The Ferryman's Curse: Strawbs (Esoteric)

Strawbs have been around for more than 50 years, producing album after album of songs that mix pop, folk and progressive rock.

They were at their height in the 1970s when they played some massive tours and scored single success with Lay Down and Part Of The Union.

Their latest album - The Ferryman's Curse - will delight existing fans and should win the band some new ones.

It features a range of great songs, including some that Strawbs' aficionados may well place in their top 20 lists.

The opener In The Beginning is orchestral, setting the tone with some lovely playing from Dave Bainbridge (formerly of Iona), whose keyboards contribute so much to this album.

The opener segues effortlessly into the storming The Nails From The Hands of Christ, where Dave Cousins' examines young people's attitutes to religion. It is one of many songs here that include religious imagery. A young woman buys some nails in a junk shop - allegedly those used in Christ's cuicifixion - and they become precious to her. Bainbridge adds some proggy keyboards and guitarist Dave Lambert - whose fretwork is on fire throughout this album - lets his solos soar.

The Song Of Infinite Sadness is a quiet and reflective number, showcasing Cousins' distinctive vocal style.

The Familiarity Of Old Lovers is another highlight, with again some superb guitarwork, while When The Spirit Moves, with its chiming bells, would be a winner at Christmastime.

Dave Lambert sings the Clapton-esque The Ten Commandments, with its driving rhythm and rock-solid beat from drummer Tony Fernandez and bassist Chas Cronk.

The centrepiece of the album is the title track, which I liked but which veers a little too far into gothic horror for my taste.

The album closes with the lightweight Bats And Swallows and the anthemy We Have The Power, which sounds a bit like it might have been the closing number at a rousing Christian Union festival in the 1970s.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable album which sits among the band's best.

Five other great Strawbs tracks:

Lay Down - 1972 number 12 hit based loosely on Psalm 23 (The Lord's My Shepherd), it is a perfectly crafted pop song.

Blue Angel - Song from 2003 with Genesis-like overtones and a hook to die for.

Hero and Heroine - The vocals might be very folky but just wait for the stirring, porgressive rock musical hook to blow you away.

New World - More prog rock grandeur. "Were you the coward who fired the last shot?" sings Cousins before screaming 'May you rot!"

I Only Want My Love To Grow In You - 1976 single which got lots of radio airplay and should have been a much bigger hit.