Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography



Prog Folk

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Strawbs The Ferryman's Curse album cover
4.07 | 65 ratings | 6 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 2017

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. In The Beginning (2:02)
2. The Nails From The Hands Of Christ (6:04)
3. The Song Of Infinite Sadness (5:00)
4. The Familiarity Of Old Lovers (6:21)
5. When The Spirit Moves (6:48)
6. The Ten Commandments (5:32)
7. The Reckoning (1:53)
8. The Ferryman's Curse (8:57)
9. Bats And Swallows (4:02)
10. We Have The Power (3:58)

Total time 50:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Dave Cousins / vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, electric dulcimer, autoharp
- Dave Lambert / vocals, lead & acoustic guitars, ebow
- Dave Bainbridge / keyboards, electric & acoustic guitars, Hammond organ, bouzouki
- Chas Cronk / vocals, bass, 12-string guitars
- Tony Fernandez / drums, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Gaston Bogaert with Rod Green

CD Esoteric Antenna ‎- EANTCD 1070 (2017, Europe)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy STRAWBS The Ferryman's Curse Music

STRAWBS The Ferryman's Curse ratings distribution

(65 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(49%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

STRAWBS The Ferryman's Curse reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars The hourglass is emptying for veteran bands like STRAWBS and their small but ardent following. Each much anticipated release is coddled with the understanding that it may be their last, and a glance at the titles and lyrics of "The Ferryman's Curse" concedes nothing so much as a pious man contemplating his worldly past and his otherworldly future. It might not be the coda for Dave Cousins and company, but it is certainly compiled with an appreciation of that prospect.

A bit of background would be helpful. Strawbs enjoyed some level of commercial success in two forms in the 1970s: as an earnest prog folk band cum pop stars in the UK ("Grave New World" and "Bursting at the Seams"), and, with a 60% lineup change, as a symphonic prog band with folk underpinnings in the US ("Hero and Heroine" and "Ghosts"). The band never completely eschewed conventional song structures even at their most adventurous, but have been able to straddle the boundaries of their various genres. In recent years it's the members of the later incarnation that have been recording and touring, meaning Dave Lambert (guitars) and Chas Cronk (bass) are in the fold, augmented by Tony Fernandez (drums) who was with the group during the late 1970s and Dave Bainbridge (keyboards) of prog folk band IONA. Bainbridge has writing credits on 5 of the 10 tracks, including two instrumentals, and exerts considerable influence on his Strawbs studio debut, as does returning superstar producer Chris Tsangarides, who manages to equalize the highs and lows of Cousins' septuagenarian vocal chords. They remain an acquired taste in their CAT STEVENS meets PETER GABRIEL and FISH mode. I'm glad I acquired it years ago.

The first instrumental, "From the Beginning" offers a contemplative introduction to the album, with piano and orchestral strings eventually bolstered by drums and organ. As it segues directly into "The Nails from the Hands of Christ", we begin with just a hypnotic beat that recalls nothing more than the PET SHOP BOYS' hit from 1984, "West End Girls". The lyrics and vocals are classic Cousins though, and his sense of humor is intact, particularly when the gift shop manager tells the protagonist that the nails are "kosher", and when he comments that the nails were rusty and bent, "as if to make a point". Lead and rhythm guitar suffuse additional drama, as does mellotron choir in the theatrical buildup. Speaking of mellotron, I suspect they are using samples rather than an actual flesh and blood beast, but they are as welcome as the album.

In the tradition of sedate somewhat morose ballads of the past (Barcarole from "Burning for You", Sealed with a Traitor's Kiss" from "Deadlines", and "Copenhagen" from "Dancing to the Devil's Beat" all come to mind), "The Song of Infinite Sadness" downshifts for the duration. A bit too funereal for me, it does sound better with time, and, again, the lyrics are typically insightful. This wisdom is again evident on "The Familarity of Old Lovers", one of my 2 favourites. The delivery is a touch playful if resigned, and the lead guitar figure is succinct and addictive. The outtro involves both Lambert and Bainbridge interjecting each other on lead guitar, and is a winning idea.

