UNIVERSAL RELEASES - STRAWBS, DRAGONFLY AND NOMADNESS, 2008
Back in the 60s/70s the Musicians Union ("you don't get me ....") protected their members with restrictions on how much much recorded music BBC radio could play ("needle time"). BBC therefore recorded a lot of live sessions with bands to fill up their schedules - this was the making of many bands who got to play in front of a live audience on air, often at the BBC's Paris Theatre in London. Fortunately some of this remains in the archives (unlike video tape which was routinely wiped) and BBC has been actively licensing this for a number of years. We used some tracks on Taste
Ken Garner's Book "In Session Tonight" is a goldmine of information about these sessions and is highly recommended.
The bonus tracks chosen for these long awaited releases aer not all unreleased material (a slight shame as there are other tracks which could hae been used) but all the selections relate very well to the time period of each album, and on each reissue there is at least one "must have" track which isn't available elsewhere.
As stated elsewhere, the sleeve notes (by Mark Powell) and presentation is really fantastic - well done Universal. A joy to have these available at last on CD.
Click on the thumbnails of each inlay to see a larger version.
That Which Once Was Mine (session)
Slightly slower than the recorded version (I think) - cello a bit more to the fore and Tony Visconti was on hand to play recorder and act as musical director (according to Garner).
Poor Jimmy Wilson (session)
DJ talking over the intro - more spartan arrangement without recorders, just guitars and double bass with Cousins vocal on top. Acoustic Strawbs many years ahead of their time.
The Battle (session)
Organ (Rick Wakeman, a session player recruited by Visconti, almost certainly his first session with the Strawbs) and cello (Claire Deniz) quickly make their presence felt, over a thumping double bass from Chesterman which seems more prevalent than in the recorded version. Snare from Ronnie Verrall for the second verse and throughout. Dave's vocal is really expressive and the organ and cello pick up some of the brass parts from the recorded version.
Whilst we all love the recorded version, this is easily as good quality, performance-wise, and could have been included on the first album without a qualm.
We'll Meet Again Sometime (studio)
Recorded about the time Strawbs came out in June 1969, some similarities with the "big" production style of that first album - eg "Oh How She Changed". Tony Hooper vocals, with DC joining in. Fuzz guitar in intro and first verse, organ later on (Wakeman ?), yielding to driving drums. Drum riff on the chorus between lines. Cello figures from time to time, particularly on third verse. Previously on Halcyon Days UK edition.
Previously released as a single back in 1970, on the vinyl only compilation Strawbs By Choice; then, in the digital age, on the Antiques and Curios CD re-issue and Halcyon Days, US edition. Would have loved to hear the live version of this from the QEH concert - still waiting. This is a great song, and fits well with the Dragonfly period. Taste included a version with Rick Wakeman playing organ; the "raw" Dragonfly tapes (pre-overdubs) also include a karaoke (ie no vocals) version of this.
Another Day (session)
Mandolin much more to the fore on this mix. Slightly different Tony Hooper backing vocal. Ken Garner's In Session Tonight records that this session features Claire Deniz, when they also recorded "Till The Sun Comes Shining Through" which hasn't yet seen light of day
We'll Meet Again Sometime (session)
Similar arrangement to the studio version, though with cello much more to the fore, and no drums (though they're not missed - the track carries on a at a great pace, with the guitars and bass carrying a good rhythm.
Still Small Voice
Released previously on the Hero And Heroine CD re-issue back in 1998, this actually belongs here, a number recorded at Sound Techniques in Chelsea in April 1975. A taped version was used at the walk-on music for live concerts later in the year.
Starting with a delicate nylon-strung guitar figure, drum rolls take it into familiar Strawbs prog territory, with screeching guitars. Cousins short vocal is quite heavily treated. Then back to the guitar figure.
A fragment, I guess, destined to be attached to some others to make up a Cousins epic, but which never found a home. Could have been a classic Strawbs track if it had.
It's Good To See The Sun
Not even known about before - if we had it might well have made it onto Taste.
Feelgood Cousins song, with drums, acoustic guitar and bass backing, and some nice backing vocals (I think from Chas). Some interesting lyrics ("my life has been a bitter pill to swallow"). Bass particularly fine.
Well I'm pleased to say that I received my copies of Strawbs, Dragonfly and Nomadness today. Excellent packaging (Mark Powell is brilliant at these!) and the sound is truly an improvement on the "dodgy" copies which I acquired previously. I always felt guilty about those copies, but promised myself to buy the official editions as soon as I could, and so here I am now clutching my official versions.
All three sound a hundred times better than the bootleg copies, and are revealed as the works of art they are.
I listened to Nomadness first, as its one of my favourites. The sound is clearly improved from the first few bars of "To Be Free". The extra track which we hadn't heard before is very pleasant, and a pity it hadn't fitted onto the original album as it would have done nicely in terms of lightening the tone.
Dragonfly was next for a listen, and what a delight that album is. Tony Visconti's production is stunning, really propelling the band from their origins into something completely new with Mr Wakeman. My favourite track on here has to be "'Til The Sun Comes Shining Through" which sounds even lovelier now... The extra tracks on this one are definitely of interest, and just prove again how the band have always brought an extra dimension to their live performances.
Strawbs (or Tie Salad) was my final listen and is another treat after the dodgy copy I had previously. The big budget sounds pristine and is a real tribute to Gus Dudgeon. My favourite on here is "Oh How She Changed" which truly sounds superb and IMO Tony Hooper's finest moment. The extras here are definitely of interest, brief interview and another bit of live Strawbs from this era which warms the cockles of the heart...
Nice one A&M/Universal for finally releasing these albums on CD. My Strawbs world is now fully official and complete and I can look Dave Cousins in the eye again without thinking that his steely gaze knows of my bootleg indiscretions!!!