The Strawbs

Live at the BBC, Vol. 1: In Session

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The Strawbs were on the BBC often in their early career, and this 69-minute CD collects 19 tracks from seven separate radio sessions between late 1968 and early 1973. While this doesn't offer the most radical reinterpretations or definitive arrangements of these songs, there's a lot to be said in this set's favor that makes it of greater value than the average BBC compilation. Aside from the generous length and excellent sound quality, the span of the material is both impressive and more diverse than the typical Strawbs' album. Highlighting selections from their late-'60s and early-'70s LP, it has two versions of just one song ("New World," heard twice), and offers a couple of lesser-known tunes in "We'll Meet Again Sometime" (not placed on a Strawbs LP in the '70s, though Dave Cousins put it on his 1972 solo album) and the non-LP single "Here It Comes." The settings sometimes have a lighter touch than the official studio versions, Cousins being the only constant in an ever-shifting lineup that at various points included Tony Visconti (who plays recorder on the three tracks from a December 1968 session) and Rick Wakeman (who's on four of the later cuts). Some of the most popular songs in the Strawbs catalog are here, like "The Battle," "Witchwood," "Benedictus," and "Part of the Union." In its own way, it's about as good an overview of the band's evolution during this period as a studio compilation would be, the near-folk music of the early tracks turning into progressive rock over the years, with its fair share of classical touches. Complete with liner notes from Dave Cousins, it's recommended for any fans interested enough in the Strawbs to collect more than one or two of their albums.

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