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The Strawbs


Review by Gary Hill

In some ways you know what you will get when you hear a new Strawbs album. Dave Cousins' vocals and songwriting are the core of the act, and they are a known commodity that bring a consistency to all the albums. This one does have a few surprises, though. The opener even has an unusual heaviness to it. There are some synthesizer elements that are a bit refreshing, too. I suppose the final conclusion is that if you like Cousins and the Strawbs, you will feel right at home. Yet, you might find some things you didn't expect. All in all, this is quite an effective release.

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Track by Track Review
Although acoustic guitar based, this comes in surprisingly heavy. The guitar line almost makes me think of the acoustic side of Metallica. The first vocals come in over the top of this arrangement. There are some cool synthesizer sounds that dance overhead at times. The cut turns to a hard rocking jam that is nearly metallic further down the road, too. Those synths provide some classy icing on the cake. The instrumental section is a smoking hot progressive rock jam.
Strange Times
I love the intricate acoustic guitar modes that bring this number into being. The vocals join over that tapestry. After the first set of vocals some synthesizer paints lines of magic over the top. This is very much cut from a folk music cloth. The keyboard-dominated instrumental movement is classy.
Judgement Day
An energetic number, this still has a melodic folk prog basis to it. This cut is fairly dynamic and has a lot of solid instrumental work. It's not as immediate in terms of its grasp as the first two songs, though.
Each Manner Of Man
Here we get another solid folk prog tune. I love the tasteful electric guitar solo later. The whole tune gets more energized and invigorated as it drives forward. There are some particularly cool keyboard fills on the tune, too.
The Visit
This cut puts the emphasis on the folk side of the equation. It's very down-home in style and texture.
Flying Free (instrumental)
I love the intricate and pretty melodies and textures on this tune. This is a bouncy folk meets prog instrumental number that's quite effective. It's a lot of fun, really.
Quicksilver Days
The mellower motif on this has a moody beauty to it. There are some parts of this that seem to have some space rock built into it, but of the balladic variety.
We Are Everyone
This seems to come out of the previous piece, almost as an extension. It rises up with a melodic prog sound that makes me think of Pink Floyd to some degree. There is some cool electric guitar on this piece. Female vocals add to the arrangement of the cut. The symphonic elements that come in over the top later really elevate the piece. This number is only about five-minutes long, but in terms of scope it is epic. It's also one of the highlights of the disc.
Chorale (Instrumental)
This piece is a prog rock powerhouse. The synthesizer that dances on top of the arrangement is powerful and effective. The number drops to an organ solo later that eventually ends it.
Off the Beaten Tracks:
Champion Jack

The folk prog concepts on this work really well. I love the proggy overlayers, but also some of the almost bluegrass textures that are built into the arrangement. It soars in majestic ways later, and there is some killer guitar soloing.

Better Days (Life Is Not a Game)
Now, this is a huge change. It has a Latin, Island kind of groove. Horns add to that effect. This is not the proggiest thing here, but it is fun.
A bit of a melodic rocker, this is a solid tune. It has some psychedelia and space rock in the mix. It's actually one of the cooler cuts here, bonus track or not.
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