Strawbs: Prog in 1977? Phew!

12th July 2019

Title: Deadlines

Label: Esoteric

The Strawbs were a strange group – which was an immediate attraction to many future fans. They emerged from a folkie tradition, more bluegrass to be honest, called the Strawberry Hill Boys. Then they tweaked their sound towards folk and their name to The Strawbs, featuring future Fairport Convention legend Sandy Denny for a time. Then she left and the sound was tweaked again as was much of the line up. This time towards a rocking vibe of a progressive nature, as Rick Wakeman arrived. 

Then Wakeman left and the band upped their game somewhat, gaining UK commercial success as they enhanced their rock sound and even had a few hits. You may remember their UK Top 10 hit, Part of the Union, for example. 

That UK commercial success dropped away.

Strawbs: Prog in 1977? Phew!

More ructions and line-up changes occurred during the mid-seventies as the band seemed to do better in the USA. Further changes lead to the group leaving their label, A&M.

It was at this point, during creative, line-up and management struggles that this album was made for the Arista label. 

All of which has nothing to do with the music on this album. Yet I list the above on purpose because that’s what music critics often do and have done on the Internet, preparatory to faintly damning this album. 

Don’t believe it. This is a top quality prog rock album and no mistake. This nicely mastered box set features three discs and a mini-poster. The original album plus 11 excellent bonus tracks (i.e. outtakes, demos and alternative mixes), a second CD features BBC Radio One’s Sight & Sound In Concert from 1978 and the third disc is a DVD of the same concert. A thoughtful, considered, multi-layered album with strong themes and superb rhythmic structures, it’s a fine release.

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