Genre: Rock, Progressive Rock
Musicians:Dave Cousins – lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, recorder, Dave Lambert – lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
John Hawken – piano, electric piano, harpsichord, mellotron, Moog synthesizer, Hammond organ, pipe organ, Chas Cronk – backing vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, Rod Coombes – backing vocals, drums, congas, percussion, Claire Deniz – cello on “Starshine/Angel Wine”
Engineer: Tom Allom & Mick Glossop
While this isn’t the first Strawbs LP, it is the first one in my collection I randomly chose to review, so I’ll give some bio history here.
From Wikipedia: Strawbs (or The Strawbs) are an English rock band founded in 1964. Although the band started out as a bluegrass group they eventually moved on to other styles such as folk rock, progressive rock, and (briefly) glam rock. The Strawbs also toured with Supertramp in their “Crime of the Century” tour, doing their own “Hero and Heroine” tour, which drew musical similarities and themes. They are still going too. Here is the official website: http://www.strawbsweb.co.uk/
Ok, let’s get to the LP. Ghost is a studio album by the band from 1975 and ninth in the discography. This is what I consider a progressive rock LP and a good one. In fact, there is not a bad song in the lot. Positive lyrics throughout and one gets to hear different approaches.
“Ghosts” – This 8 minute plus song is actually a 3 part suite as such:”Sweet Dreams”,”Night Light” and “Guardian Angel” make up the sub-titles. The song starts out with harpsichord, bells, acoustic guitar and harmonized vocals for the first part, which almost sounds like a lullaby, the n the rest of the band joins in as it moves into part two with a more rock feel. The song is so well done that it takes you with it through the different feelings. It is the perfect progressive rock suite. The overall sound has a flavor of a mix of Styx and Kansas if you need a reference in that direction.
“Lemon Pie” – This song has a Cat Stevens feel about it with great harmonies. It was written about and for Cousins’s girlfriend at the time, who later became his wife.
“Starshine/Angel Wine” – This song starts with piano and vocals with the rest of the band joining in a ballad format. At the bridge a time signature change occurs (typical in prog rock) and a moment of Led Zeppelin-like flash from Dave Lambert ensues. The great musicianship of the group really stands out in this number.
“Where Do You Go (When You Need a Hole to Crawl In)” – This is another Cat Stevens flavored number but more subtle and with a funk guitar sound and congas.
“The Life Auction” – sub-titles “Impressions of Southall from the Train” & “The Auction” feature piano through effects and vocal (spoken word) with disturbing effect start this song out. eventually the rest of the band joins and the song goes into a sound reminding one of the band Genesis. This song also clocks in around 7:30 minutes
“Don’t Try to Change Me” –This song has more of a seventies pop feel through acoustic guitar. The chorus is interesting with sudden burst of rock electric guitar and yelling “Don’t Try to Change Me”. The bridge is a short more rock sound.
“Remembering” – Just keyboards and soft cymbals in this brief interlude.
“You and I (When We Were Young)” – This song starts out as a ballad featuring just keyboard and vocals. after the second verse the rest of the band joins taking it to a more America soft rock flavor.
“Grace Darling” – A choir starts this song joined shortly after by the band. This is a ballad with the choir continuing backup vocal duties. Likely my least favorite song on the LP. From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Darling_(song) The track was recorded in the chapel of the Charterhouse School, Godalming, Surrey, which the members of the band Genesis had attended in the 1960s, and which Strawbs’ producer at the time, Tom Allom, had also attended. According to Dave Cousins, the chapel’s pipe organ was used, played by the school organist, Alastair Ross; the band’s keyboardist, John Hawken, did not play on the recording, as he was not used to the very noticeable delay that falls between the pressing of a key on a pipe organ and the sounding of the corresponding note. Choral accompaniment was provided by the school choir. The title derives from the refrain “You are my saving grace/Darling, I love you,” which references the Victorian heroine Grace Darling. The lyrics contain references to storms, lifeboats and other nautical-related items. The song compares the singer’s paramour to the famous lighthouse keeper’s daughter, expressing gratitude that she is steadfast and has helped him through dark times with her constant love.
“Starshine/Angel Wine”: https://youtu.be/p6tB_BLmMs0