on 5 November 2001
This is the first consistently strong prog recording from this one-time folk outfit. Benedictus and New World in particular stand out among some of the finest cuts the Strawbs would create. Strangely, this is the first album without Wakeman on keys and it is far better and more sophisticated than anything they created in collaboration with the keyboard wizard. Where the keyboard work does not contain virtuosity along the lines of Wakeman's it compliments the music brilliantly. The band benefited from a few personnel changes as it was here that they began to sound like a band. They would progress even further with Bursting at the Seams, Hero and Heroine and most of Ghosts...Simon
on 11 November 2008
You could argue this is a pretentious waffle of an album but I don't. I can honestly say I'm not a big fan of the Strawbs. I have only one other album of theirs [Bursting at the seams] but Grave New World was a revelation when I first heard it when it came out. So much so that I carefully copied the Strawbs logo complete with fruit and painted it on to my bedroom wall - my dad wasn't too chuffed!
I still play this regularly, whereas BATS gets played for "Part of the Union" and not much else.
GNW's outstanding opening piece - Benedictus - has always been special for me - no particularly esoteric or theological reason other than it's a great tune with wonderful lyrics and for me sums up how you live your life. The rest of the album has some smashing songs that complement each other: some jolly and sing-along, other's thoughtful and reflective, some full of venom. I've always liked the keyboards on this album - they fit in. I was not enough of a Strawbs fan to know how they were with Wakeman instead of Blue Weaver [great name].
Like all stuff from your past it now has an accretion of memories - in this case of a mate who has long since passed away. So, as it was Terry who brought this album to my attention in the first place, I can listen to it, enjoy it and remember him [and his incredibly boring dietary habits] with fondness. For everyone else this is a really good album with which you can sit back and relax.
on 1 May 2001
Having first bought this album on cassette nearly 30 years ago, it's good to see it available on CD. Strawbs unusual blend of Folk roots combined with modern instrumentation and production forms a musical style for mellow, easy listening. The perfect cd to pop in the car for a long journey when you just want to wind down and reach your Journey's End stress-free!
After clocking up four albums between May 1969's debut "Strawbs" and July 1971's "Witchwood" (two with Yes Keyboardist Rick Wakeman on board) - the STRAWBS (shortened from Strawberry Hill Boys) finally rewarded the patience of A&M Records A&R men with a big fat hit album - the fondly remembered "Grave New World" from February 1972.
Even without a single to plug it - but armed with a tri-gatefold sleeve and natty booklet within original copies - "Grave New World" climbed up to No. 11 in the UK LP charts and lay the ground for their 'Rock' record breakthrough - "Bursting At The Seams" in February 1973 which went all the way to No. 2. "Grave New World" is seen as their last overtly 'Folk Rock' LP and features what many feel was the classic Strawbs line-up. Here are the grim (slightly new) details...
UK released July 1998 - "Grave New World" by STRAWBS on A&M Records 540 934-2 (Barcode 731454093422) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (42:39 minutes):
2. Hey, Little Man...Thursday's Child
3. Queen Of Dreams
4. Heavy Disguise
5. New World
6. Hey Little Man...Wednesday's Child
7. The Flower And The Young Man [Side 2]
9. On Growing Older
10. Ah Me, Ah My
11. Is It Today, Lord?
12. The Journey's End
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 5th album "Grave New World" - released February 1972 in the UK on A&M Records AMLH 68078 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4344. Produced by The Strawbs - all songs written by Dave Cousins except "Heavy Disguise" by John Ford. "Ah Me, Ah my" by Tony Hopper and "Is It Today, Lord?" by Richard Hudson.
13. Here It Comes - non-album track released as a UK-only 7" single April 1972 on A&M Records AMS 7002 with the album cut "Tomorrow" as its B-side
14. I'm Going Home - a Strawbs track issued in the UK as a DAVE COUSINS solo 7" single in September 1972 on A&M Records AMS 7032 with "Ways And Means" on the B-side. Both songs turned up on the September 1972 first solo LP by Cousins called "Two Weeks Last Summer" on A&M Records AMLS 68118. Neither the single nor the album received US release.
DAVE COUSINS – Lead Vocals, Acoustic and 12-String Guitar, Electric Guitar, Electric-Acoustic Dulcimer, Recorders
TONY HOPPER – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and Auto Harp
BLUE WEAVER – Organ, Piano, Harmonium, Mellotron and Clavioline
JOHN FORD – Vocals and Bass
RICHARD HUDSON – Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Tablas and Sitar on "Is It Today, Lord?"
Trevor Lucas and Anne Collins sing backing vocals on "Benedictus"
Robert Kirby Silver Band on "Heavy Disguise"
Tony Visconti Arranged and Provided 'Chorus' Vocals for "Ah Me, Ah My"
The 12-page booklet has typically in-depth liner notes from a great chronicler of music - JOHN TOBLER (with thanks to Dave Cousins) and the centre pages are the 'Paper Tiger' painting that graced the inner tri-gatefold (William Blake's painting is on the front cover and his verse on the last page). Recorded at Morgan Studios in November 1971 with some further work at Island Studios - the tapes are clearly in great shape because the PETER WAKE Remaster (done at Bourbery-Wake Studios) is gorgeous to listen too - all that great original production shining through. But notable and sloppy omissions include "Queen Of Dreams" (track 3) and "On Growing Older" (track 9) - both are missing entirely from the track-by-track session notes on Page 10 (who played what on what) and it appears the booklet has never been corrected.
