Strawbs
From the Witchwood


4.0
excellent

Review

by e210013 USER (119 Reviews)
March 11th, 2019 | 17 replies


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is a transitional album, a huge step from their previous albums. It’s the last album with Wakeman on board, just before he joined Yes.

“From The Witchwood” is the third studio album of The Strawbs, or their fourth album if we consider their debut live album “Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious”, and was released in 1971. The line up on the album is Dave Cousins, Tony Hooper, Rick Wakeman, John Ford and Richard Hudson.


“From The Witchwood” represents a landmark for the band. It represents a transitional phase in the sound of their music and the search for their definitive sound, from a bluegrass band to a real progressive folk rock band. In reality, it represents a huge step forward from their two previous studio albums, “Strawbs” from 1969 and “Dragonfly” from 1970. It represents also a landmark because this is the only studio album to feature Wakeman in the band’s line up, before he joined to Yes. However, Wakeman had featured on their previous and first live album “Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious” and had also performed as a session musician on their second studio album “Dragonfly”.

So, what many people don’t know is that Wakeman participated on three albums of The Strawbs and that his name became known with this band. It was his brilliant performances on “Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious” and on “From The Witchwood” that called the attention of the members of Yes, to the substitution of their keyboardist, Tony Kaye. In retrospect, Wakeman keyboard skills whilst apparent, were somewhat suppressed in The Strawbs, with only brief displays of his virtuosity such as those on “Sheep” and “Glimpse Of Heaven”. It was perhaps inevitable that when the opportunity arose, he would move on to a band where he would be afforded more room to exercise his skills. Still, Wakeman and Cousins have however remained firm friends, collaborating from times to times, especially on live sets.

Anyway, the last The Strawbs’ album to feature Wakeman as a fulltime member was recorded under some unfortunate circumstances with lots of hostility between several members of the band, and the album was given a rather lifeless production. “From The Witchwood” consists of nice folk rock songs with some minor progressive tendencies, mostly through Wakeman’s keyboards. As I said before, this is a transitional album. But, some of the songs were strong enough to become standards in The Strawbs’ live sets. The best known is probably “The Hangman And The Papist” that featured one of Cousins’ strongest and most heart rending lyrics. The title track is also a strong tune with an atmosphere that nicely lives up to the name of the song. “Sheep” is a far heavier one, dominated a lot by Wakeman’s organ. But one of my favourite tracks here is the stunningly and beautiful “The Shepherd’s Song” as it’s the one that points most forward to the best albums by the band. The rest of the album is pleasant, although quite a folk rock album.

Track by track, “A Glimpse Of Heaven” is a powerful song with the organ played as a church organ and the vocals are sung as choruses. It’s a great example of Wakeman’s talents. “Witchwood” is a calm and beautiful song with medieval and Celtic music. It has a wonderful pastoral melody that catches the attention. It’s secret and mysterious. “Thirty Days” is close to The Beatles. It’s a folk acoustic song, very simple and nice. “Flight” is calm and a peaceful acoustic ballad with interesting Cousin’s guitar and Wakeman’s piano. “The Hangman And The Papist” is a powerful song with powerful and dramatic lyrics. It’s the most progressive track too. The music creates a dramatic effect with the lyrics. Here we have a brilliant performance of Wakeman. This is a masterpiece. “Sheep” is a song in a psychedelic style. It’s a very good song and Wakeman continues inspired to impresses. “Canon Dale” is a song with nice harmonies and very pleasant to hear. “The Shepherd’s Song” is perfectly balanced with all instruments. It has an excellent keyboard performance. Especially the piano and mellotron are particularly enjoyable to listen to. It’s a song with some influences of Hispanic music. “In Amongst The Roses” is a beautiful typical acoustic folk ballad. It has a melancholic vocal duet between Cousins and Hooper and is a revisit to their first two studio albums. “I’ll Carry On Beside You” is a great folk tune where we can feel the power of the vocals and instrumentation. It sounds as a typical classic country folk song.


Conclusion: “From The Witchwood” is a great album that combines perfectly well the folk with symphonic progressive rock music. It’s also a very interesting and enjoyable album to listen to and represents a major step forward into their musical career. “From The Witchwood” is musically a very varied album with many different influences such as folk, country, rock and psychedelic music, although it isn’t always progressive. Sincerely, I think that isn’t a bad thing. We can’t forget that this is a transition album and the next studio album “Grave New World” is, in my humble opinion, a truly progressive album. “From The Witchwood” finds the band exploring new pallets of colours and starts their migration to a major prog folk band. It’s also the album which allowed the migration of Wakeman to other higher flights.


Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



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Rick Wakeman's last appearance in The Strawbs resulted in one of their best albums. Prog tinged folk...


Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
March 11th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

After Kaye, we have the man whose name is usually linked to the keyboardist of Yes, Wakeman. But he was doing his music path before Yes. In the begining he become a full-time session musician having playing with many artists such as David Bowie, T. Rex, Elton John and Cat Stevens. But, the real turning point in his career was when he became a full time member of Strawbs. With Strawbs, he participated on two albums, as a band's member, "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios" and "From The Witchwood". It was his amazing playing on those two albums that called the attention of the members of Yes to substitute Kaye and that allowed him much higher flights in his career.

