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Strawbs - The Magic of It All CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.23 | 10 ratings

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Heart of the Matter
3 stars Probably, one of the most defying challenges in the life of a band with a long career behind, is carrying that past against which their new album needs to live up to, if it's going to be embraced and appreciated by long-term followers. In that sense, the previous album by Strawbs had managed to pass a test, where this one fails. In effect, Settlement feels like a solid piece of that vintage prog-folk sound that used to characterize the band's early seventies output. The Magic Of It All seems to be more of a mixed bag, with other things thrown in for good measure.

The opening track, Ready (Are We Ready), sounds almost like a slice of AOR spiced up with Rhythm'n'Blues stylings, in a fashion not entirely dissimilar to Trapeze. A good, but maybe, for this band at least, unexpected touch. Track 2 finally delivers The Magic Of It All, and it does it so with a delicious vocal melody wrapped up in warm crystaline harmony. Tracks 4, 5, and 6 keep the melodic folk legacy of the band up and shining, with the help of choir and percussion wearing the local South African flavour on the sleeve.

Perhaps a less satisfactory result is to be found in tracks 3 and 7, where the ethnic simplicity of rhythms and choir doesn't seem to achieve the goal of freshness, but more likely a moment where everybody involved feels relieved from duty, and indulges in sheer fun and a sense of communion. Touching, in a sense, but hardly progressive, if you ask me.

Track 8, Paris Nights, is a rather obvious piece of parisienne charm, complete with accordion and French vocals by Dave Cousins himself, who is in fine form, in despite of his serious health issues. One maybe could feel that, in order to close the album on a high note, a song with strong solos is required. Well, don't worry then, because that's precisely what the closer brings out, with slow-burning contributions by piano and, of course, heartfelt electric guitar.

Not everything I was expecting, but surely good for its great moments.

Heart of the Matter | 3/5 |


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