Learn more Download now Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle New Album - Noel Gallagher Learn more Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
9
4.1 out of 5 stars
Dancing To The Devils Beat
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£15.09+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


VINE VOICEon 18 August 2009
2009 sees the 40th-ish anniversary of the Strawbs. I say "ish" because it's actually the 40th anniversary of their first record which isn't really the same thing, as they actually began life five years earlier as a bluegrass band called the Strawberry Hill Boys. In fact, to be scrupulously accurate, their first record came out in June 1968, with their first album coming out in 1969. Whatever... this year sees a couple of special live shows lined up which will see five different lineups of the band performing the music of yore. So what better time for the band to put out a brand new studio album?

Their bluegrass period didn't last once main man Dave Cousins started writing, and they quickly became mainstays of the UK folk-rock scene. However, once Rick Wakeman arrived on keyboards, alongside a new rhythm section consisting of Richard Hudson and John Ford, they added a progressive rock edge to their sound on albums like the live "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios" and the studio sets, "From The Witchwood" and "Grave New World". The prog edge largely vanished once Dave Lambert arrived, something that coincided with the pop success of singles 'Lay Down' and 'Part Of The Union' and album "Bursting At The Seams".

After their most successful lineup imploded, Cousins and Lambert put together a new Strawbs, which concentrated its attentions on the USA, and it's the nucleus of this version that is back together in 2009. The band went on hiatus in 1980 when Cousins departed for a career in radio, but there have been a few reunions over the years including headlining the 1983 Cambridge Folk Festival with the "Grave New World" lineup, a twenty fifth anniversary tour in 1993 and a thirtieth anniversary celebration. Since then, they've popped up fairly regularly leading up to this arithmetically challenged 40th anniversary.

"Dancing To The Devil's Beat" sees Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert, Chas Cronk and Rod Coombes back together with new boy Oliver (son of Rick) Wakeman, and it's all rather good. After a slow start in the shape of 'Beneath The Angry Sky', the most ineffectual song on the album, which tries to build up slowly, but just goes nowhere, the Strawbs settle into a groove reflecting their way of doing things circa 1974. A lot of thought and effort seems to have gone into making the lyrics in particular, very much a part of now, with even the World War I-based 'Pro Patria Suite', capable of being a parable of the modern day. It's a marvellous, albeit bleak, suite, beautifully arranged with banjo and pipe organ up front and centre. The anti-war (although never anti-soldier) theme continues on into 'Where Silent Shadows Fall', which is driven along by a military snare drum backing and closes evocatively with an instrumental coda led by the sound of a cornet.

Elsewhere, greedy politicians are the targets of the title track, and the album closes with an excellent reworking of their very first single 'Oh How She Changed'. The production is a bit 1980s in places, especially with some rather dated percussion sounds, but when then whip out a song as blissful as the acoustic 'Copenhagen', which harks back to their very early folk rock days, evoking a spirit of times gone but not forgotten. The band are all in fine form, with new boy Oliver Wakeman splashing some excellent piano and organ around, embellishing without overpowering the songs.

As a celebration of Strawbs, past and present, this is an utter delight.
11 Comment| 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 November 2014
Well the cover looks like some dog version of a 70's MFP Woolworths Pop Hits compilation. Oh but the music! Put it on initially in the car and it was like unearthing a mid Seventies lost album but at the same time with that timeless Strawbs stamp all over it. I love this band but have little of their very recent stuff, so the purchase was a gamble that paid well. Anyway got it home and let my fearsome hi fi set up loose on it, and there was a quantum leap in the pure pleasure of the music; well done boys this is warming stuff.
Bloody hell is it really 40 years since we queued for late night showings of ELP's `Pictures' and Strawbs ` Grave New World' films - ah Happy Days !
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 October 2009
Simply stunning! Where this gorgeous album has come from, I can't begin to imagine, especially after the disappointment of last year's "The Broken Hearted Bride" but, frankly, I'm not going to worry about it, and shall simply enjoy the music!

