Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Strawbs - The Ferryman's Curse CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.13 | 50 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars I had to wait quite a while to actually hear this album properly as I needed some scar tissue removed from my left ear and sufficient time for the procedure to heal. I only hoped that this album, along with several others, was worth the wait.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Ferryman's Curse by the Strawbs, while not being a great album, was indeed a very good one. New keyboard man Dave Bainbridge, on loan form the prog group IONA, brings composing skills as well as multi keyboards and additional electric and acoustic guitar to the Strawbs' arsenal. Super drummer Tony Fernandez ("Thunder Fists" to his friends) returns to the fold in place of Rod Coombes. The ever ready Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk return on lead guitar and bass respectively.

Producer Chris Tsangarides does an excellent job of keeping old Dave Cousin's voice from croaking and, in fact, most of the material is almost spoken at times, so Dave seems well aware of his vocal limitations these days and this album seems all the better for it. Cousins is an accomplished enough songwriter to reign in his voice while still composing an engaging song.

The album starts with an a nice orchestral instrumental titled, appropriately enough, "In The Beginning". that places the listener in the proper frame of mind while slightly telegraphing what to expect from the present incarnation of this famous prog band. The short 2 minute instrumental merges easily with the song "The Nails From The Hands Of Christ" which is quite stunning with it's "Another Brick In The Wall" walking bass lines and all manner of sampled mellotron-like strings, flutes, etc., from Bainbridge (as Ken Levine correctly pointed out in his review of this album.) Bainbridge always manages to sound reverent but never retro, a rare gift for a for someone in the newer end of prog rock and makes for a very subtle but essential contribution to this album's sound.

The follow up song titled "The Song Of Infinite Sadness" would be pretentious is it was composed and performed by any other artist than the Strawbs. So identified with this type of slow melancholic acoustic based ballad, its as if the Strawbs are paying homage to themselves. The equally slow paced " The Familiarity Of Old Lovers" finds Cousins in his lyrical element where the old boy can wax lyrical about his past, all the while hidden in allusions, while Lambert and Bainbridge add a stunning twin lead guitar coda to this wonderful song.

"When The Spirit Moves" is, for me, the high point of the album as it's one of those great transcendent Strawbs' songs that evokes the sentiment of past classic Strawbs' songs like "Benedictus" and "Lay Down". The semi choral effect of Lambert and Cronk matched against Cousins' wonderfully engaging yet simple acoustic guitar chords reaches a dramatic climax with Bainbridge's soaring keys, Fernandez's elegant drumming and Lambert's engaging electric guitar leads.

"The Ten Commandments" by Lambert does keep the semi spiritual vibe going even if it seems like a Slow Hand era Eric Clapton track with it's bluesy riffing, hard luck lyrics and stabbing organ. It seems that this out of place track would have been a nice palette cleanser had the following songs been as good as the album's first five.

Another good but short instrumental "The Reckoning" presages the albums' title track. "The Ferryman's Curse" is a follow up of sorts to "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" from 1970's Dragonfly album. While well played by all, especially Lambert and Cronk, who give the song some balls, this type of Strawbs' song with extensive verbiage was never a treat for me, but lovers of Dragonfly might find it essential. "Bat's And Swallows" is more upbeat but not engaging, while "We Have The Power" tries to resurrect, once again, the spiritual uplift of "When The Spirit Moves" but falls short. The song's jagged abrupt ending doesn't help it's cause and would have been a wonderful opportunity for the group to go ballistic on an instrumental coda.

So, what starts off with a bang, ends in a wimper. However, that this mature prog group can still make enjoyably compelling albums without trying to clone itself is both a wonder and a gift. Just in time for the holidays. 3.5 stars rounded off to 4.

SteveG | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this STRAWBS review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.