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Old 08-03-2009, 01:28 PM   #61 (permalink)
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Ok now back to the good stuff.



Hero and Heroine - The Strawbs - 1974

Personell:
Dave Cousins - Lead vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Backing vocals.
Dave Lambert - Lead Guitar, Backing vocals, Lead vocals.
John Hawken - Organ, Piano, Electric Piano, Mellotron, Synthesizer.
Chas Cronk - Bass, Backing vocals, Synthesizer.
Rod Coombies - Drums, Percussion, Backing vocals.

with

Claire Deniz - Cello on "Midnight Sun".

Now within the world of prog, these guys stuck out in a weird way, they're often put into the prog folk category but unlike groups like Jethro Tull, Comus and Renaissance, they had a distinctive country based sound, though they still implemented a lot of british folk and classical influences as well. They're also known for their very Birds-ish vocal harmonies.

The Strawbs started out as a bluegrass/folk group, and eventually evolved into a progressve folk group which briefly included Rick Wakeman before he joined Yes, in 72 Lambert joined the group, from here they began to embrace more rock, pop and country influences while still maintaining their british folk roots. After their successul and very country-ish Bursting at the Seams album, longtime members Blue Weaver, John Ford and Richard Hudson left the group, with a new lineup they turned out this more ambitious album.

This is one of those albums that british folk purists loved to hate. But yeah, purists are stupid. Evolution is natural for any band and this was The Strawbs at their most ambitious and yet most accessible as well. English gothic folk, synth heavy prog, baroque pop, power chord rock and country, there's a little something for everyone here.

I just hope you don't mind too much that band frontman Cousins kinda sounds like Phil Collins.

Autumn: This one is seperated into 3 segments. The intro is excellent, it starts with a repetitive synth bass beat followed by some psychedelic guitar and mellotron, the 2nd segment is an acoustic guitar/mellotron based ballad and a very good one, has a very Moody Blues-ish vibe to it. The final segment is almost like a church hymn. A great opening track with that murky opening/uplifting ending dynamic that is very common in prog.

Sad Young Man: A lovely little somber ballad, with some great jangly guitar from Lambert and Procal Harum-ish organ flourishes.

Just Love: This is Lamberts sole songwriting contribution to the album, which breaks from the more somber mood of this album by just being a straight up rocker, and a pretty good one at that, I quite like it even though it doesn't really sound like The Strawbs at all.

Shine On Silver Sun: This one has a very Birds vibe to it, with some nice piano, pretty good but there's not much to say about it beyond that.

Hero & Heroine: The title track is undoubtably the best moment on the album as well, pure country prog with Tolkenish lyrics and vocals, gothic mellotron and guitar that almost makes you want to square dance, it's like King Crimson meets Charlie Daniels. Awesome.

Midnight Sun: Another real highpoint. Beautiful acoustic guitar work here with some bongo work, I also love the woodwind sounding mellotron and Cousins lovely tenor vocals, a really beautiful song.

Out in the Cold: Another lovely country/folksy song, this one has some mouth harp and pedal steel guitar work, I really love the folksy atmosphere here, though there's this one obvious sexual lyric that leaves very little to the imagination and is at the very least a little unsettling.

"Sucked on your breasts, your legs opened wide
I could scarcely believe all the pleasures inside"

No comment. o_O

Round and Round: Here things are much more close to the prog sound, it opens with a really catchy synth line and some Fripp-ish guitars, it's a rather upbeat sounding song even though it's about suicide. Once againt they decided to rawk out a little more with this one. Another great track.

Lay a Little Light on Me: I really think Cousins is a brilliant songwriter when it comes to ballads and this is one of his best, the kind that is a bit depressing but also something to get the cigarette lighters out for, my second favorite song after the title track. There's a one part of the song which introduces a musical motif which then becomes the basis for the closing track.

Heroe's Theme: A pretty great way to close the album, it's based around a repetitive guitar riff and has an almost proto-doom metal vibe to it dare I say, which then segues into an a capella of Bird-ish vocal harmonies drowned in delay effects, a very strange closer indeed.

For fans of british folk rock like Traffic, Tull and Fairport, this is a band totally worth checking out and a great album to start with, though some Strawbs fans prefer earlier material and they're not a bad start either.

One reason I dislike indie folk so much is because I always like my folk to have a little mysticism to it, and The Strawbs certainly provide it, though with a more commercial sound than guys like Comus. They have a sound that I like to describe as being moth angelic and gloomy at the same time, one of the most underrated bands of the 70s for sure.

This is certainly not a band for everybody, but I quite dig em and you might too.



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Old 08-04-2009, 03:42 PM   #62 (permalink)
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Been meaning to get into The Strawbs for quite some time, as they've been around nearly forever and did some wonderful albums. Glad you reviewed one such work here; I'll be looking into them more seriously now!
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Old 08-09-2009, 12:02 PM   #63 (permalink)
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Space Shanty - Khan - 1972

Personell:
Steve Hillage - Guitar, Lead vocals, Backing vocals.
Dave Stewart - Organ, Piano, Celesta, Marimbas.
Nick Greenwood - Bass, Lead vocals, Backing vocals.
Eric Peachy - Drums.

This is not a hard band to get the entire discography of, because this is their only album, seriously, no live albums, comps, singles or bootlegs, this is it. A band whose entire discography is only 7 songs, one being an unreleased track that appeared in the 2005 reissue.

Khan was a Canterbury supergroup consisting of former Uriel and future Gong guitarist Hillage, former Egg and future Hatfield & The North and National Health keyboardist Stewart, former Arthur Brown bassist Greenwood and former Dr K's Blues Band drummer Peachy.

