | 9 ratings
Strawberry Sampler number 1
1969
4.00 | 2 ratings
Lay Down/Backside
1972
4.00 | 1 ratings
New World
1972
3.00 | 1 ratings
Part of the Union
1973
0.00 | 0 ratings
Shine On Silver Sun
1973
3.00 | 1 ratings
Part of the Union/Will you go
1973
2.00 | 1 ratings
That's When the Crying Starts
1987

STRAWBS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 That's When the Crying Starts by STRAWBS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1987
2.00 | 1 ratings

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That's When the Crying Starts
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
2 stars After the mediocre -- well, pretty weak when compared to the classic albums just a few years before -- album Deadlines (1978), the British folk prog band Strawbs had their longest period of inactivity during which the frontman Dave Cousins did some solo stuff to almost deaf ears. To cite All Music Guide: "That might have been the end of the group's history, if it hadn't been for an invitation to play the 1983 Cambridge Folk Festival. The Strawbs responded, in the guise of Cousins, Hooper, Hudson, Ford, Weaver, and Willoughby, and the response was so favorable that a tour was scheduled, which in turn led to their return to America in the mid-'80s. The group followed this up with two new studio albums released in Canada." The first of those two albums was Don't Say Goodbye (1987). It was somewhat disappointing if one was expecting them to sound like in their prime time, but as a pop album of the mid-80's, it isn't bad at all. This single has two songs from it.

'That's When the Crying Starts' is a ballad about a breakup in a relationship. Musically it's more or less in the same field to me as some ballads that e.g. Dire Straits or Paul McCartney did at the era: well produced and suitably emotional but not too sentimental. Actually it's easily likeable for a Strawbs listener, if nothing more.

'We Can Make It Together' is a pop rock song with a faster tempo and a heavily repeated chorus. But there are also some soloing, nice arrangement details and a C part (is that a correct term?) to compensate the average songwriting. This might be a three star single on a pop site but let's stick to two stars here.

 Grave New World by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.16 | 343 ratings

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Grave New World
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Review N 341

'Grave New World' is the fourth studio album of Strawbs and was released in 1972. This is another conceptual album, this time it depicts the story of one man's life from the beginning, 'Benedictus' until the end, 'Journey's End'.

As with their previous studio album, 'Grave New World' shows the continue movement from the Strawbs' original folk leanings, for a more progressive rock sound. It was so evident that the founding member Tony Hooper began to be uncomfortable with this option and left the band after the recording sessions. This was also the first studio album released by the band after the departure of their keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who left Strawbs to join Yes. Blue Weaver was the man recruited to substitute Wakeman. He was considered by fans a more than adequate replacement for him.

The line up on the album is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, dulcimer and recorder), Tony Hooper (vocals, acoustic guitar, autoharp and tambourine), Blue Weaver (organ, piano, harmonium, Mellotron and clavioline), John Ford (vocals, bass and acoustic guitars) and Richard Hudson (vocals, drums, sitar and tablas).

The front cover of the album is a reproduction of the 'Glad Day', a picture of William Blake. The original vinyl version had a luxurious artwork, including a pamphlet showing all the lyrics on the album and details of all instrumentation used on the album. Fortunately, I have the honour of have one of those copies on my hands, bought in the old 70's.