Supposedly the story of one man's life from cradle to the grave - the album opens with Cousins getting all hymn-like on "Benedictus" - three of the band's vocals joined by Fairport's Trevor Lucas and British Contralto singer Anne Collin. With a heavy-on-the-organ intro and strummed dulcimer strings rattling around the speakers – the songs feels very English Folk-Rock (in a good way). In direct contrast we then get Cousins on his own with his Acoustic Guitar for the one-minute of "Hey Little Man...Thursday's Child" - the kind of pretty ditty that enthrals even after all these years (beautifully produced too).
Things take a decidedly trippy turn with the backwards guitars, dulcimers and Mellotron of "Queen Of Dreams" - while John Ford gets his first look in on the excellent "Heavy Disguise" - a track many fans would have easily issued as a winning 45 (he would of course form Hudson-Ford after they both left the Strawbs in the mid 70ts). But the Mellotron melodrama of "New World" feels leaden and tired – like bad Procol Harum. Thankfully Side 1 ends on the second short but very pretty Cousins melody - "Hey Little Man...Wednesday's Child" – as sweet as first part.
Side 2 opens with echoed Acapella vocals before "The Flower And The Young Man" settles into a sort of Incredible String Band power ballad - Ford's Bass incredibly clear in the mix. "Tomorrow" is another Prog plodder I'm afraid that irritates instead of lifts - far better is the superb "On Growing Older" - a beautifully melodic piece and one of the album's highlights. The 'cor blimey mate' days gone by of "Ah Me, Ah My" (sung by Tony Hopper and originally produced by Gus Dudgeon) is the kind of song they obviously thought was funny and it isn't. But things return to Strawbs form with the finisher "Is It Today, Lord?" - Richard Hudson doing a blinder on the Sitar and tables acting like he's just discovered ISB's "Wee Tam And The Big Huge"...
The two UK 7" single Bonus Tracks turn out to just that - actual bonuses - in fact I'd argue that "Here It Comes" is better than some of the lesser tunes on the GNW LP.
So not all genius then - but so much of it is worthy of your hard earned post Brexit pound. And "Bursting At The Seams" from 1973 was even better in my book...
on 13 August 2016
Undoubtedly a classic, an imaginative and eclectic collection of tracks, the story of one mans' life, with all the horrors and high points between. Nearly 50 years on, the music and lyrics still have potency, perhaps even more so - the futility and anger of Belfast echoes down the years in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, hundreds of thousands of kids have played in blood-stained streets and millions of lives have culminated in the journey's end. Alternating between sweet acoustic and electric,rock, poetic beauty and scathing reproach, to someone coming to this album for the first time - stand by to hear a band striving to make music mean something, go beyond radio jingles, be more than a dance tune - and succeeding - which all sounds very pretentious, but the music isn't, it's life, gritty, futile and mean at times but sometimes joyful and a revelation, If this is your first listening, I envy you the experience. as a PS I should mention that the bonus tracks "Here it comes" and "I'm Going Home" are OK and it's always good to hear tracks not available elsewhere - but the inclusion on 'Grave' for me is a mistake. The album was supposed to end with the subjects death - Journey's End, and the reprise adds nothing, but it does detract from the feeling of finality that the Strawbs created on the original.
on 4 October 2012
An absolute must have for any Strawbs fan. This is the album that signalled the beginning of the end for the Strawbs immersion in folk and heralded the arrival of the band on the progressive rock scene. Whilst later albums would by no means ditch the folk aspect of the band, the merging of folk and progressive rock would give rise to one of the most influential and individual sounds of that era.
The rumblings of progressive rock are evident in New World and Queen Of Dreams but the album is still folk driven and the addition of a brass section in 'Heavy Disguise' adds even more diversity to the album itself.
Rick Wakeman had already left to become the stuff of legends with Yes and Blue Weaver from Amen Corner had the unenviable task of following the great man. A task which he completed with some style it has to be said.
This was also to be Tony Hooper's last contribution with the band as the stylistic changes were not heading in the direction he wished for. This would see the arrival of Dave Lambert very shortly which would give the band an even harder edge with the guitar work and also the addition of rockier vocals.
Lyrically the album is said to tell the story of a man's life but certainly the tracks 'New World' and 'Heavy Disguise' refer to the events and situation in Northern Ireland at that time.
Highlights for me are the anthemic 'Benedictus' with it's religious overtones, 'New World' with it's use of mellotron and Dave Cousin's vocal which is ridden with anger and revulsion and 'Heavy Disguise' which sounds so light hearted and bouncy and yet still delivers it's message.
The rest of the album is also very good and retains it's roots in folk music. The album managed to reach number 11 in the U.K. charts.