Now to the heart center of the album, "When the Spirit Moves", in which Cousins dons his "Benedictus" voice for a rare occasion of unabashed spirituality, backed in choral style by his bandmates. Musically, it develops the ideas on "When Silent Shadows Fall" from the prior album into a triumphant statement that is compelling from the first to the last note, attaining a crescendo that is suited to a closing number, and indeed it would form the end of Side 1 on a vinyl copy.

Next up is Dave Lambert's sole songwriting and lead vocal contribution, the bluesy "The Ten Commandments", which was written some years ago but fits thematically with the religious directives on the disc. While a break from Cousins' voice is welcome, it's perhaps my least favorite track, and initiates the listener into the weakest part of the album. "The Reckoning" is a decent instrumental with haunting mellotron flutes and piano by Bainbridge as well as pleasant acoustic guitar, but as lead in to the epic title track, it fails to impart sufficient gravitas. However, as it turns out, it imparts more than the title track merits! "The Ferryman's Curse" is the sequel to "The Vision of the Lady of the Lake" which appeared on "Dragonfly" back in 1970, which was the sole prog-oriented piece on that early album, a multi verse epic with a lovely melody and occasional hard rock accompaniment. Lyrically, this update resolves some questions that lingered for 47 years, and spins a fascinating tale in which the same number of years has ostensibly elapsed since the first misadventure. As poetry this is brilliant, particularly some of the Greek mythological references and how, in typical Strawbs fashion, the story itself seems to unfold outside of any specific historical setting. Unfortunately the whole 9 minutes is delivered as a dirge. Admittedly, the original piece was a challenge even for a young Cousins' pipes, so perhaps a decision was made to compose the piece for a narrower vocal range where he could still emote away but all studio mirrors and singer would be safe! Within all these constructs, the one hard rock moment on the album is the blistering instrumental break towards the climax, which isn't my cuppa but which might ignite some new fans if they only get that far...

The final two tracks adopt a far more optimistic and vivacious tone. While such tendencies have never been Strawbs' strong suit, both are handled better than in the past, and achieve respectable equilibrium as pop folk music, particularly "Bats and Swallows", an account of a Mediterranean vacation and the human and animal sights and sounds perceived by Cousins. The highlight instrumentally is the geographically appropriate bouzouki solo by Bainbridge, The main musical theme of "We Have the Power" is delivered on synthesizer, and the song structure, and perhaps even the lyrics, are like a much sunnier take on "Call to Action" which appeared on "The Broken Hearted Bride". The ending seems a bit off kilter though, leaving me wondering if it was intentional or not, since so much TLC clearly went into the making of this release. Unless they ran out of studio time?

When I began writing mental notes towards this review, I had intended to award a solid 3 stars, but it really breaks out at 3.5 stars, and not rounding up in this case is tantamount to elder abuse, both of the band and its longstanding fans who are still standing. Let's not pay the ferryman just yet.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I have always had a soft spot for the Strawbs , even forcing me to anoint ''Hero and Heroine'' as my all-time numero uno! Many other fine albums litter their stellar career , indefatigably led by David Cousins' delectable voice and sharp ,well-crafted lyrics as he is quite the story-teller. It has been quite a revelation to listen to this, their latest opus and it is a truly splendid affair. Themes are clearly spiritual in nature, perhaps even a tad religious, a trait that has adorned many previous works from this classic prog band.

From the opening symphonic notes, you just cannot help to be reassured that this might just be a winner and the tone is immediately stamped with one of their very finest pieces yet, the glorious ''the Nails from the Hands of Christ''. Thumping bass from master bassist Chas Cronk sets the pace, a poignant tirade of incredible passion and euphoria. Dave Lambert shines particularly with some chiseled slashes of guitar genius, pushed along by stalwart drummer Tony Fernandez as well as sturdy and pulsating keyboards from master-musician Dave Bainbridge (of Iona -fame , as well as some amazing solo works). His input is also compositional, adding his mark on a half of the tracks . But old man Cousins steals the show with a mastery of tone and urgency , a philosophy of singing he will maintain throughout this sparkling album.

