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Strawbs - Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.74 | 73 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
3 stars The early history of Strawbs boasts many "firsts" : first UK group signed to A&M records, first UK folk rock album (even if it wasn't released until several years later), first Bluegrass band in UK, first band for legends Sandy Denny and Rick Wakeman, etc. Add to it one other anomaly: their first album to be released in the US was a live recording, and featured material that was almost entirely hitherto unavailable.

Apart from the breakthrough credentials of "Antiques and Curios", the music itself is very much in the pioneering spirit, with its juxtaposition of seemingly incompatible bedfellows like dulcimer, sitar, organ, and sexually explicit lyrics ("Fingertips"); politically charged anthems ("Martin Luther King's Dream"); a landmark title suite in 4 pastoral movements, a 6+ minute middle eastern styled virtuosic organ display ("Where is this Dream of Your Youth"); a 5+ minute lesson in classical piano ("Temperament of Mind"), and an immortal song of tenderness ("Sad Little Girl"). Yet this isn't quite cohesive or impressively collated enough to qualify for much more than the utmost historical significance, which I assure you it does. Instead you find a few worthwhile blueprints for future directions as well as forays never to be repeated in any form, almost like the group was trying to establish an identity and they had simply no idea. To quote a recent lyric from Cousins, "It started out with nothing planned".

Also included are three bonus tracks, two of which fill out the live performance and therefore present as more than mere afterthoughts. Unfortunately, in the case of "The Vision of the Lady of the Lake", the smoothing out effects of the studio are sorely needed, as Cousins simply does not have the vocal range to pull it off. Stick with the studio version from "Dragonfly". "We'll Meet Again Sometime" is one of now a half dozen available versions, which is hard to remember given that for decades the only available, and still best, rendition was that on Mr Cousins solo effort "Two Weeks Last Summer". This one might merit runner up for its wise deployment of Tony Hooper's voice. The final bonus is the sparkling cello and string laden love song, "Forever", with immediate impact and a melody you will be singing along from the first. It might be slighly out of place here, having been both temporally and stylistically suited for the "Dragonfly" album. But then "Antiques" is already a disjointed affair in many ways.

While delivering a trunkload of valuable relics, "Antiques and Curios" chooses to dump them in your living room when what is required is cleanup and a professional's sense of decor. 3.5 stars, rounded down.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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