Since I already reviewed "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios" about 2 years ago, it's now time to review "From The Witchwood" to complement my path trough the world of Yes.

I hope you like the album. I sincerely advise those who aren't familiar with "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios" to check it too. Both are great albums. Besides, Strawbs is a great band that produced some of the best prog things I heard in the 70's. I really think that Strawbs deserves more attention and be more loved on Sputnik.

Cheers.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
March 11th 2019


10117 Comments


All due respect, this was incredibly repetitive to read. The same points/general motifs are stated constantly and it gets very old very quickly. The music itself isn't developed much in favor of a focus on one particular band member, which does a disservice to the album in this case. Not too badly written at its core, but it could use some alterations and a general tune-up. Hope this is helpful!

Digging: WRVTH - No Rising Sun

e210013
March 11th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I respect your opinion but I disagree. I think the review is well enough balanced. Still, I'm pleased that you participated with a comment trying to help, explaining your point of view. Thanks.

bgillesp
March 11th 2019


7051 Comments


He’s doing a review series about the yes members @Mars so that’s why it’s written this way. I never realized Wakeman was part of Strawbs at any point. I guess I should listen to this one

e210013
March 11th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Tanks bgillesp, for your clarification, comment and pos.

And yes, you should listen to this one and "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios", as I wrote on my review. I think both albums can complete your picture about Wakeman, and why not, about Strawbs too. Both are great works in the style.

bgillesp
March 11th 2019


7051 Comments


Yeah, I really enjoy Ghosts, Hero and Heroine, and Grave New World (to a slightly lesser extent than the first two)

e210013
March 11th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice. In my opinion, by chronological order, "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios", "From The Witchwood", "Grave New World", "Bursting At The Seams", "Hero And Heroine" and "Ghosts" deserve to be checked. All are very good in different ways. Besides those, I think "Dragonfly" deserves a special listen mainly due to the track "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake", which is for me one of the best tracks composed by them.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
March 11th 2019


10117 Comments


I apologize for the misunderstanding on that then. I still think there's a repetition issue, especially in the second paragraph w/represents, trademark, and transition. But I appreciate the work, don't get me wrong.

e210013
March 11th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No problem, man. You're always welcome.

Jethro42
March 11th 2019


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

From The Witchwood is the first Strawbs' enjoyable album. The first two have already showed glimpse of prog rock with songs like 'Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake' (probably my favorite) and ''The Battle'', but here, they approach still more the style. It's a kind of prog rock disguised in folk rock, but there are sufficiantly prog into it to seeing it coming. Very melodic with sort of anthems found here and there. Sometimes it makes me think of Cat Steven, Simon and Garfunkel or Crosby Stills and Nash, but above all, we have Dave Cousins and his band making an attempt to go ahead and do an inventive, consistent album surpassing the first two with success.

Antiques And Curios and From The Witchwood go well together. In fact, we have to listen to both of them at the same time. After these albums, Strawbs have stood firmly in the realm of prog rock, and we saw it coming.

Good review e21, bro.

e210013
March 11th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks my friend for your expert comment. I really agree with you. Above all, we have Dave Cousins. I know that many people dislike his voice, I can see why. In reality it isn't an acquired taste, indeed. Still, I sustain, and I always sustained, that Cousins is a great composer, unfortunatelly very few recognized and Strawbs is a underrated band. I hope my reviews can give them some more light. I hope to review more Strawbs albums, in time.

Jethro42
March 11th 2019


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

From The Witchwood is very important in Strawbs discog, as you mentioned in your review;

“From The Witchwood” represents a landmark for the band. It represents a transitional phase in the sound of their music and the search for their definitive sound, from a bluegrass band to a real progressive folk rock band. In reality, it represents a huge step forward from their two previous studio albums''

As for Cousins' vocals, he sure has a nasal voice that doesn't make unanimity, but he uses it with charm and conviction. Strawbs would not be the same without that peculiar voice, and without him either. He's the heart and soul of the band, and is the main reason why the band turned to become a progressive rock band, instead of a simple folkish bluegrass band, as you said as well.

''Witchwood'', ''The Hangman And The Papist'' and ''The Shepherd's Song'' are easily my top 3. ''Thirty Days'' and ''Canon Dale'' were my least favorites up to now (but it can change because of your review) I want to try the album in full once again, to see if it could change for a 4.5/5.



e210013
March 12th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I completely agree my friend. Strawbs would't be the same without that peculiar voice, and without him either. Besides, there are other peculiar voices that I also like, for instance the voice of Geddy Lee.

About the tracks I also agree. Those are clearly the best. Still I think there are some less good tracks, despite be pleasant, which aren't really prog. So, 4.0 is the right rating for me.

TheIntruder
March 12th 2019


421 Comments


Nice to see another review of this group. It needs more love. Nice work. Have a pos.

e210013
March 12th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks pal. Definitely, it needs more love. indeed.

TwigTW
March 27th 2019


3820 Comments


Hey there e, just wanted to say I've been regularly listening to this album since you reviewed it. It's become one of my favorite Strawbs--nice job!

Digging: David Bowie - Station to Station

e210013
March 27th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love this album and it's always was one of my favourite albums of Strawbs. Besides, Strawbs is, and always was, one of my favourite prog bands of the 70's.



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