In 1969, the Strawbs assembled a privately pressed sampler of unreleased material to circulate among publishers to solicit possible cover versions. Actually, some of the songs would appear, in the exact same or different versions, on subsequent Strawbs releases. However, some of the tracks were never issued, and as only 99 copies were pressed (with only two known to survive), it probably qualifies as the ultimate 1960s British folk-rock rarity. This 2001 CD reissue makes it easily available for the first time. While it isn't as good as either the Strawbs' first official album or their album of late-'60s sessions with Sandy Denny as lead singer, for anyone who liked those records a lot, this is a recommended purchase. Among the 17 songs are different versions of songs that have appeared on the Sandy & the Strawbs, Preserves Uncanned, Dragonfly, and Grave New World albums, as well as one tune, the lush pop-folk ballad "Whichever Way the Wind Blows," which was never released anywhere else. As it turns out, half a dozen of these do appear in exactly the same version on the Sandy & the Strawbs releases, but what the heck, that still leaves almost a dozen cuts that are otherwise unavailable. Although the differences between those and the other takes in circulation are sometimes slight, there are some notable and sometimes intriguing differences, as in the ambient pub voices and piano of "How Everyone but Sam Was a Hypocrite?"; the strings on the Cousins-sung versions of "And You Need Me" and "Stay Awhile"; the jaunty orchestral arrangement of "Sweetling"; and a downright strange instrumental waltz rendition of "And You Need Me" that segues into "Josephine." It's unfortunate there are virtually no liner notes detailing the origin of these tracks (for that you'll have to dig out the May 1994 issue of Record Collector), but on the whole, it's good late-'60s British pop-folk-rock.
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