Two drop-dead gorgeous ballads ensue, a perfect platform for the voice to shine, as the music holds the fort in masterful control. ''The Song of Infinite Sadness'' is a crushingly poignant piece , anointed with crystalline acoustic guitars and lush mellotron strings , an often deadly combination. David vocalizes like only he can, sweet melancholy and breathless inspiration in a hushed yet anguished delivery. This would have fitted nicely on a classic album such as ''Ghosts''. Sheer delight. Another world-class moment is reached on ''The Familiarity of Old Lovers'', a sensational slice of dark and folky symphonics, the beauty of the subject matter is only eclipsed by the brooding music , expertly guided and extraordinarily presented. The strings weep seductively as Lambert flicks his wrist with unabated power , carving delicious sounds from his electric guitar, very proggy and profound.

''When the Spirit Moves'' is an extended and heavily orchestrated affair, deliberately gentle at first and gradually swept up in massive symphonics, as Cousins heightens the tone , passionate and committed. Tubular bells add a holy majesty to the arrangements as it soars towards the heavens.

''The Ten Commandments'' is a Dave Lambert piece and as is often case with him, it provides a rockier, more countrified twang, his voice less nasal , sounding a bit like Steve Winwood at times and his guitar playing simple and effective. Hammond organ rolls along like a Muscle Shoals river, giving this track a breath of fresh air.

A return to brooding prog-folk compositions , which this group does so well, with the brief instrumental ''The Reckoning'' , highlighted by Bainbrige's delicate piano and keyboards. This serves to introduce another cracker epic , the delirious title track, which is an arch-typical Strawbs classic, a pulsating story recalling Charon and Styx with musical oomph, beastly organ blasts , booming bass and drums and tortuous electric guitars. Cousins relates with zealous passion , screeching, squealing and hurling terrifying words as if his life depended on it. The suspense weaves back down to earth, just an excuse to explode once again, offering the riveting coup de grace. Masterful!

A sweet and bucolic respite from the previous angst, ''Bats and Swallows'' offers a musical breeze that nevertheless focuses on the cheery lyrics and the playful guitar adornments. ''Rosemary and sage'' rekindles images of a bridge over troubled water, but in a more modern context.

Ratchet up the mood with the anthemic ''We Have the Power'' , a stellar message of hope, honour, promise and rebirth. It may serve as a perfect song to illustrate the current viral situation the earth is fighting. Just reading the lyric sheet, you cannot help but visualize the parallels . ''It's in our hands'' , he says. Indeed it is. Make sure you keep washing them.

4.5 blessed returns

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nš 577

Strawbs is an English progressive band that was founded in 1964 as the Strawberry Hill Boys. The band started out as a bluegrass group in the mid 60's, but eventually moved on to other styles such as folk rock, progressive rock and briefly glam rock. Around 1967 they moved towards folk. When Sandy Denny, who has meanwhile become the next legend, joined the line up in 1967, the career slowly took off. They recorded their first album with Sandy, 'AL Our Own Work' but that only was released in 1973. It has a song written by Sandy Denny called 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes'.

After Sandy left the band to be part of Fairport Convention, Strawbs released two more albums, 'Strawbs' in 1969 and 'Dragonfly' in 1970 without much success. It was only when the young rising star Rick Wakeman joined the band that Strawbs became more known. With Rick, Strawbs released two albums 'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' also in 1970 and 'From The Witchwood' in the next year. Then, as almost all know, Rick left Strawbs to join Yes. But, at the time, they were already a very solid band and in the next year they released their best works, the albums that belong to their golden era, 'Grave New World' in 1972, 'Bursting At The Seams' in 1973, 'Hero And Heroine' in 1974 and 'Ghosts' in 1975. After that and in spite of Strawbs has released many other works, they never were able to achieve the quality and success manifested in those years. However, in the last years, Strawbs returned with another album with the same quality standard of those works, 'The Ferryman's Curse'. It's clearly their best studio work since 'Ghosts'.

