Written by Mott the Dog from the Folly on the Darkside.
Settlement is an incredible new album from the Strawbs written, recorded and produced during the band’s fifth decade.
Not only that, but it also had to be put together during these very trying times (2020-2021). Blue Weaver co-ordinated the whole thing from his studio in Germany whilst everybody sent in their contributions from their own home base. Will this be the way of things to come?
The effort was all worthwhile as this is an excellent album. An album of its time. A protest album in every sense of the word. With lyrics that sting, taking on the world’s current problems aiming particularly hard at the leaders of the Western World and their seeming incompetence. This is an album written and played by some very angry old men.
Of course, the Strawbs had their commercial heyday in the early seventies with albums like From The Witchwood (1971) and Grave New World (1972). From the Witchwood featured a certain Mr. Rick Wakeman until he was lured away with promises of fame, fortune and all the keyboards he could play by the progressive rock behemoths in the making, Yes.
Grave New World was recorded with Rick Wakeman’s replacement Blue Weaver, the producer of this album. The Strawbs even had pop star status as they had hit singles with Lay Down (72) and Part of the Union (73).
Many notable musicians have been through the ranks of the Strawbs since their birth in 1964. On vocals, both Sandy Denny and Sonja Kristina were in the band, plus the talents of Rod Coombes and Don Airey can be added in.
But this is still an album very much of today.
Opening with the title track, you are immediately impressed by the assertive attitude of Strawbs main man Dave Cousins, a scathing commentary on the state of the populist western autocracies. He does not pull any punches on this album or shy away from controversy.
Each Manner of Man is co-written with old partner in crime, John Ford. It’s great to hear the two of them again after so many years on this magnificent slice of folk rock featuring excellent keyboards from present man, Dave Bainbridge, and with guitar from long term colleague, Dave Lambert.
The musical accompaniment for all the songs on this album are top drawer. I cannot think of another band who can slip from full blown progressive rock to the lilt of an Irish ghost story all in a heartbeat in one song.
Impressive, this is.
The highlight of the album for me is Champion Jack. Dave Cousins tells the story as only he can of Champion Jack Dupree, boxer turned blues pianist. Co-written with Dave Bainbridge, strange that this is one of three tracks not included on the vinyl edition of this album, just tucked away towards the end of the CD version.
The final track on the album is an interesting full blown instrumental written by Chas Cronk featuring guitar, keyboards and synthesizer, proving the point that although Dave Cousins is the main man in the Strawbs, this is very much a band album.
There comes a time where every settlement is due.