Strawbs — Halcyon Days
(540662-2 , 1997, 2CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1998-02-01
Perhaps Strawbs is one of the most widely misunderstood bands that ever confused and confounded fans for not conforming to preconceived (and often wildly inaccurate) expectations. When Yes fans heard that their golden boy Wakeman was an ex-member, they rushed to buy copies of Witchwood and Antiques only to learn that Ricky was in a folk band that, only a few years prior were an acoustic trio of guitars and banjos doing bluegrass covers. And what about that singer Dave Cousins, sort of like a flowery Bob Dylan with a British accent. This wasn't anything like Yes, and sadly, for many this would be their first and final impression of the band. In fact, from a purely folk perspective, Strawbs was probably the most progressive of a group of 'electric-folk' bands (which included Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span, and others) that came out of England in the late 60s. After an obscure debut album which was released only in Denmark, singer Sandy Denny bailed for greener pastures with Fairport, who already had a major label deal. Denny's replacement, Sonja Kristina, didn't last long either, moving on to Curved Air. Down to a trio again, Strawbs signed with A&M Records, and would end up recording nine albums and two best-of compilations between '69 and '75, first as a purely electric folk band, then later assimilating elements of progressive rock, classical, and pop. This two-disc full-length compilation exhaustively covers their years with A&M, and includes many rare singles and B-sides that have slipped through the cracks, as well as some of their best album cuts from that period. Those longing for the haunting title track from their 1975 Ghosts album need look no further. Also here is the majestic "Blue Angel" from the obscure 1972 Dave Cousins solo album, three rare Hudson / Ford singles recorded around the time of Bursting at the Seams, and the shimmering "Golden Salamander" from their final A&M album, Nomadness. Conspicuously absent are any of the songs penned by lead guitarist Dave Lambert (from Bursting... onward), the classic "Tears and Pavan," and the dreamy masterpiece "Autumn" that opens the Hero & Heroine album — I suppose they would've needed a third disc for all the great stuff they missed. Still, this is an outstanding compilation that should serve as an excellent introduction to the band, or as a supplement of lost and rare tracks for the longtime fan.
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more