'Grave New World' has twelve tracks. The first track 'Benedictus' written by Cousins is similar to 'A Glimpse Of Heaven' from their previous studio album 'From The Witchwood'. It's a well constructed song with a delightful organ break in the middle. This is a great opener and a fantastic musical moment. It's my second favourite song on the album. The second track 'Hey Little Man'Thursday Child' and the sixth track 'Hey Little Man' Wednesday Child' are written by Cousins. This is a short, simple and calm acoustic song, divided into two parts and performed only with vocals and acoustic guitar. It's about an older man giving advices to his youngest son. The third track 'Queen Of Dreams' written by Cousins is one of the most experimental songs of the band. It's an ambitious song with some psychedelic influences and with its beats recorded in reverse. This is another great moment on the album. The fourth track 'Heavy Disguise' written by Ford is another short song on the album. It's a great tune with good lyrics. This is a song well performed, with a brass section played by the Robert Kirby Silver Band, which gives to the track a special feeling and a very different place on the album. The fifth track 'New World' written by Cousins is an incredible and fantastic song. This is the most powerful song ever made by them and is, perhaps, their best song too. It's a song that grows in intensity as the song progresses, full of Mellotron and has one of the best vocal performances of Cousins. It's a perfect song and one of the best in the progressive rock scene. The seventh track 'The Flower And The Young Man' written by Cousins is a beautiful melodic song, with great vocals about the changes of the seasons. It's a folk song with a remarkable use of organ and Mellotron. The eighth track 'Tomorrow' written by Cousins, Hooper, Ford, Weaver and Hudson is another highlight on the album. It's the more rock song on the entire album and has a great symphonic sound. This is the hardest rock tune on the album and is, perhaps, the song that most upset Hooper. The ninth track 'On Growing Older' written by Cousins is a short folk acoustic song, very nice and cool that sounds as an old English song of the 60's. It has interesting lyrics about wasting the youth with reaffirmation of the life's wonder. The tenth track 'Ah Me, Ah My' written by Hooper is another short song and despite be fun, is the weakest song on the album. Sincerely, it sounds to me a bit inappropriated to the album. No wonder that Hooper stayed upset with the album in general. The eleventh track 'Is It Today, Lord?' written by Hudson is another highlight on the album. It's a mystical song, much Indian, with sitar, tables, autoharp and Indian harmonium. The lyrics talk about the end of the man's life. The twelfth track 'The Journey's End' written by Cousins and Weaver closes the man's life journey and also the album, magnificently. It's a very beautiful song, only with nicely vocals and a delightful piano performed by Weaver. Finally, the journey is complete.

Conclusion: 'Grave New World' represents, in my humble opinion, another major step forward in the musical career of Strawbs. It's also one of their best albums and personally, it's my favourite musical work of them. I bought this album for more than forty years and I always loved it. It always had a very own place into my heart. It's one of the best albums of 1972 and one of the best progressive folk/rock albums ever made. Sincerely, if you don't have this album and you like prog folk/rock music, don't hesitate and get a copy of it. And if you can put your hands on one of those luxurious vinyl copies, better for you. Between 1971 and 1975 they made quite a few essential albums, and 'Grave New World' shows Strawbs at their finest moment. This album helped to put Strawbs as one of the best British prog bands ever.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Early Strawbs by STRAWBS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1974
2.67 | 7 ratings

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Early Strawbs
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review N 336

"Early Strawbs" is a very special compilation of Strawbs. It was released in 1974. This is an economic package that includes their debut eponymous studio album "Strawbs", released in 1969, and their second studio album "Dragonfly", released in 1970, on only one album. This is a good and interesting compilation from the band because it includes the two first studio works from the group, at a very cheap price, and what would be a very worth purchase, in those days. However, for those who have already both albums, it might be a nice addition for any vinyl progressive rock collection.

"Strawbs" and "Dragonfly" are two very interesting albums of Strawbs because they represent the beginning of the band on its more pure and simple acoustic musical style. They're also interesting because they feature a totally different kind of line up, as is usual with almost progressive rock acts, for instance, the absence of a drummer. That would never happen again on their next music works. They represent also their most obscure and unknown albums.

As I've already reviewed these two albums previously on Progarchives, in a more extensive way, I'm not going to do it again. So, if you are interested to know, in more detail, what I wrote about them before, I invite you to read those my both reviews. However, in here I'm going to write something about them in a more short way. So, of course, I'm not going to analyze them track by track, as I made before, but I'm only going to make a global appreciation of both albums.

"Strawbs": As I mentioned above, the line up on "Strawbs" is very different and short and is formed by Dave Cousins (vocals and guitars), Tony Hooper (vocals and guitars) and Ron Chesterman (double bass). The album had also the participation of John Paul Jones, the bassist of Led Zeppelin and Nicky Hopkins, the keyboardist of The Rolling Stones, on some tracks. "Strawbs" is definitely one of the big surprises and one of the most pleasant albums released in the end of the 60's. It's true that it shows some weak musical points, but in general we may say that this is an album that shows some consistency and an album with some great moments. Some songs are wonderfully composed in terms of lyrics and music, such as "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", and we may say that, in general, they have already some complexity. It has, without any doubt, the main leanings of their future music, and it has also, in a certain way, the born of their future progressive folk roots. So, all in all, "Strawbs" is a nice prog-folk debut album of one of the greatest prog folk bands in the 70's. Strawbs happens to be as one of my all times favourite prog bands since quite a long time.

