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Strawbs - Preserved Uncanned CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.69 | 8 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Contrary to what you may have read/heard, Sandy Denny does not appear on this album, which consists of studio demos from The Strawberry Hill Boys prior to becoming the Strawbs and welcoming Sandy into the fold. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, this is the historic Strawbs document to own, as it shows their breadth of interests even at a tender age. Among these, are bluegrass, and indeed they are often credited as Britain's first bluegrass band, 1960s pop, Ray Davies styled storytelling and Bob Dylan styled shaggy dog songs.

While the group at one time performed a lot of traditional tunes, here the vast majority are written by Cousins, but some exceptions are highlights, like the sad tale of the "Blantyre Explosion", the banjo rich "Handsome Molly", which explores the intersection of bluegrass and rock and roll, and "Spanish is a Loving Tongue". Interestingly, these are all sung by Tony Hooper. Cousins' can no more interpret another's material than granny could cook someone else's recipe.

Other highlights are the fascinating narratives such as "Jenny O'Brien", in which Cousins uncharacteristically sings from the feminine perspective of a poor young lady being stood up by her boy as she waits and waits for him to show up. "Lawrence Brown" is oddly humourous given the tragic events that befall him and his family, but they reveal a highly developed skill in Mr Cousins, and you may find yourself laughing out loud.

Many of the tracks were to surface once or more on later Strawbs output, but the versions here remaining interesting and sometimes eclipse all subsequent renditions. In particular, "October to May" works better here in full band gear than the a cappella version on Cousins' 1972 solo album, and "How I need you" surpasses the later misguided bluesy version on "Nomadness". Even "Martin Luther King's Dream" seems more punchy than the "Antiques and Curios" product, thanks to session drums.

Finally, several instrumentals show Cousins' sheer talent on banjo which is rarely displayed during later days, even if he does dust it off from time to time.

"Preserves Uncanned" provides a tasty compote for fans who want more and rawer early Strawbs material than the big labels saw fit to release, and is recommended as a starting point over the pasteurized Sandy Denny dominated concoctions.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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