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4.4 out of 5 stars35
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 12 February 2001
The Strawbs weren't just a fine band - they were several! The shifts from straight folk to folk-tinged rock and more or less back again are well documented on this excellent collection, the constant factor being (of course) Dave Cousin's instantly recognisable and charismatic vocals. Highlights abound: "Ghosts", "Witchwood", "Benedictus", "Hangman & the Papist", "Martin Luther King's Dream", the big hit "Lay Down": each has its own identity but each in its own way is typical Strawbmusic. Sadly, a collection such as this has to include the wretched "Part of the Union", which is no more representative of their material than "My Ding-a-Ling" is of Chuck Berry's, hence 4 stars instead of 5. Otherwise the tracks assembled here make a very satisfying whole and do credit to one of the most worthwhile bands to grow out of the British folk-rock movement.
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on 16 November 2002
They were originally the Strawberry Hill Boys before the group's name was shorted to the Strawbs. They also had a reputation as the hardest drinking group in rock, which does seem strange for a group that would best be described as British Progressive Folk Rock. These double disc collection covers the early and middle periods of the Strawbs when they recorded by A&M. This means that their best work is included on these discs.
Although this collection does include several tracks by Richard Hudson and John Ford, I have to profess that I have always preferred the work of Dave Lambert with the group a bit more, even though I readily admit that his work does mesh as well with the songs of Dave Cousins, who has always been the heart and the soul of the Strawbs. I also like the keyboard work of John Hawken over Blue Weaver. Even if neither of them is Rick Wakeman, the group certainly thrived without having a virtuoso on keyboards. Consequently, the second disc in this collection gets a lot more play than the first at my house, although "The Hangman and The Papist," "Benedictus" and "New World" certainly capture the variety and quality of the group during their first period.
Hudson and Ford contributed their best work right before leaving the group, writing "Lady Fuschia," "Part of the Union," and co-writing "Tears and Pavan" with Cousins on the 1973 "Bursting at the Seams" album. One special treat of this collection is that "The River" proceeds "Down By the Sea" (the opposite order of how they appear on the original album). When I saw the group in concert those were the two songs they played in their encore, using the former to set up what was then their signature piece in performance. It was that song, played by a DJ at a FM station in Albuquerque that persuaded me to go see the Strawbs in concert when I did not have any of their albums. Of course, that all changed the week after the show.
"Hero & Heroine," the 1973 concept album usually considered the group's best album, is well represented in this collection as is the 1974 "Ghosts." Each album began with a trio of songs combined into seamless set pieces, "Autumn" and "Ghosts" respectively. This was the most ambitious creative period for Cousins, who I always thought sounded like Cat Stevens with a more aggressive sense of soul. I also like the choices of Cousins' "Hanging In the Gallery" and Lambert's "The Promised Land" to end the collection. This seems quite appropriate to me.
The Strawbs are pretty much forgotten. When I was staging a high school production of Christopher Fry's "The Lady's Not for Burning," I used music from "Tears and Pavan" and "Hero and Heroine" for the show. Everyone thought the music appropriate and effective but none of them had ever heard of the Strawbs. For those of us who followed them in the 1970s, I have to believe they are one of our more memorable groups.
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on 6 September 2005
Other reviewers have given a detailed breakdown of tracks so I won't repeat those - just to say that anyone who remembers The Strawbs will thoroughly enjoy and welcome this comprehensive reprise of all their best tracks. The early days are well represented and it's hard to think of any of their greatest tracks which isn't included here - along with some of their less well-known later works.
All-in-all this is a superb gathering-together of their work.
Highly recommended.
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on 22 April 2009
Halcyon Days by the Strawbs covers a variety of music from the early days:
"The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", "Oh How She changed" to the classic numbers like "Lay Down" "Benedictus" even " The Hangman and the Papist" from the Rick Wakeman days - Ah yes those were the days indeed! Most of the classic tracks are on the first CD which is great as you dont have to keep changing the Discs to find the songs you really like. My favourite song is "The Golden Salamnder: from the Nomadness Album. Dave Cousins sings this so sensitively, and the Bass is beautifully played on this track. The Second Disc finds the lesser well known tracks including the Hudson/Ford songs "Pick Up The Pieces" and "Burn Baby Burn". If you are a Strawbs fan, it's all here and more. Sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy the Halcyon Days of one of the most underrated Bands of the 70s.
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on 15 November 2011
Along with the usual must-have choices that appear in any Strawbs collection, this set includes a great many that usually don't make the cut, from their early days and also from the mid 1970s onwards. Does it then reflect their Halcyon period? Not exactly, unless you consider that their entire musical careeer was one long happy success story. Few knew about them before 1972, and those that did weren't sure if they werer a gospel, folk or studio-collective outfit. Before their big number 1 hit Part of the Uniun they had already launched the mega-careers of Sandy Denny and Rick Wakeman, and had drawn attention to the songwriting abilities of Hudson Ford - and the glam-rock version of the Strawbs that emerged for a few albums after 1972 always tends to be seen as their successful period as a defined outfit, so a little perplexing that so little from that era is included here. Most Strawbs fans will already have collections of their most notable music anyway so this lesser-known selection will be a pleasing side-step into a more complete career-spanning picture of their music.
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on 19 June 2007
An absolutely fantastic buy for anyone who is or was into folk rock. One of, if not the best band in this genre, even Dave Cousin's voice fits in fantastically and the songs would not be the same without him. Brilliant lyrics, brilliant musicians - but what would you expect with the line ups that they have gone through - and I don't mean this in a bad way. All you need is a sultry afternoon, a hammock and a pint and you can lay back and listen to this and dream of those distant days when you chased your first love or picked up you first air-guitar...
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on 19 February 2010
If you thought all the Strawbs were was the clever and sly pop at 70s politics with 'Part of the Union', or the achingly poignant 'Lay Down', then buy this superb double CD and radically change your mind for the better (And 'thank you' Ken Bruce for playing 'Lay down' on your show and reminding me of how stunning that song was hence my purchase!). This might not contain everything for the absolute purist, but for someone like me who had this (commercially at least)incredibly under rated group vaguely filed away somewhere in my music memory, it is a magnificent introduction to their work. And what work it is. Buy it, play it, play it again, and again and again and again and again. You won't regret it but you will be delighted and enriched by its sheer quality.
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on 27 January 2015
I'm a big Strawbs fan and have got everything they did in their peak period plus the acoustic trio's later output (all excellent). If you're new to the Strawbs or just want one album of theirs in your collection, this is the 'best of' to buy - especially at this price. It's got all their best stuff on it plus the Hudson Ford hits and the few rarities worth having. Essential.
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on 7 October 2009
My introducaion to "The Strabs" was through a compilation album when I came accross "Lay Down". I decided to try to find out more about the group and happened accross this double album! What a treat...Where has this album been all my life? Still as the saying goes "better late than never". A superb mixture of long and short tracks that I know will delight me for years to come.

If you like soft rock, folk rock or progressive rock then treat yourself - you won't be disappointed.
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on 28 September 2014
Excellent selection of the Strawbs best work. Always possible to quibble that Tears and Pagan and Lady Fuschia are not there but there is only so much space available. Dave Cousins has a great voice and the various band members are superb musicians. There are some who gripe that Part of the Union is atypical but I think it earns a place for the tongue in cheek lyrics at the expense of bonkers 70's unionism. Recommended.
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