The Strawbs

From the Witchwood

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This album was originally the weak link in the transition of the Strawbs from an acoustic folk-rock outfit to a progressive folk band, being neither fish nor fowl and suffering from an anemic mix. The 1998 British reissue (A&M 540-939-2), however, solves some inherent problems that plagued both the original vinyl edition and the first CD reissues. The new remastering toughens up the bass sound, and brings out more of the sheer power of Rick Wakeman's organ and synthesizer playing, accenting the harder side of the group's sound that was obviously there in the studio but lacking in the analog mix. "A Glimpse of Heaven" and "The Hangman and the Papist," in particular, benefit from the remastering, and "Sheep" finally has the musical fury to match its lyrics. Dave Cousins' voice also comes off as really close, and the effect is to make this a much more potent album than it previously seemed. Overall, it's now far easier to visualize this recording as the step leading to full-blown progressive rock releases such as Grave New World, which followed. The disc includes one bonus track, John Ford's "Keep the Devil Outside," which has an acoustic opening and a hard rock break and finale, which was cut at these same sessions, and which turned up months later as the B-side of "Benedictus," a single drawn from the next album.

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