"Dragonfly": The line up on "Dragonfly" is precisely the same of their debut studio album with the addition of Claire Deniz (cello), as a new member of the group. The album had also the participation of Tony Visconti (recorder), Paul Brett (electric guitar) and Bjarne Rostvold (drums). It has also the presence, for the first time, of Rick Wakeman, but on this album he is only a guest musician. Like the previous album, "Dragonfly" is also a typical folk album with very little progressivity, really. However, and as happened too with "Strawbs", "Dragonfly" has the main leanings of the progressive group that they would become, very soon. Their two songs, "The Battle" from "Strawbs" and "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" from "Dragonfly", are two perfect examples of that. "Dragonfly" is, in my humble opinion, a step forward in the musical maturity of Strawbs, being a more cohesive and a uniform musical work than "Strawbs" is. This is an album full of delicate harmonies, simple acoustic melodies, but unfortunately, isn't well recorded but nothing shameful either. The second album of Strawbs is probably their quietest and most acoustic album. It was as well the only one with cellist Claire Deniz in the line up, contributing considerably to the overall mellow atmosphere all over it.

Conclusion: If you already have the two studio albums in two individual albums, vinyl or CD, you don't need to buy this compilation unless you're a collectionist. It has nothing new to offer, like bonus tracks. It doesn't happen with the remastered versions on the CD format. The original remastered CD's have several bonus tracks to offer, and in general, they're all good and interesting to hear. However, if you don't have these two albums yet, this is an excellent alternative to own these two albums. It's true that they aren't two essential studio albums in the discography of the group and that both don't represent two essential musical pieces of music to have in a progressive music collection. However, both represent two good albums and a mysterious and almost unknown face of this incredible prog band. Just one more thing: To complement these two studio albums, I recommend their third studio album "From The Witchwood" released in 1971 and their first live album "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious", released in 1970, an album where almost all tracks weren't released on any studio album before. It's a great album, much better than "Strawbs" and "Dragonfly", and represents a wonderful evening with a superb acoustic concert. It remains as one of the most memorable live performances of them. It isn't their best or a perfect album, but it's the most pure, nave and probably the most beautiful musical work made by the group. It represents also the first memorable performance of Rick Wakeman on a live show.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Ferryman's Curse by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.13 | 52 ratings

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The Ferryman's Curse
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by ross warren

5 stars It has taken me a long time to get around to buying this one, but being shut up and having read some reviews that seemed almost to good to be true, I decided to buy. What a great set this is, by far to most satisfying strawbs record since their 70's commercial peak. So good that it would have fitted in well after Ghosts. Everything that us great about this band is here in bucket fulls. Clearly Bainbridge is a fan of the Strawbs, and it is his mellotron work that gives this release its classic feel. Classic in every sense, should this turn out to be their last then they are going out on a real high. For lovers of Dave Cousins voice and the Strawbs in general this has to be at the very least a 4.5. i am going the whole hog though and will give it 5 stars. IMHO it fulfills all the tests and is Essential, a true masterwork of progressive rock music. It you like the Strawbs this really deserves to be in your collection, my only regret is that it has taken me so long to get around to purchasing it.
 The Ferryman's Curse by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.13 | 52 ratings

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The Ferryman's Curse
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars I have always had a soft spot for the Strawbs , even forcing me to anoint ''Hero and Heroine'' as my all-time numero uno! Many other fine albums litter their stellar career , indefatigably led by David Cousins' delectable voice and sharp ,well-crafted lyrics as he is quite the story-teller. It has been quite a revelation to listen to this, their latest opus and it is a truly splendid affair. Themes are clearly spiritual in nature, perhaps even a tad religious, a trait that has adorned many previous works from this classic prog band.

