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Strawbs - Dancing To The Devil's Beat CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.30 | 40 ratings

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4 stars Going out with a bang. 2009's Dancing To The Devils Beat will probably be the last album of original material recorded by the electric version of the Strawbs and it's a fitting finale to their prog and hard rock legacy. The album kicks off with the prog-ish Revenge (Can Be So Sweet) that's a direct carry over melodically and sonically from their last album The Broken Hearted Bride. The Eastern melody with fey electronic percussion is kicked awake with sharp cracking drums and buzzing eclectic guitar.

The band are not searching for a sound like they did on The Broken Hearted Bride but have arrived with a fully formed and decisive vision that carries over immediately on to the following hard rock song Beneath The Angry Sky. Both songs are topically about war and waste with drummer Rod Combes and guest keyboardist Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick) fully engaged in their construction, feel and outcome. Wakeman adds sympathetic keyboard work that enhances the songs without grandstanding and Coombes is back to his hard rocking self while the band revert to their old school multi layered sounds of choir and pleated harmonies to drive the songs home. Indeed, Beneath The Angry Sky even starts off with some banjo picking from Dave Cousins that adds color to the song without feeling folk-ish.

The group brake up the war and waste mayhem for the touching acoustic based song Copenhagen, an obvious tribute to the late great Sandy Danny. Then it's on to the prog suite song Pro Patria Suite, a typical three part Cousins song cycle with brilliant and poignant lyrics that's again enhanced by choir, keyboard orchestrations by Wakeman and touching cornets playing at the end by two guest musicians. The war and waste sentiments end with a salute to fallen soldiers on the following song Where Silent Shadows Fall, another epic sounding peice that could easily conclude the band's classic album Grave New World.

Dave Lambert is up next with the touching The Man Who Never Leave Grimsby remarking on the faith of a young fan of the group from poor country of Kenya. The song is not particularly progressive as are the three remainders, but all are convincingly passionate without sounding like retreads. The Ballad Of Jay And Rose Mary is actually a rare bluesy Film Noir themed song from Cousins that's a bit corny but still enjoyable before the group end the album with the rocking manic title track and then conclude with a dramatic electric remake of Oh, How She Changed.

My only complaint of this work is the brash modern sound of the album's recording production which is grating at times but it is the digital age after all. However, the sound is still more rounded and less shrill than that found on The Broken Hearted Bride. Farewell electric Strawbs and thanks for a great parting shot.

SteveG | 4/5 |


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