It’s widely known that Strawbs’ first album was recorded in Copenhagen in the summer of 1967 during Sandy Denny’s tenure with the group. Yet, All Our Own Work remained unheard until 1973. It was definitively released in 2010 by Witchwood Media, the label run by Strawbs’ long-time leader Dave Cousins. It’s a surprise, however, to learn there was a second Strawbs’ album, recorded in 1968, but which was immediately abandoned.
Its recording preceded the group’s A&M debut, Strawbs, by almost a year; Cousins has now recreated that missing album from the original tapes – an absolutely fascinating work he prevaricated over putting out for fear of what people might think. He needn’t have worried.
Titling it Of A Time softens the blow. Of It’s Time would be even more indicative: flamboyantly orchestrated at times, the second side of the album comprises a series of songs about growing old, complete with speech bands (voiced by Richard Wilson, then a young RADA graduate) and given an appropriate tea dance/easy listening setting.
Produced by Gus Dudgeon, with extravagant arrangements by Tony Visconti – both just staring out – three of the songs that Dudgeon selected had originally been sung by Sandy Denny, and are here re-voiced by Dave Cousins. Tell Me What You See In Me – one of five tracks later salvaged for Strawbs – is the most intriguing. Denny’s innocent version is transformed by Cousins’ eerie vocal and a heavier modal arrangement executed by a genuine five-piece Arabian band found in east London’s Omar Khayyam Restaurant. It’s typical of the no-expense-spared, no-musical-boundary-uncrossed approach to recording the original album, which also features a couple of songs later re-worked on Dragonfly and Grave New World.
Of A Time is further expanded by singles, alternative versions and Richard Wilson’s full improvised intro to the touching The Man Who Called Himself Jesus. Believe it, this is a tantalising period piece.