From the opening symphonic notes, you just cannot help to be reassured that this might just be a winner and the tone is immediately stamped with one of their very finest pieces yet, the glorious ''the Nails from the Hands of Christ''. Thumping bass from master bassist Chas Cronk sets the pace, a poignant tirade of incredible passion and euphoria. Dave Lambert shines particularly with some chiseled slashes of guitar genius, pushed along by stalwart drummer Tony Fernandez as well as sturdy and pulsating keyboards from master-musician Dave Bainbridge (of Iona -fame , as well as some amazing solo works). His input is also compositional, adding his mark on a half of the tracks . But old man Cousins steals the show with a mastery of tone and urgency , a philosophy of singing he will maintain throughout this sparkling album.

Two drop-dead gorgeous ballads ensue, a perfect platform for the voice to shine, as the music holds the fort in masterful control. ''The Song of Infinite Sadness'' is a crushingly poignant piece , anointed with crystalline acoustic guitars and lush mellotron strings , an often deadly combination. David vocalizes like only he can, sweet melancholy and breathless inspiration in a hushed yet anguished delivery. This would have fitted nicely on a classic album such as ''Ghosts''. Sheer delight. Another world-class moment is reached on ''The Familiarity of Old Lovers'', a sensational slice of dark and folky symphonics, the beauty of the subject matter is only eclipsed by the brooding music , expertly guided and extraordinarily presented. The strings weep seductively as Lambert flicks his wrist with unabated power , carving delicious sounds from his electric guitar, very proggy and profound.

''When the Spirit Moves'' is an extended and heavily orchestrated affair, deliberately gentle at first and gradually swept up in massive symphonics, as Cousins heightens the tone , passionate and committed. Tubular bells add a holy majesty to the arrangements as it soars towards the heavens.

''The Ten Commandments'' is a Dave Lambert piece and as is often case with him, it provides a rockier, more countrified twang, his voice less nasal , sounding a bit like Steve Winwood at times and his guitar playing simple and effective. Hammond organ rolls along like a Muscle Shoals river, giving this track a breath of fresh air.

A return to brooding prog-folk compositions , which this group does so well, with the brief instrumental ''The Reckoning'' , highlighted by Bainbrige's delicate piano and keyboards. This serves to introduce another cracker epic , the delirious title track, which is an arch-typical Strawbs classic, a pulsating story recalling Charon and Styx with musical oomph, beastly organ blasts , booming bass and drums and tortuous electric guitars. Cousins relates with zealous passion , screeching, squealing and hurling terrifying words as if his life depended on it. The suspense weaves back down to earth, just an excuse to explode once again, offering the riveting coup de grace. Masterful!

A sweet and bucolic respite from the previous angst, ''Bats and Swallows'' offers a musical breeze that nevertheless focuses on the cheery lyrics and the playful guitar adornments. ''Rosemary and sage'' rekindles images of a bridge over troubled water, but in a more modern context.

Ratchet up the mood with the anthemic ''We Have the Power'' , a stellar message of hope, honour, promise and rebirth. It may serve as a perfect song to illustrate the current viral situation the earth is fighting. Just reading the lyric sheet, you cannot help but visualize the parallels . ''It's in our hands'' , he says. Indeed it is. Make sure you keep washing them.

4.5 blessed returns

 Nomadness by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.52 | 76 ratings

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Nomadness
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

2 stars How the mighty have fallen. But did they jump or were they pushed?

After the brilliant Ghosts album, Dave Cousins and co., sans a permanent keyboard player this time around as the great John Hawken jumped ship, put out a definitively non prog offering with Nomadness. Paring down the songs away from their prog epics, this group of short hard rockers, along with a few ballads, are some of the worst songs that the Strawbs ever committed to tape. Putting aside the group's move to more radio friendly mid 70's fare, the problem with a majority of these songs is their quality. Guitarist and main songwriter Cousins could write great short up tempo rock songs as evidenced by the songs "Lay Down" and "Lemon Pie" that the group recorded on past albums, so that was the problem? A lack of muse and motivation seems to be the cause. "To Be Free" is actually good as to conveying a sense of neurotic craziness with it's almost rap like run on stream of consciousness lyrics and is one for the group's oddball list. But one of the better ones. However, the more straight forward Bad Company-like rockers "Little Sleepy" (written and sung by lead guitarist Dave Lambert), "Back on The Farm" and "Tokyo Rosie" lack conviction and feel like deliberate attempts at a song style. Something that the Strawbs cared little about in the past as the group always threw their songs at the wall to see what would stick. The ballads fare a bit better with the reflective "Golden Salamander" and the ulta reflective "Hanging In The Gallery" being the some of Cousin's best. The album ends on a high note with the grandiose and dramatic "The Promised Land", penned by bassist Chas Cronk, which shows that heavy rockers need not be devoid of grandeur and drama. Something sorely lacking in the rest of the album's rockers.

