Esoteric / Antenna (label)
03 November 2017 (released)
10 December 2017
First album by Strawbs for 7 years and it sounds as though the time has been well spent – this is fabulous.
Four of the band have been there since their heyday in the ‘70’s and the addition of Dave Bainbridge (formerly with Iona) on keys brings an element of the Celtic and ambient to their sound.
Looking at the album as a totality, the individual songs each have their own sound and identity – I was expecting something that came over as a single coherent theme but each of the songs stands, successfully, on its own and delivers something special to Strawbs history.
‘The Nails From The Hands Of Christ’ is a massive slab of Prog with a stunning bass line from Chas Cronk. It is a tough theme, a story of innocence and naivete masquerading as knowledge and the scale and soundscape of the song are immense.
Running immediately into ‘The Song Of Infinite Sadness’ you couldn’t have more of a variation in scope and style. Cousins vocal is slightly wavering and reedy and it perfectly suits a beautiful and poignant ballad.
The title track itself is a companion piece to ‘The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake’ – perhaps a sequel – and as strong a piece. A chilling tale of the Ferryman crossing the Styx and a positively dark and horrid story. The confidence in the band’s playing, some exquisite guitar and keyboards, and the storytelling lyrics are enough to send you to the repeat key as soon as it hits its climax.
‘The Familiarity Of Old Lovers’ is a wonderful piece. Emotional and deep and knowing with the clear understanding of relationships that can never continue or end. As poison sweet a ballad as I have heard this year.
A friend commented to me “Strawbs, that bunch of old folkies” – there is folk music in here but a hell of a lot more as well.
This is one of the best Prog albums of the year and definitely one of Strawbs best albums ever.