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Ken Hensley - The Last Dance CD (album) cover


Ken Hensley


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3.58 | 14 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Laying the Gypsy to rest.

In his sleeve notes for the "Live 1973" Uriah Heep album, Geoff Brown of Melody Maker says "In many years from now, I have a feeling that Ken will still be deeply involved in music, be it in writing, in arranging, in producing and maybe even in performing as a solo artist". Given that, according to the notes for this 2003 album this is Ken's 43rd release, and that he remains very active today, Mr. Brown prophetic words have been emphatically proved right.

Prior to recording "The last dance", Ken moved home to Spain, bringing together a band of local musicians to support him. While his well publicised religious awakening has a clear influence in many of the songs, the topics covered here are varied and the album includes his most progressive work in many a year. The superb sleeve notes offer a brief commentary on each song in addition to their lyrics.

The opening "Crying" immediately sees Ken bearing his soul about a time he seemed to "Make one mistake after another". While on the face of it the song is about lost love, it is open to interpretation in different ways. Melodically, the piece is rather downbeat for a first track on a Hensley album, but it actually signifies the overall musical style of the album well. "Letting go" is even more personal, openly talking of Ken's Late (third) wife. The lyrics though see him making an effort to be optimistic, the recurring theme being "I will let go".

"Give me a reason" is an old song written by Ken in 1985 with then writing partner Jack Williams but not used at that time. While it is a decent enough mid-paced light rocker, it is not too difficult to see why it lay dormant for so long. "Second chance (a new beginning)" continues the troubled romance theme, the song's arrangement being reminiscent of "Circle of hands". The guitar work on the track is particularly effective as a counterpoint to the emotional verses. "(Now) I know who you are" sees Ken attacking an unnamed former friend who has clearly not come up to the mark. The song introduces a more upbeat section of the album and contains hints of the Spanish influences Ken has come across since moving there.

"The voice of love", which continues the upbeat mood, is a straightforward observation composed in the style Hensley used when writing for Uriah Heep, indeed you could be forgiven for thinking you had heard David Byron singing this one. "Give 'em what they want" could also have been a Heep song, this being another Ken had had lying around for some years before bringing it to fruition. The frantic Hammond on track is as welcome as it is nostalgic.

"Who knows" is a gentle ballad featuring only voice, dobro and acoustic guitar. The song touches on Ken's deep rooted religious convictions while at the same time making observations about temporal politics. "Dancing" restores the happy rock of the album's core tracks, through an uncomplicated toe tapper. "Did you know" was originally written by Ken as his contribution to a friend's annual compilation album. Here Hensley wears his religious heart on his sleeve, the song being intended to reclaim Christmas from commercialism. Musically, this is a sentimental power ballad with an inspired chorus. The speeded up instrumental ending to the track works particularly well.

I don't know if there is any significance in the main theme of the epic title track being the death of a gypsy. "Gypsy" was of course the first song on the first Uriah Heep album, but perhaps it is speculating too much to read the gypsy's death as Ken's way of finally closing the book on his time with the band. At least this time the gypsy is more magnanimous towards the young stranger who crosses his path! "The last dance (El gitano viejo)" is a three part composition which stands proud above anything else on the album. Vocally, Ken really pushes the boat out here with one of his finest performances on record. The instrumental section is once again of the type which was the highlight of "The spell" ("Demons and wizards") with the extra track length here allowing it to develop magnificently.

In all, a very personal album by Ken with a greater proportion of ballads and slower songs than might be expected. That said, the central portion certainly rocks and the magnificent closing suite is the finest thing he has done in years. One thing is for sure, this was never going to be Ken's "Last dance"!

By the way, without wishing to be unkind, the naked image of Hensley on the sleeve looks like a still from "The life of Brian".

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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