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Wednesday, 20 July 2016
"Grave New World" by STRAWBS (1998 A&M Remaster Pieces 'Expanded Edition' CD) - A Review by Mark Barry...
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After clocking up four albums between May
1969's debut "Strawbs" and July 1971's "Witchwood" (two
with Yes Keyboardist Rick Wakeman on board) - the STRAWBS (shortened from
Strawberry Hill Boys) finally rewarded the patience of A&M Records A&R
men with a big fat hit album - the fondly remembered "Grave New
World" from February 1972.
Even without a single to plug it - but armed
with a tri-gatefold sleeve and natty booklet within original copies -
"Grave New World" climbed up to No. 11 in the UK LP charts and lay
the ground for their 'Rock' record breakthrough - "Bursting At The
Seams" in February 1973 which went all the way to No. 2.
"Grave New World" is seen as their
last overtly 'Folk Rock' LP and features what many feel was the classic Strawbs
line-up. Here are the grim (slightly new) details...
UK released July 1998 - "Grave New
World" by STRAWBS on A&M Records 540 934-2 (Barcode 731454093422) is
an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks and plays out as
follows (42:39 minutes):
2. Hey, Little Man...Thursday's Child
3. Queen Of Dreams
4. Heavy Disguise
5. New World
6. Hey Little Man...Wednesday's Child
7. The Flower And The Young Man [Side 2]
9. On Growing Older
10. Ah Me, Ah My
11. Is It Today, Lord?
12. The Journey's End
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 5th album "Grave
New World" - released February 1972 in the UK on A&M Records AMLH
68078 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4344. Produced by The Strawbs - all
songs written by Dave Cousins except "Heavy Disguise" by John Ford.
"Ah Me, Ah my" by Tony Hopper and "Is It Today Lord" by
13. Here It Comes - non-album track released as
a UK-only 7" single April 1972 on A&M Records AMS 7002 with the album
cut "Tomorrow" as its B-side
14. I'm Going Home - a Strawbs track issued in
the UK as a DAVE COUSINS solo 7" single in September 1972 on A&M
Records AMS 7032 with "Ways And Means" on the B-side. Both songs
turned up on the September 1972 first solo LP by Cousins called "Two Weeks
Last Summer" on A&M Records AMLS 68118. Neither the single nor the
album received US release.
DAVE COUSINS – Lead Vocals, Acoustic and
12-String Guitar, Electric Guitar, Electric-Acoustic Dulcimer, Recorders
TONY HOPPER – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and Auto
BLUE WEAVER – Organ, Piano, Harmonium,
Mellotron and Clavioline
JOHN FORD – Vocals and Bass
RICHARD HUDSON – Vocals, Drums, Percussion,
Tablas and Sitar on "Is It Today, Lord?"
Trevor Lucas and Anne Collins sing backing
vocals on "Benedictus"
Robert Kirby Silver Band on "Heavy
Tony Visconti Arranged and Provided 'Chorus'
Vocals for "Ah Me, Ah My"
The 12-page booklet has typically in-depth
liner notes from a great chronicler of music - JOHN TOBLER (with thanks to Dave
Cousins) and the centre pages are the 'Paper Tiger' painting that graced the
inner tri-gatefold (William Blake's painting is on the front cover and his
verse on the last page). Recorded at Morgan Studios in November 1971 with some
further work at Island Studios - the tapes are clearly in great shape because
the PETER WAKE Remaster (done at Bourbery-Wake Studios) is gorgeous to listen
too - all that great original production shining through. But notable and
sloppy omissions include "Queen Of Dreams" (track 3) and "On Growing
Older" (track 9) - both are missing entirely from the track-by-track
session notes on Page 10 (who played what on what) and it appears the booklet
has never been corrected.
Supposedly the story of one man's life from
cradle to the grave - the album opens with Cousins getting all hymn-like on
"Benedictus" - three of the band's vocals joined by Fairport's Trevor
Lucas and British Contralto singer Anne Collin. With a heavy-on-the-organ intro
and strummed dulcimer strings rattling around the speakers – the songs feels
very English Folk-Rock (in a good way). In direct contrast we then get Cousins
on his own with his Acoustic Guitar for the one-minute of "Hey Little
Man...Thursday's Child" - the kind of pretty ditty that enthrals even
after all these years (beautifully produced too).
Things take a decidedly trippy turn with the
backwards guitars, dulcimers and Mellotron of "Queen Of Dreams" -
while John Ford gets his first look in on the excellent "Heavy
Disguise" - a track many fans would have easily issued as a winning 45 (he
would of course form Hudson-Ford after they both left the Strawbs in the mid
70ts). But the Mellotron melodrama of "New World" feels leaden and
tired – like bad Procol Harum. Thankfully Side 1 ends on the second short but
very pretty Cousins melody - "Hey Little Man...Wednesday's Child" –
as sweet as first part.
Side 2 opens with echoed Acapella vocals before
"The Flower And The Young Man" settles into a sort of Incredible
String Band power ballad - Ford's Bass incredibly clear in the mix.
"Tomorrow" is another Prog plodder I'm afraid that irritates instead
of lifts - far better is the superb "On Growing Older" - a
beautifully melodic piece and one of the album's highlights. The 'cor blimey
mate' days gone by of "Ah Me, Ah My" (sung by Tony Hopper and
originally produced by Gus Dudgeon) is the kind of song they obviously thought
was funny and it isn't. But things return to Strawbs form with the finisher
"Is It Today, Lord?" - Richard Hudson doing a blinder on the Sitar and
tables acting like he's just discovered ISB's "Wee Tam And The Big
The two UK 7" single Bonus Tracks turn out
to just that - actual bonuses - in fact I'd argue that "Here It
Comes" is better than some of the lesser tunes on the GNW LP.
So not all genius - but so much worthy of your
hard earned post-Brexit pound. And "Bursting At The Seams" from 1973
was even better in my book... PS: see also my review for the hugely underrated "Dragonfly" from 1970 by STRAWBS