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Strawbs: Of A Time

Charming collection of antiques and curios.

In 1968, following the departure of Sandy Denny, folky trio/aspirant popsters the Strawbs were given £30,000 to record an album for A&M. They threw in the cream of London’s session musicians (including future Led Zepper John Paul Jones), a 32-piece orchestra, an Arab music troupe, and – for one track only – the Ted Heath Big Band, only to have an American executive hear it, hate it and order it shelved.

Gathering dust ever since (though individual bits have surfaced over the years), Of A Time forms a comprehensive package with a plethora of alternative versions and outtakes.

The scattergun strategy of covering as many stylistic bases as possible suggests a look- what-we-can-do showreel rather than a balanced, coherent collection. Cloying orchestrations (by Tony Visconti no less) and belaboured arrangements tend to swamp rather than support what are often very good songs.

Such carping is churlish however. By the album’s very title, this is music of a time, with production values squarely aimed at the still-burgeoning pop and light entertainment industry. It’s a quaint curiosity, brimming with bags of period charm.