While being a canterbury band, much like Camel their music has a more symphonic rock based sound, thus Khan have more in common with Yes, ELP and Uriah Heep than with Caravan or Soft Machine.

It's very symphonic rock but there are space rock elements (as the album title clearly suggests) and jazz fusion elements as well, thanks in part to the diverse, psychedelic guitar style of Hillage which would later become a contributing factor in the success of Gong. Hillage and Stewart are two of the most talented and prolific musicians in prog and this is some of their finest work. Though props should also be given to the rhythm section, Greenwood can still provide the kinda psychedelic R&B grooves that he did with Arthur Brown, and he also shows himself to be a quite capable singer, as does Hillage, who was pretty much the dominant songwriter for this album.

I do have to say, like a lot of prog it is an aqquired taste, the converted proggie is more likely to appreciate this than casual listeners trying to get into prog. I have to say that this is one of the most stereotypically "prog" sounding albums ever. Operatic vocals? Check. Long and flashy guitar/organ jamfests? Check. Crazy time signatures? Check. Whimsical sci fi themed lyrics? Check.

This is by no means anything truly innovative for prog even back in the day, but this is a fantastic album nonetheless and if you're a big fan of bands like Camel, Egg and late 70s Gong, this is something to add to your Canterbury collection.

Space Shanty: What a great opener, god it's getting tiresome to say that over and over again, but you get my drift, the first minute and a half of this song starts out like a Uriah Heep-ish hard rock number, a very addictive one, so they got something to reel you in, and that's when they start proggin your ass off with a long and drawn out medley of guitar and organ harmonizing and solos, and it couldn't be sweeter. Stewart's jazzy organ work and Hillage's bluesy psychedelic guitar really comes out at full force on this one. The outro brings things back to the tagline melody. Fantastic stuff.

Stranded/Effervescant Psychonovelty N0.5: This one opens beautifully with some acoustic guitar and organ in the background, then some more organ and electric piano join in as well as some lovely falsetto vocals from Hillage. This has a very mellow and spacey sound to it which of course works perfectly with the obvious sci fi theme of this album. This starts out as a lovely ballad, but of course being prog, things can't stay calm forever, 3 minutes in a crashing guitar riff comes out of nowhere and things once again descend into delicious proggy chaos, if only for a brief moment before we are greeted with a jazzy organ solo, followed by a psychedelic harmony of guitars, and once again Khan bring things back to where they began and closing with a wonderful aquatic cadence of celesta glissandos and acoustic guitar arpeggios. Bombastic? Very.

Mixed Up Man Of The Mountains: Some nice acoustic guitar arpeggios and calming organ work to start things off, Greenwood gives a nice vocal performance though he could have toned down the vocal gymnastics a little, still pretty solid if not as good as the first two tracks, once again things turn into a hyper guitar freak out, followed by some funky organ work, then a few more guitar solos. Ok sure, the whole "intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/super long instrumental medley/verse/chorus/outro" dynamic is turning into a formula at this point, so what?

Driving to Amsterdam: This is a very jazzy, fanciful track. This song starts out with a Mahavishnu-ish fusion freakout, with some especially wonderful work from Hillage and Stewart, and some very melodic basslines by Greenwood. The traditional vocal segments here really showcases Hillage's talent as a melodist and songwriter. This is followed by Hillage and Stewart trading some solos, Hillage really shows his range here, going from harmonized blues freakouts to jazz fusion. Another one of the album's highlights.

Stargazers: This one opens with some jolly marimba, which combined with Hillage's trippy guitar squeals really brings to mind the kinda stuff Hillage would go on to do with Gong. This one has quite a Yes vibe to it, with a lot of trippy fusion stuff going on. Stay tuned for the awesome guitar outro.

Hollow Stone/Escape Of The Space Pirates: The song starts off with just some acoustic guitar and vocals, the "Hollow Stone" segment is very dreamy and folky, some great acoustic work by Hillage. Eventually we get a groovy Hammond solo, the kind that very much defines the canterbury sound. The final segment starts off with dirty hammond and bluesy guitar and the song closes with a 21st Century Schizoid Man style atonal freakout. Overall a great closing track.

Even though Hillage and Stewart went on to produce a lot more great music with other bands, it's still a shame that this ensemble only lasted for one album. This is like a fusion of all the different prog styles of the time, symphonic rock, space rock and of course the usual jazzy Canterbury sound, all mixed together. Hillage really shows his diversity here, as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, some like to say that this is just a Hillage solo album, but the overall musicianship here is not to be overlooked. Like many prog bands that can make the transition between a variety of moods, from composure to chaos, and vice versa, as with any great work of prog, expect the unexpected.

So hope on aboard the space shanty. This is an overlooked gem without a doubt.





EDIT: That's right, I've added video uploads to all my previous reviews, enjoy.
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Old 08-31-2009, 12:51 PM   #64 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boo boo View Post


Space Shanty - Khan - 1972
I'm not sure why I haven't participated in this thread before (maybe I have, maybe I keep putting it off), but I just noticed this post and gotta back boo boo up, this is a FANTASTIC album.

I also really like Van der Graaf Generator's H to He, Who Am The Only One. The Genesis, Gentle Giant, albums are Camel albums are good too, but Khan and VdGG are gems fewer people seem to know about.

I should start my own prog stash thread one of these days. I suck at reviews though, so it probably won't be in this sub-forum. It'll be more like a recommendation thread with a brief description and a few videos or something. Been meaning to do it for other genres as well.
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Last edited by sidewinder; 08-31-2009 at 12:56 PM.
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