Why Cousins was so off his muse for this batch of songs is anybody's guess. But a look at the album's cover photo shows a painfully thin Cousins who was never known for being anything other than chubby. Cousins always claimed that he was ill at the time he wrote and recorded most of the songs for Nomadness. So, the song quality may have been out of his control, but the musical direction of the Strawbs certainly was. So, did the Strawbs jump or were they pushed? Unfortunately, it seems it that it was a case of both.

 Access All Areas by STRAWBS album cover DVD/Video, 2015
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Access All Areas
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

— First review of this album —
3 stars Taken in 1990, this video of Access All Areas' Central TVs series televised concert of the Strawbs is a very good sounding and looking live outing of the Strawbs on both CD and DVD. I wish it had been from a happier and more productive era of the band, but as an historical document, it shows just how low the band sunk creatively in 1990.

All of the songs are very much by the numbers and offer nothing new except for an all rock approach to Dave Cousins' much loved "Grace Darling". The more modern, for the era, sounding lead guitar of Brian Wiloughby and the thin sounding synths and treated electric piano of Chris Parren give the songs a subtle new wave edge. But again, just subtlety. Cousins is still in good voice at this juncture and he's able to pull off the higher register vocals in the concert's only prog epic "Down By The Sea", that was sung by Dave Lambert in the old halcyon days. It's good to have returning co-founding member Tony Hooper and new bassist Rod Demick harmonize with Cousins in tune, something that was always impossible with the previous line up that included guitarist Dave Lambert and bassist Chas Cronk, so that chorus heavy songs like "Lay Down" and "Part Of The Union" really shine on this disc. It may contain the best live versions of those two songs that I've ever heard with the group actually doing an acapella section in "Lay Down", a first. Cousins does a rare lead vocal on "Part of The Union" which he pulls off quite well. "Cut Like A Diamond" and "The Hangman And The Papist" are done well and are tight versions. This is also the first recording of Cousins' ode to the late Sandy Denny titled "Ringing Down The Years". Cousins' emotional intro really helps to sell the song. C

It's also nice to hear drummer Richard Hudson clearly for once, as he sounds like a lot better player than on past studio albums where he was always down a bit in the muddy rhythm track mixes on the 70's album recordings. And the band sound quite polished and enthusiastic overall.

So, despite Cousins and company in fine concert form, it's sad that this group was at a creative low with Cousins (by his own admission) writing no more that 13 songs since the break up of the group in 1978, when he literally wrote hundreds. This 2 disc CD and DVD set does have a few good things going for it so a rating of 3 stars seem about right.

 Concert Classics by STRAWBS album cover Live, 1999
2.52 | 11 ratings

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Concert Classics
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Concert Classics is a kick *** live album capturing the late 70s Strawbs who were on fire and with Dave Cousins' voice in absolutely tip top shape. Naturally, Cousins and guitarist Dave Lambert once again struggle to harmonize on the intro to "Ghosts" (it's always amazed me how these two excellent vocalists can sing so well individually and always sound like scalded cats when singing together) while keyboard player Andy Richards supercharges the song with synths while still keeping the gorgeous melodies originally played by the great John Hawken on mellotron. Stunning stuff. Chas Cronk on bass and the incredible Tony Fernandez on drums round out the line up.

The late 70s rockers "The Last Resort", "Heartbreaker" and "No Return" get amped up enthusiastic run throughs, but it's the prog classics "Simple Visions", "Cut Like A Diamond" and "Out In The Cold/Round And Round" that make this album a treasure. And a heavy version of "Hero And Heroine" closes out the album in fine style.

The recording is clear and detailed but sounds a little rough around the edges. However, it actually does sound like a live concert performance, as opposed to the modern trend of sound mixing and mastering that tries to make a live performance sound like a studio recording. Another plus. 4 stars.

