Strawbs — Dancing to the Devil's Beat
(Witchwoood Media WMCD 2045, 2009, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2010-07-01
I’m not sure what the dog licking a red popsicle on the cover represents, but this latest release by the full five- piece Strawbs celebrates 40 years since the release of the band’s debut album in 1969. The booklet shows then-and-now photos of the various band members, now including Oliver Wakeman, eldest son of Strawbs alum Rick Wakeman, stepping in to fill the shoes of retiring keyboardist John Hawken. Wakeman’s ‘then’ photo showing him as an infant might even be stretching the timeline a bit, but his keyboard work fits in beautifully with the band. The focal point is, as always, the lyrics, songwriting, and vocals of Dave Cousins. Longtime members Dave Lambert, Chas Cronk, and Rod Coombes provide vocal and instrumental support, and unlike last year’s Broken Hearted Bride, which tended toward harder-edged songs, Dancing to the Devil’s Beat is more favorably varied in style, encompassing several rockers like the title track and opener “Revenge,” but also several stunning pieces highlighting the band’s polished folk side – among these “Copenhagen,” which reminisces on the early days when the late Sandy Denny was a member. Those who enjoy the longer multi-part pieces will certainly enjoy the eight-minute “Pro Patria Suite,” or the somewhat shorter “Where Silent Shadows Fall.” And what would a 40th album be without a recap of a song from the first – in this case a reworking of the classic “Oh How She Changed.” All taken, a great album, beginning to end.
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