LAURA SHENTON – Dance With the Devil – The Cozy Powell Story
- by J.N.
- Posted on 10-03-2020
Knowing that Powell was extremely private regarding all manners relating to his personal life and that he died in a tragic car crash back in 1998 and is no longer here to speak for himself, “Dance With the Devil” contains very little info in terms of non-music-related biographical details and as such, it primarily focuses on the many bands and projects that he was a part of at some point during the four decades that he was active in the rock ‘n’ roll business. Considering that Cozy himself wished to keep his private life…well, err, private, I find it quite respectable that this piece does not speculate or revel in rumors or hear-say regarding Powell’s life outside of music other than what he himself told reporters over the years.
Nearly each chapter is devoted to one specific group of his with some of them obviously being much longer and more in-depth than others simply because there is a hell of a lot more stuff on Rainbow out there than Bedlam, just to list an example. By organizing things chronologically, there is structure and a strong sense of focus present from start to finish, and Shenton’s passion for the subject matter is so prevalent throughout that one can almost reach out and touch it, which is certainly commendable. Simply put, you can tell that she is a devoted fan of Powell. Having said that, huge (and I do mean HUGE) chunks of the book consists of quotes, paragraphs, or even long section from various interviews with Cozy as well as album and concert reviews relating to whatever band he was in at the time. Given that he is sadly no longer with us, I can understand Laura’s approach to compiling a compelling picture of Cozy’s life in music by basing it on Powell’s own words and statements, but it does feel a little one-sided and one-dimensional at times. Some proper (and perhaps freshly conducted?) in-depth interviews with those who rehearsed, recorded, and/or toured with him would undoubtedly have added a bit more color and substance to Shenton’s narrative. Also, it would have been interesting to have had some comments, statements, opinions, and whatnot to either emphasize what Powell said or stand in contrast to it. It lacks a bit of balance with respect to that. The author also appears a little too uncritical at times with respect to some of Cozy’s moves and decisions in the industry and some of the LPs that he appeared on; not everything he did or said was wise or perfectly understandable and a few of the records were simply not that memorable or cool. Perhaps the most interesting chapter for yours truly was the eleventh one, which discusses and analyzes his many solo albums and outfits such as Cozy Powell’s Hammer. There is some great and insightful stuff there.
“Dance With the Devil” does a fine job at illustrating just how powerful and inventive Cozy Powell truly was and how much he helped shape the hard rock and heavy metal canon as it exists today, but ultimately, it is neither all-out exciting nor downright thrilling. Rather, it serves as a good overview of Powell’s life in music and what he meant (and still means) to so many of us. The author’s enthusiasm is infectious at times and this is well worth reading if you are a fan of the hard-hitting drummer.