There’s been a Strawbs revival of late, somewhat surprising
considering the fact that the band was actually in its prime more than 40 years
ago, and their brand of progressive folk rock has more or less gone the way of
hula hoops and Hostess Snowballs. Yet, there’s something enduring and affirming
about the band’s assertive dynamic, dedication to purpose and David Cousin’s distinctive
That formula is sometimes stretched to the limit on Of A Time, an expanded first-time release
from Cousins’ own Witchwood Media archives, one that gathers together stray
tracks, outtakes and alternate mixes from an unreleased album circa 1967. It’s
a primal effort to be sure, meant to follow their first album, All Our Own Work –recorded with a young
and yet untested Sandy Denny — and their self-titled proper debut. As such,
it’s more or less a hodgepodge that finds a band still searching for its way.
Several songs would show up on later efforts, albeit it differing forms –
“Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth,” “Tell Me What You See In Me,” “Josephine,
For Better Or For Worse” and “The Man Who Called Himself Jesus,” among them.
Surprisingly, these initial versions were heavily orchestrated, which led the
record company to reject it, believing that the group would be better served in
their original folk rock vein.
Listening in retrospect, it’s easy to see why; with its
heavy-handed approach and quirky asides — the Vaudevillian “Ah Me, Ah My” and
an assortment of spoken word interludes (producer Tony Visconti’s Ed Sullivan
impression is especially regrettable) — Of
A Time is mostly attuned to diehard devotees as opposed to the novice or
newcomer. Consequently, it’s best to take its title to heart — Of A Time is clearly the product of
Man Who Called Himself Jesus,” “Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth” LEE