Strawbs: A legend in the Progressive Folk Rock genre. And
Rykre | Carson City, Nevada | 12/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't understand why A&M didn't make an effort to put Strawbs songs on pop radio. American Top 40 radio back in the early 1970's had such wonderful diversity that nothing would seem obscure or out of place on the charts. Practically every song their next few albums could have been a Top 40 hit. This album of "Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios" is probably the world's first introduction to the keyboard genius of Rick Wakeman. His incredible extension to the earlier Strawbs classic "Where Is This Dream of Your Youth?" performed live at The Queen Elizabeth Hall is just mind-blowing. And not since the days of Franz Liszt did we ever get to hear a fabulous aggressive piano solo performed live such as we have here with Rick Wakeman's "Temperament of Mind".
What a performance this is. This is where the Strawbs first obtained world recognition. And to categorize this album is practically undefinable. I mean, what do you call it? Folk, Folk Rock, Progressive Rock, Progressive Folk Rock with a hint of Classical? Progressive Folk Rock with a hint of Classical....performed live? This album has way too many contradictive ventures that it is practically amazing that it all works together anyway.
This is one of the two Strawbs albums that Rick Wakeman was best known for while being with the Strawbs. The Strawbs always had great keyboardists (in fact, Dave Cousins always had to search for a keyboardist that could match the talent and appeal of Rick Wakeman), which is what truly offered the Progressive edge to a group whose humble beginnings were that of a traditional folk band.
Back when I was just a few years into buying CD's, even in 1988, not too many obscure bands were yet released on CD. Only currently popular stuff. When I browsed a small CD store in the college town of Davis, California, I found this guy working out of nothing more that a hole in the wall, who was actually selling some expensive, hard to find, German and Japanese import CD's. A&M in Japan was selling CD's through an affiliate known as Canyon Records. If it came from Canyon Records in Japan then they costed almost $[...] for each CD. I bought five very expensive import CD's from Canyon Records in Japan. Can you believe that in one day, I bought Rick Wakeman's "Criminal Record", "Lisztomania" and "Rhapsodies", and then also The Strawbs "From the Witchwood" and this album, "Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios."
I threw caution to the wind and practically spent my whole paycheck buying these few Japanese imports. Tower Records never had these CD's. I guess they wouldn't dare want to take a chance hoping to sell such obscure titles at such an expensive import price.
Later, this CD store got a Canadian import of "Hero and Heroine", but it seemed like forever before "Ghosts" and "Bursting at the Seams" would ever come out on CD. I think Canyon Records was very short lived and never got around to releasing these such albums.
But, that day in 1988 was my most exciting day in the purchasing of CD's. Price wasn't a concern at the time. I had my hands of the first two known Strawbs albums to be released on compact disc. Sure, it doesn't seem like much of a big deal now (with the ability to get practically anything you want through the Internet), but back before the Internet days, a great song or an album on a CD was like a precious piece of jewelry. It was "that" special.
To this day, I still never tire from playing a Strawbs CD from the A&M days. In fact, Strawbs is great music when you're alone on a rainy day. Strawbs, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, The Moody Blues, Rick Wakeman, King Crimson, Triumvirat, Eloy, Nektar, Pink Floyd, and Yes are all still my favorite Progressive Rock groups. Yes, I'm still an old Prog Rock Fossil. I understand that being a Prog Rock fossil isn't very common in California, but this music still reminds me that I'm still a Detroiter in my heart, and in Detroit, we never forget the legends of Progressive Rock and that of the Immortal Rock Gods that they were.
Strawbs put on a fantastic show here
BENJAMIN MILER | Veneta, Oregon | 03/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios was their first ever international release, after two UK-only albums (Strawbs and Dragonfly). It's a bit strange their first exposure out of the UK should be a live album, but it is. At least all of it is brand new material, aside from "Where is this Dream of My Youth". The band witnessed a big lineup change by this point. Dave Cousins and Tony Hopper found themselves without Ron Chesterman, so in comes two new guys, Richard Hudson and John Ford, plus Rick Wakeman was now a full-time member of the band.
People associate the band with their more proggy later stuff (1972-1975 era), and even during their more proggy phase, they weren't exactly trying to be Gentle Giant, they simply had a more symphonic bent to a lot of the material, they weren't too far off from the Moody Blues for complexity, where they focused their strength on songs and songwriting. With Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios, the band was still largely a folk rock group, and that shows through with stuff like "Martin Luther King's Dream" and "Song of a Sad Little Girl". "Antique Suite" is basically a collection of four separate songs segued together, but really nicely done, so I can't complain. "Temperament of Mind" is Wakeman's solo spot here, all on piano, with several quotes from classical artists such as Bach. Not quite The Six Wives of Henry VIII here, but you don't expect that to be. "Fingertips" is a bit more experimental where the band experiments with sitar. "Where is this Dream Of Your Youth" is truly the high-point, and I liked how this was the final cut on the original LP. Wakeman really whips out his Hammond organ and jams away. He also uses some wah-wah effects, something I don't recall him doing in Yes or his solo efforts. Despite Wakeman's presence on the album, it's pretty obvious not to compare this with Yes or his solo efforts, The Strawbs were a band with completely their own identity (and it has to bear in mind in 1970, around the same time as this album, Yes was a band still looking for a sound that would help establish them, as Time & a Word demonstrates). From hearing Wakeman's playing on this album, little wonder the British press took notice to him, and for good reason. While the progheads would go for stuff like Grave New World, Bursting at the Seams, Hero & Heroine, and Ghosts, this earlier album is just as great even if there are only minor prog rock leanings here. Highly recommended!"