In "Dancing to the Devil's Beat" The Strawbs have produced another great progressive folk-rock album, reminiscent of "From the Witchwood", which harks back nearly forty years. It's perhaps strange then that the keyboard player on this album should be Oliver Wakeman, son of the very famous Rick, who of course played on that iconic album. There might be nothing quite as strong as the fabulous "Hangman and the Papist" on this album but Oliver's keyboards playing, and choice of keyboards, is perfectly suited to the music, often enhancing it significantly, in a similar way to his dad's playing many years ago.

The album begins with a couple of moody, rocky numbers that Oliver Wakeman really brings another dimension to, making them fizz with his keyboards, before the album takes on a folkier slant which lasts virtually to the end. It's superbly performed, with Dave Cousins at the top of his game.

The folky "The Man Who Would Never Leave Grimsby" has a slightly different feel in that it is written and sung by guitarist Dave Lambert - of course, having various songwriters and vocalists is nothing new to The Strawbs; it is indeed a feature of their music, and cements the comparison with the "From the Witchwood" era, which had Tony Hooper and Richard Hudson off-setting Cousins's writing and vocal.

Another song with a slightly different feel is "The Ballad of Jay and Rose Mary", which has a very late-night-jazz club feel about it. However, like everything else on this album, it seems to have been sprinkled with magic-dust, and works beautifully within the context of the album.

The last couple of tracks return to the rockier emphasis of the first couple, making for good album dynamics.

Overall, this sounds brilliant. The band are on fine vocal and instrumental form and Wakeman adds a sparkle that really lifts the mood, making this an album that you could listen to alongside "From the Witchwood" without batting an eyelid.

If you've ever enjoyed The Strawbs's "Witchwood" era music, do yourself a big favour and buy this now!
22 Comments| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 21 August 2009
A strong album from the current Strawbs lineup - which is the Hero and Heroine lineup minus John Hawken but with the addition of Oliver Wakeman. The styles range from ballads (Copenhagen, about the time when Sandy Denny was in the band) to multi part prog rock epics (Pro-Patria Suite, about the first world war.) Dave Cousins voice may be an aquired tasted, but it has lost none of its bite and his lyrics are up to their usual high standard, and not afraid to tackle politcal themes. The songs are varied and hark back to the Strawbs long history - opening track is a proggy, violin driven epic, The Man Who would never Leave Grimsby is an acoustic ballad, while the following track, the ballad of Jay and Rose Mary has a blues shuffle to it, a reminder of the band's early work and the tracks from later albums in the 1970s. The only weakness is when the band attempt an out and out rock track in the title track in the style of Deep Purple. Even so, this is driven by some an excellent organ and guitar playing.

Absolutely recommended for anyone who dabbled with any era of the Strawbs eclectic back catalogue - and those who haven't may be surprised to find that there's plenty to enjoy here.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 31 August 2009
My initial reaction to this album was one of disappointment. It just didn't strike me as being anywhere near up to the usual high quality of the band's work, and my initial review here reflected that.

A few months later and I've been giving this album another chance, aided by the fact that I've now got a different hi-fi set-up. Now I understand why the album has received positive reviews from other listeners, and it goes to prove what a difference a better quality hi-fi can make. Suddenly what sounded like poor production now comes across as nothing of the sort. The sound is excellent with Dave Cousins' vocals nicely up-front and plenty of detail from the rest of the band.

With the clarity of the sound sorted, the songs come over much more convincingly and the instrumental playing seems ideally suited to them. I still don't think Oliver Wakeman is on anything like his Dad's level (listen to 'From The Witchwood' for evidence of Rick Wakeman at his absolute peak) but he certainly brings something new to the table.

'Revenge (Can Be So Sweet)' gets the album off to a strong start with a memorable chorus and a similar overall sound to parts of 2008's brilliant 'The Broken Hearted Bride' album.

