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 miltary 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.