This is the original A&M vinyl release with the number AMLH 66078 with the William Blake cover and some fantastic inner artwork.
A record which basically documents the changes happening to the Strawbs at the time, the next release after this would be 'Bursting At The Seams' and after the tour which supported it this woGRAVE NEW WORLD LP (VINYL ALBUM) UK A&M 1972uld literally happen to the Strawbs and things would never be the same again.
on 21 March 2011
This is an album from what, in my opinion, was the Strawbs' heyday. It is full of obscure symbolism and Dave Cousins' unique brand of mysticism - to the point where I'm still not quite sure what one or two of the songs are actually about - but how much does that matter? Some people disparage this album, saying it's too "pop-py", but I don't agree. The only really folky, acoustic, mainstream album the band has ever done is "Dragonfly". The one before GNW was "From the Witchwood", and that had an equaly number of non-folky tracks - "I'll Carry on Beside You", "Sheep", etc. On GNW Dave's voice is at its best - powerful, wide ranging but controlled and I think the words and arrangements are great. They have the slight touch of psychedelia that was on both "Witchwood" and their first album; just enough to make things interesting without being overwhelming or obtrusive. Some people might thing "Ah me, ah my" and "Heavy Disguise" are the weakest ones, but I like them. They are, as ever, well-crafted songs and bring a welcome touch of humour to the album.
Overall - it's not my favourite Strawbs album, but it's up there near the top. If you like Dave Cousins' voice, interesting arrangements and great harmonies (and the artwork of William Blake) you'll love it.
The Strawbs entered a golden period with one of my favourite all time albums that showed they could mix stark realism and powerful melodic music with whimsy. In parts this is one of the bleakest albums I have ever heard. Then there are some deliciously lighter moments.
Vocally Dave Cousins had found his niche. Songs like Benedictus and New World are stark and desolate and Queen of Dreams played havoc on my ears when I first listened to it on headphones and was the track I always played to testt out new stereos or speakers. Amongst all the angst and even bitterness Tony Hooper manages to conjure up a piece of vaudeville with Ah Me, Ah My.
This was a band capable of writing stunning material that held the listener enthralled whilst at the same time showing that they were still developing. On the previous album this mix didn't quite work, here it did totally. For me it conjures up memories of a time and place, just where I wanted to be.
I went to go hear the Strawbs in concert when they were on their "Hero & Heroine" tour. I did not own any of their albums, but the FM station I listened to in Albuquerque liked their music and would play "Down by the Sea" often enough that coupled with commercials for the concert highlighting some choice bits from assorted songs I decided to go check them out (besides, Richie Havens was opening for them). In the wake of the concert I went out and got every Strawbs album I could find in town, which included "Grave New World."
I am willing to round up on this one, but I do not think of "Grave New World" as being a first tier Strawbs album (those would be the next three after this one). Part of the reason is that the music a lyrics are a bit too pretentious as times, and if you really get into what is going on here it can be a bit depressing. But that was what was happening in the wake of Rick Wakeman's leaving the group for Yes. Apparently that is the context in which we are supposed to listen to the opening track "Benedictus," in which Cousins sings about blessing "all those who cause us pain." Besides, how many songs have an electric dulcimer run through a fuzz box? This is the best song on the album, while the title track is the second, even though it provides decidedly contradictory sentiments, as when Cousins sings, "may you rot in your grave new world." The post-apocalyptic sentiments are sung out while Weaver provides some of his best work on the mellotron.
Those two songs override everything else on the album, which can make it seem not as solid an effort as we would see on the next album, "Bursting at the Seams." But "The Flower and the Young Man" and "On Growing Older" are both solid songs, showing that Cousins could write effectively for both the electric and acoustic guitar. This digitally remastered reissue contains a pair of bonus tracks, but while "I'm Going Home" is a solid little track, "Here It Comes" is a throwback to the musical period the group was leaving behind. Still, every little blast from the past tacked on is to be appreciated as an effort to clean out the vaults.
The Strawbs remain one of my favorite progressive rock bands of the 1970s, but when this album came out in 1972 the group was still a lot closer to their folk-rock roots. In addition to David Cousins writing songs, the rhythm section of Richard Hudson and John Ford was producing some decent tracks as well. But this would be the last album with Tony Hooper on lead guitar, who would be replaced by Dave Lambert, who brought more rock sensibilities to the group. At this point Blue Weaver had replaced Wakeman on keyboards, but I really define the glory days of the Strawbs by the time that John Hawken was in that role. By that point Cousins was the only one left from the original Strawberry Hill Boys. The verdict might be that the Strawbs were not on the same plateau as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, or even Renaissance, but if they were a second tier group they were the best on that level.
on 19 October 2013
The Strawbs went through a number of changes from their beginnings as a folk trio through the Wakeman era (he had left by the time of Grave New World) and this CD was recorded whilst Husdon and Ford were still with the band. It has some excellent tracks giving full range to Cousins' unusual vocal qualities and a track featuring a silver bank on which, unusually, Ford takes the lead vocals. As is often the case, one or two tracks do not live up to the quality of the rest.
Overall a good CD and well worth adding to a collection of British music of the 1970s.