'The Man Who Would Never Leave Grimsby' is particularly fine, with some fine vocals from Dave Lambert. The lyrical reference to the band is tastefully done and the tale keeps you listening, which has long been a quality of Lambert's writing.

Another song I like is 'Copenhagen', although as a tribute to Sandy Denny I still prefer 'Ringing Down The Years'. Nevertheless the intimate production brings Cousins right into the room, and, as always, his singing pulls you right into the song and defies you not to listen.

'The Pro Patria Suite' takes a multi-part form that Cousins has used several times over the years and, as usual, the three parts are cleverly set so that they sound like they belong to the whole. The lyrics are thought provoking and moving, and this is exactly the sort of song that suits Cousins' ageing, but still strong, voice.

'The Ballad of Jay and Rose Mary' is, for me, the weakest song on the album and sounds like Cousins trying a little too hard to be different. It lilts along pleasantly enough but it is the sort of song that doesn't really go anywhere and which can get a bit irritating on repeated listening.

Overall the album is far better than I first thought. I still can't agree that it comes anywhere near the truly great Strawbs albums like 'From The Witchwood', '...Antiques & Curios', 'Hero & Heroine' or 'Ghosts'. However it is one of the band's strongest releases of the last 20 years and, when a band has made so many albums over so many years (this is their 40th anniversary album), it is quite an achievement to still be producing music of such quality.

In summing up, if you are new to the Strawbs, this isn't the place to start. Buy From The Witchwood and Hero And Heroine first. Those are classic albums, full of superior songwriting and wonderful playing and singing. Once you have heard those two albums you'll be hooked on the band. However, for anyone who, like me, is a long-time fan 'Dancing To The Devil's Beat' is a worthy addition to an extensive collection of fine music.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 November 2009
Behind the truly hideous cover artwork - surely one of the worst in recent memory - lies another good, if patchy, Strawbs album. Marking the band's 40th anniversary is all well and good, and it's a milestone well worth commemorating, but on reflection perhaps this release has come just a little too quickly on the heels of the epic "The Broken Hearted Bride".

On the plus side, "Pro Patria Suite" detailing both the horror and the aftermath of war, is a typically grand and emotional Dave Cousins affair, constantly shifting tempo and mood with a deft lightness of touch and it's far and away the best thing here. Also impressive, and on a similar theme, "Where Silent Shadows Fall" builds to a rousing Grace Darling-type of orchestral / choral play-out that leaves a familiar lump in the throat and a tear in the eye.

"Copenhagen", a paean to the late Sandy Denny, is a delicate acoustic piece harking back to the band's earliest folk origins, as is the remake of "Oh How She Changed" an ultimately pointless exercise which adds nothing to the classic original, the band's first single from 1968.

But amid all the familiarity, there are still surprises - witness "The Ballad of Jay and Rose Mary", a totally atypical Cousins composition with a vocal style borrowing much from Mark Knopfler, and quite unlike anything the band has done before. Against all the odds, it works.

Against that, Dave Lambert's "The Man Who Would Never Leave Grimsby" - a contender for oddest song title of the year - is one of his least engaging compositions, coming dangerously close to pastiche.

Whilst it's good to see The Strawbs still going strong and showing remarkably few signs of ageing after four decades, one can't help but feel that a little less haste in getting this out could have resulted in something to stand alongside their classic seventies output. It falls a little short on that score, but it's still good in parts.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 21 November 2010
Following the last album (Broken Hearted bride)which was OK but not great, hopes were not too high, but this new album puts the Strawbs firmly back on top form. Dave Cousins and co have come up with a cracking collection of songs which truly capture the old spirit of the band. Thoughtful lyrics and fine instrumentation contribute to an impressive listening experience. As someone who has followed the band through the ages, it's really good to have them back in winnig ways. Long may it continue. Nice packaging as well.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 31 December 2011
I bought this for my husband for Christmas. He keeps on playing it, so I guess he likes it. He says it's different from what they have done before and he is pleased with the album.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 April 2015
Have been a lover of the early strawbs. Slightly disappointed with this track.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)