The band that first had first dibs on RICK WAKEMAN
W. T. Hoffman | Pennsylvania, United States | 05/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I originally bought this LP back in my college days. At the time, it had every single sound and lyrical trick, that I absolutely loved, not to mention that my piano hero, Rick Wakeman, was for the first time a member of a group. (He had played with Bowie on Space Odyssey before this, but that was session work.) After new wave and punk, bands like STRAWBS (who were completely into rock by then) didnt seem to have much validity. Still, this album was perfect if I were in the mood to paint, write, or do other artistic persuits on my own. This is NOT the kind of album you might play with a group of friends at a party. In every single way possible, this is a reflective, folk rock album, with lyrics that tell sentimental, nearly maudlin stories. At the time for me, that was OK. I would listen to THE ANTIQUE SUITE, and invaribly cry. (Not out of sarcastic laughter either.) David Cousin's voice, for one thing, has a very tight, nasal, vibrato ladened tenor voice, which you either like, or hate. His quivering vocal delivery underlines the plaintive lyrics, and keening melody, which thematically link many of his composistions. Since there're many slow songs on this live album, cousins' singing carries most of the sound. For those whom enjoy Cousins singing when he was completely in his rock period later, that can be a problem. So, let me tell you about the songs on the CD. MARTIN LUTHERS DREAM is a song perfect for the 1962 American folk protest movement. That "Pete Seeger" philosophy was still controlling Cousins direction with writing. The next song is the epic " ANTIQUE SUITE", the song which always brought tears to my eyes. Its a tragic story of a man's life, death and after death life, , a 12 minute tale including the Grim Reeper, World War one, the loss of a one true love, the giving up of life's dreams to live with one's mother, until she died. Then the man becomes a hermit, and died unknown and unmoarned. That's what upset me. This man's life ends up meaning nothing to anyone, except for his collection of antiques and curios, found around the dead man. Naturally, the man is reunited in heaven with his one true love, his family, and his favorite dog. Today a story in a song like this, strikes our tastes as filled with bathos, and sentimentalism. If you don't think you can get past that, you wont like this song. (And it is the central song of the CD.) However, the extended song has many beautiful sections, is perfectly executed, and has a very spiritual basis. Next, is TEMPERMENT OF MIND, which was never much of a song to me. Its just a setpiece to show off Wakeman's virtuousity on the Piano. Several different famous bits and pieces of old silent movie themes, classical pieces, and so on, are woven together. It's Wakeman's ego trip, and an early indication of the excesses he was to explore thruout his career. FINGERTIPS is a beautiful love song, with sitar and other exotic instrumentation. I love sitar in western folk music, and is certainly another reason why I enjoy this CD. SONG OF A SAD LITTLE GIRL I can live with or without. Again, its slow. In fact the song is a lulleby for a sick girl, exploring the emotions of the compassion and worry a parent feels for their sick child. The sentimentality of these lyrics is actually about compassion for suffering, and the hope of recovery. These spiritual themes Cousins explores thruout most his work. IF one song stands up even now, is the 12 minute jam song WHERE IS THIS DREAM OF YOUR YOUTH. Wakeman plays some killer Hammond B3 organ licks, the singing doesnt have that slow, plaintif quivering heard with the slow numbers, and best of all, the tempo matches a listener doing something more exciting than dreaming. It's the beat, believe it or not, that gives this song its ability to sink into the soul. And, it was a great up number to end the original LP edition. The CD reissue has three extra songs, two which are from that evening's performance. VISION OF THE LADY OF THE LAKE is from the second STRAWBS album, DRAGONFLY. (Most of the songs on "ANTIQUES", were not on any album, and are only available here.) "LADY" is a ten minute, mid tempo folk song, beginning with just acoustic guitar and Cousins singing, with Wakeman coming in half way through on piano. IT almost reminds you of some of those long, meandering Phil Ochs songs, when he was in his "Orchestral" period. The next song, WE'LL MEET AGAIN SOMETIME, is a band number, centered around an acoustic guitar leading the folk rock groove. Wakeman uses a moog, to produce a thick, orchestral blanket to the song. (Think: acoustic Moody Blues from around 1970.) The last song, FOREVER, is a studio song, mostly acoustic. It's too bad more of the songs from this concert, and tour, were not included on the CD, because its the only time that Rick Wakeman plays live with Strawbs, before he jumped ship to join YES. (As did Sandy Denny before she joined Fairport Convention.) So many of the greats from the British art rock/folk rock/prog rock scene would not have been part of this band, unless STRAWBS were a very good band. If you can get past the sentimental, Anglican spirituality in the lyrics, and Cousins unusual, high pitched whine when he sings, you will discover a really cool band. STRAWBS explored many different styles and ideas, even on this live CD. However, if you get nauseous from sentimentality, or didactic social insights plastered over the lyrical content, then you might not enjoy enough of this album to make buying it worthwild. And, if you enjoy STRAWBS after their GRAVE NEW WORLD / BURSTING AT THE SEAMS, you may not enjoy this album either. STill, if you love the British folk rock sound, as it morphed into the prog/art rock sound, then you enjoy this. Naturally, if you are a RICK WAKEMAN completist, you know what you have to do."