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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Strawbs

The Magic of it All

Review by Gary Hill

To some degree you know what you will get with a new Strawbs album. David Cousins' vocals and songwriting are well established. So is the mix of folk rock and prog. Yet, somehow each albums stands on its own as a unique set of music. This new album is a great addition to the band's catalog. I don't quite get one thing about this, though. The bonus track is labeled as "ABRACADABRA" rather than "bonus track." I mean, I get it's probably a play on the title, but perhaps I'm a little dense because I feel there must be more to it than that.

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Track by Track Review
Ready (Are We Ready)
Coming in with a great melodic prog arrangement, when the vocals join, it's classic Strawbs. The chorus section packs some killer drama and more blatantly prog things. There are some cool variations on the themes along the road here, and this is a particularly effective opening track.
The Magic of It All
The title track comes in mellower. There is much more folk music in the mix, and the vocals come in over the top of a stripped back, more sedate arrangement. In some ways I'm reminded of David Bowie here. This remains mellower throughout.
All Along the Bay
A Latin swing and groove is on display as this gets going. This isn't the proggiest thing here, but it's more of a world folk rocker. It's a lot of fun.
Everybody Means Something to Someone
This comes in mellower and folk-like. After the first vocal movement, it builds out to proggier stuff. Then it drops back to the earlier modes for the next vocals. It continues to evolve from there.
Our World
I dig the intricate acoustic guitar that gets this underway. It has more of that folk sound in a balladic approach. Layers of sound added to the mix bring proggier things to play. I love the rich and full vocal arrangement later.
The Time Has Come (for Giving Back)
More of a rocker, there is still plenty of folk music and prog in the mix. I really dig the filled out vocal sections on this song, as well. The soaring guitar solo section later is positively inspired, too.
Slack Jaw Alice
Featuring some saxophone, this has a real bluesy, jazzy groove as it gets going. I really love some of the bass work on this. The whole cut is fun and classy.
Paris Nights
The music to this balladic number is suitably built on French cafe music. I love the intricate guitar, and some proggy elements still manage to exist here.
Wiser Now
Another balladic piece, I really love some of the piano work in the later portions of this. The folk prog concept is in the driver's seat for the duration, but the proggy angle really takes hold in that second half of the track.
The Lady of the Night
This is much more pure folk rock. It's a solid number, but not one of the strongest here.
Christmas Ghosts

We get a lot of prog rock in the mix on this holiday tune. I can even pick out some bits of space rock. It does a great job of creating a Christmas vibe, while also bringing the folk prog home to roost.

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