 Dragonfly by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.15 | 105 ratings

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Dragonfly
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Dragonfly is an album that has gotten quite a few 2 and 3 star ratings on PA and frankly, it deserves more stars than that. A very folk based acoustic album, it's main short coming seems to be the lack of symphonic prog found on later albums like Grave New World and Hero And Heroine. In fact there's not a mellotron note to be found on Dragonfly as the Strawbs had not yet progressed that far with this their second album.

The progressive elements found on Dragonfly are subtle and covert despite it's pastoral demeanor. The lead off track "The Weary Song" is a folk gem and is very reminiscent of a Simon And Garfunkel song in both style and execution, with alternate guitar tuning and wonderful harmonizing from Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper. Both vocalists are noticeably toned down as opposed from the belting out both did on Strawbs' previous album, their eponymous debut, and Dragonfly is all the better for it. What sets the song apart is eerie cello accompaniment from new member Claire Neniz, along with treated electric lead guitar and various hand percussion instruments. It's a song that lyrically and musically puts the listener in the singer's brow beaten frame of mind. The title track "Dragonfly" is a song that the Incredible String Band would have envied with it's modal dulcimer, recorder accompaniment (played by producer Tony Visconti), stately cello, backwards cymbal effects, chiming hand instruments and hand percussion. Done in a time signature reminiscent of a medieval court dance, it's case where looking backwards musically is it's progressive edge. The magnificent bowed double bass is played by the Strawbs' forth member Ron Chesterman. (The group still did not have an electric bass player in the group, nor a drummer, at this juncture.)

"I Turn My Face To The Wind" is another introspective Cousins song that conjures up feelings of walking a deserted English moor, feeling lonely, in the cold driving rain. Again, all acoustic with alternate guitar tunings, so in vogue in the world of late 60s British folk music, with Miss Deniz adding mournful cello. A guesting Rick Wakeman (he would not join the Strawbs until after the album was released) adds stately but unassuming piano that really drives home the song's uncompromising melancholy feel. "Josephine, For Better Or For Worse" is a beautiful and moving love song with stellar call and response type vocals form both Cousins and Hooper in the song's lilting chorus along with mournful cello from Miss Deniz.

Breaking the spell of lonesomeness is the gorgeous "Another Day" with an sunshine melody and more wonderful harmonizing from Cousins and Hooper as well as alternating lead vocals. "Till The Sun Comes Shining Through" is another upbeat song that doesn't work quite as well but has it's merits with a wonderfully baroque feel supplied by more recorder. "Young Again" is another of sentimental laments that follows the same acoustic formulas and is almost as good as "Another Day", with Hooper taking a solo lead vocal and it's one of his best on a Strawbs record. "The Vision Of The Lady In The Lake", the album's only true progressive song, is a long narration devoid of the standard verse, chorus, verse, chorus sung structure is quite stunning in it's dramatic unfolding. The song utilizes all of the past noted instrumentation (including the returning electric lead guitar found on the albums' first track) along with the album's only full drum accompaniment. Starting out mellow, as expected, the music becomes more sinister in tone as the bizarre cautionary tale unfolds towards a shocking ending, expertly conveyed by Mr. Cousins in a dramatic but unpretentious fashion. The album's sound mix is quite clumsy at times but that doesn't detract from album's listening pleasure. And that's coming from a retired sound engineer.

All in all, Dragonfly is not very progressive overtly, but it's a fine album that I'm sure most fans of prog folk would absolutely adore given it's stellar and utterly unique folk rock basis. Another plus is the greatly improved songwriting of Dave Cousins, who dropped his whimsical narratives found on the group's debut album and turned to more moving and introspective themes.

The 2008 A&M CD edition has a few bonus tracks with the two featured BBC sessions being quite good. The group reprise the beautiful "Another Day" and it's better than the album cut as the recording is more balanced and less sonically dry with added reverb that is so missing on the entire Dragonfly album. The BBC session version of "We'll Meet Again Sometime", a song the group has been licking around for years, is the group's definitive version due to it's stripped down arrangement. All in all Dragonfly is a fine 4 star album.

 Dragonfly by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.15 | 105 ratings

BUY
Dragonfly
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review N 314

"Dragonfly" is the second studio album of Strawbs and was released in 1970. It's a more restrained album than their debut, probably due to budgetary restraints. Probably this has always been an underrated Strawbs album, certainly not as dynamic as their later works, but possessing a quieter, rich and somber charm. The band was still very much an acoustic group, but already headed in the musical direction of their greatest fame, though they had yet to go to electric.