'The Ferryman's Curse' is the twenty-third studio album of Strawbs and was released in 2017. The line up on the album is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, electric dulcimer and autoharp), Dave Lambert (vocals, lead and acoustic guitars and ebow), Dave Bainbridge (keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, Hammond organ and bouzouki), Chas Cronk (vocals, bass and 12 string guitars) and Tony Fernandez (drums and percussion).

'The Ferryman's Curse' has ten tracks. 'In The Beginning' is a short, but beautiful optimistic orchestral piece, plenty of piano, synthesizers and Mellotron sounds. It leads directly into the powerful and heavy 'The Nails From The Hands Of Christ'. 'The Nails From The Hands Of Christ' is one of the central pieces on the album. It finds Cousins in a great lyrical form and he also still has that gentle voice we remembered from the good old days. Here, the bands progressive rock tendencies are out in full force thanks to some excellent Hammond organ, synth and Mellotron works. He also contributes with guitar alongside with Lambert, who leads the guitar work in Strawbs since the early 70's. 'The Song Of Infinite Sadness' is a nice, quiet and reflective number, showcasing Cousins' distinctive vocals with its fragile tones and gorgeous acoustic guitar strains. 'The Familiarity Of Old Lovers' is backed by sizzling lead electric guitar, organ, and the mighty Mellotron, so typical of the wonderful progressive rock music. Cousins' vocals notch up in power and emotion for the final verse. 'When The Spirit Moves' has an opening seasonal flavour with its12-string guitars weave in and out of orchestral keyboards. It's a lovely spiritual song with an acoustic guitar play with swirling keyboards and keyboard string arrangement underneath. 'The Ten Commandments' is a bluesy hard rock song, the contribution of Lambert to the album. He sings in a Clapton style with its driving rhythm and rock- solid beat from drummer Fernandez and bassist Cronk. 'The Reckoning' is another short instrumental track, another stunning prog experience with nice keyboard textures from Bainbridge and plenty of intricate acoustic guitar works. 'The Ferryman's Curse' is the other central piece on the album. It's a much heralded sequel of their 'The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake' of 'Dragonfly' from 1970. That was probably the track that at the time, more than anything else, signaled the bands transition from folk to rock. This is a prog epic of highest order that will thrill any fan of the vintage prog music. 'Bats And Swallows' makes the album lighter with of a pop/folk track with some breezy nice melodies. This is an upbeat song that prepares us to the final track. 'We Have The Power' closes the album nicely. It opens with blasts of Mellotron over positive and hopeful lyrics sung by Cousins, intertwined with great guitar and keyboard soloing. It shows the band in their top form.

Conclusion: 'The Ferryman's Curse' is a very strong album from this veteran band, which shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Curiously, and despite this line up is comprised of founding, longtime, and newer members, they are able to stick together and keep this momentum going. So, Strawbs seem re-energized, especially by Bainbridge's presence. As a result, the consistency of this album is really impressive. In reality, this album looms as a wonderful testimonial to the group's 50th year in the business. Hence, the Strawbs coalesces glimpses of its past with a modern boost that yields an enchanting soundscapes, contrasted with thrusting opuses and iridescent tonalities. I even dare to say that 'The Ferryman's Curse' is Strawbs' best work since 'Ghosts', probably better than 'Bursting At The Seams'.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

5 stars It has taken me a long time to get around to buying this one, but being shut up and having read some reviews that seemed almost to good to be true, I decided to buy. What a great set this is, by far to most satisfying strawbs record since their 70's commercial peak. So good that it would have fi ... (read more)

Report this review (#2353827) | Posted by ross warren | Thursday, April 23, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 Ferr ... (read more)

Report this review (#1842555) | Posted by SteveG | Saturday, December 16, 2017 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Review # 71. Starting this, I should say that I consider myself as a fan of Strawbs. Maybe not the greatest fan, but if you consider that I am listening to them for more than 25 years now, and I have in my music collection about 13-14 of their albums, I think I have a rather detailed opinion ... (read more)

Report this review (#1820069) | Posted by The Jester | Tuesday, November 7, 2017 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of STRAWBS "The Ferryman's Curse"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


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

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.