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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Strawbs

Hero and Heroine

Review by Gary Hill

Perhaps The Strawbs biggest claim to fame (at least in the U.S.) was the fact that Rick Wakeman had at one time been part of their ensemble. Well, that was a very short tenure and The Strawbs have a long career and a lot of albums without him. This disc, their first fully electric release, shows that they produced some exceptionally cool music sans the assistance of the caped crusader. The music here is mostly folk based rock and bears a lot of resemblance to the Moody Blues at times. I also hear bits of The Beatles (what band at the time wasn’t influenced by those guys), King Crimson and even Hawkwind (more specifically Bob Calvert). This is really a great album and a fine introduction to The Strawbs.

Track by Track Review
Autumn: Heroine's Theme/Deep Summer's Sleep/The Winter Long
A killer keyboard sound leads off this multi-part suite. As they work this through we hear some space rock sounds before it moves out into a rather balladic jam. Keyboards soar over the top in a manner that calls to mind early Moody Blues or King Crimson ballads quite a bit. The section right before it shifts to a rather follky motif reminds me quite a bit of “In The Court of the Crimson King.” The vocals come in over the ballad structure. It is reworked as they move forward. Eventually this “In The Court…” sounding segment is given a longer life at the end of this verse/chorus section. Then it shifts to piano as they work their way forward. As this is built up again the other acoustic elements take a great role. This becomes a powerful folky ballad structure that reminds me at times of The Grateful Dead. A more powerful take on this musical concept eventually ends the song.
Sad Young Man
A more purely folk like arrangement starts us here and holds the track for the first verse. When the chorus hits they raise the ante and it feels rather like old Genesis. This eventually transitions back to the verse section and they continue by going through this same repetition. After the chorus segment, though, this shifts in a new direction, sort of a melodic progressive rock that seems ready to burst out. It does after some vocals and we get a soaring progression that’s got a strong keyboard texture to it. When the guitar takes over, though, I’m again reminded of the Grateful Dead. This extended bridge eventually takes us back to the song proper. A transitionary segment later leads us to the outro.

Just Love
This comes in feeling like the Allman Brothers. When it drops to the vocal section it’s kind of The Grateful Dead meets Steely Dan. This is just a straight ahead rock and roller with some proggy flashes here and there. We also get a melodic prog bridge in this.
Shine On Silver Sun
Pretty and rather textural elements bring things in here. This becomes a folk ballad turned prog. It’s another that has some elements that call to mind The Moody Blues. For my money the vocal arrangement is probably the standout portion of this piece.
Hero And Heroine
With a powerful and dramatic introductory fanfare, they drop back to folk sounds and this has a bit of the feeling of a sea-chanty. For some reason I also can hear bits of Robert Calvert and Hawkwind on this. They work through several alterations of this and turn it towards a fast paced world music sound for a time. We also get a cool keyboard solo. They pack so much into this track it’s amazing to think that it clocks in at less than three minutes. It essentially runs straight into the next piece.
Midnight Sun
This one comes up with a definite folk sort of texture. Again I’m reminded a bit of early Genesis. They keep this one reasonably close to its folk roots.
Out In The Cold
Here we have a bluesy folk number that comes complete with harmonica. As they move forward this starts to feel more like a singer songwriter cut. I’m reminded of Bob Dylan or Van Morrison on this. It’s not exceptionally proggy, but has its moments.
Round and Round
They bring this in with a harder rocking rhythm section. Keyboards skate across this backdrop as they build up. As the introduction closes out we get one of the more powered up progressive rock jams on show here. There is still some of that folk nature here, but this is definitely more in the realm of pure rock. There is a cool keyboard solo, too. We get another section that feels like Robert Calvert and the instruments takes us on a great ride. This is my favorite track on the album.
Lay A Little Light On Me
This rises up gradually, feeling a lot like early Genesis at first. It takes on a more rock motif, sort of like Genesis meets The Dead as they work their way forward. They take us on a cool little twisty turny ride later. Parts of this track really remind me a lot of The Beatles.
Hero's Theme
A short piece, this combines music that reminds me a bit of Queen with backwards tracked vocals.
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