The line up on this album is the same of their debut album with the addition of Claire Deniz as a new member of the group. So, the line up is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dulcimer, piano and percussion), Tony Hooper (vocals, acoustic guitar and tambourine), Ron Chesterman (double bass) and Claire Deniz (cello). The album had also the participation of Tony Visconti (recorder), Paul Brett (electric guitar) and Bjarne Rostvold (drums). The album marked the first collaboration of Rick Wakeman with the band, but on this album he was only a guest musician.

"Dragonfly" has nine tracks. All tracks were written by Dave Cousins except "Young Again" which was written by Tony Hooper. The first track "The Weary Song" is a conventional and typical folk song. It's an acoustic song and where the blend of Clare Deniz's cello gives to the song a very special feeling and a different musical dimension. The song, with bitter sweet harmonies and along with Dave Cousins' discreet vocals, is a perfect introduction to the mood of the all album. The second track is the title track "Dragonfly". It's a much darker song than the previous one and is also a song with an unusual tune and where the recorder played by Tony Visconti with the dulcimer played by Dave Cousins, gives to the song a modal perfect feeling, for the usual Dave Cousins' poetic lyrics. The third track "I Turned My Face Into The Wind" is basically a piano and cello driven song. It was a song written after a walk in Yorkshire, near Barnsley, and it brings some darker imagery of the English traditional countryside. This is a nice song where Dave Cousins plays piano and Tony Hooper plays quietly and tastefully an electric guitar. The fourth track "Josephine For Better Or For Worse" is another calm and beautiful folk song on the album, but this time, it's basically performed by acoustic guitar and cello. It seems this is a song rescued from the outtakes of the first musical sessions of their debut studio album, and where to this version, it was given an attractive and nice new acoustic treatment. The fifth track "Another Day" is a song with a very happy mood, which makes me joyful and gives to me an air of hope. It deserves special mention the beautiful vocal performance of Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper. This is a song with an Irish folk tinge, very simple and pleasant to hear. The sixth track "Til The Sun Comes Shining Through" is another West Country inspired song, as happened with the previous track, "Another Day". It's a short track with an intricate blend of beautiful guitars and where Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper are in perfect harmony. The seventh track "Young Again" is another short track which gives to us, perfectly and deliberately, the true innocence of the song. Tony Visconti also provides a recorder on this song and he handle with the vocals too. We can hear Dave Cousins playing a child's piano on the instrumental break. The eighth track "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" is clearly a track inspired by the Arthurian's legend. It's the great epic on the album. It's in the same vein of "The Battle", released on their previous eponymous debut studio album "Strawbs". This is a fantastic song that gradually moves in a constantly dramatic growing, which in the end provides to us one of the most build- ups musical experiences I've ever heard. It's by far the best musical moment on the album and it's also, undoubtedly, one of Dave Cousins' most striking musical compositions ever wrote by him. The ninth and last track "Close Your Eyes" is too short, 45 seconds, to have much to say about it. So, I only want to say this is a song entirely performed with the voice and the acoustic guitar of Dave Cousins. This is a nice and a brief way to close this album.

Conclusion: Like their previous eponymous debut studio album "Strawbs", "Dragonfly" is also a typical folk album with very few of progressive music. However, and as happened with "Strawbs", "Dragonfly" has the main lines of the progressive group they will become, very soon, and where "The Battle" of their debut and "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" of this, are the two best and perfect examples of that. "Dragonfly" is, in my humble opinion, a step forward in the musical maturity of Strawbs. It's a more cohesive and uniform work than "Strawbs" is. However, I like both albums. But, for my taste, I think "Strawbs" has some songs more conventional than "Dragonfly" and, due to that, I probably prefer "Dragonfly" to "Strawbs". Still, this is only a matter of my personal taste. By the other hand, "Dragonfly" shows one of the first presences of Rick Wakeman on a progressive rock album, along with the second studio album of David Bowie, "Space Oddity". It's true that his presence isn't strongly felt here and we need to wait to Strawbs' next album, their debut live album "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious", to can feel his presence perfectly. However, "Dragonfly" represents, in a certain way, the starting point of his brilliant career as one of the best keyboardists ever.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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