As the blurb says, The Strawbs have created a unique niche for their progressive folk-rock sound but, stripped bare it is the ‘acoustic’ element that shows how strong these basic concepts were. Therefore, trawling their impressive back catalogue is by no means an indulgence but a necessity and as I listen once again to “Ghosts”, “Grace Darling”, and “A Glimpse Of Heaven” I marvel at the majesty of it all. There’s an inherent clarity from the instruments that drives everything along on a bed of string based accompaniment to Dave Cousins tortured vocals whether it be the chiming of his dulcimer/autoharp and banjo, Chas Cronk’s 12-string guitar or the lead lines provided by Brian Willoughby, Dave Lambert and even the inclusion of Ian Cutler’s fiddle is well placed for dramatic effect. OK, so the pomp element that always typified a Strawbs performance (much like it did with the Alan Parsons Project) may, on first hearing sound a little over the top at the end of the day it is these artistic flourishes that provides the listener with something more substantial than the often derided term ‘folk’ could ever hope to achieve. By the way, for those collectors out there, there are three unreleased tracks included as a bonus.
Artist’s website: www.strawbsweb.co.uk