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Steeleye Span - The Lark In The Morning - The Early Years CD (album) cover

THE LARK IN THE MORNING - THE EARLY YEARS

Steeleye Span

 

Prog Related

4.00 | 2 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This 2CD set basically sums up the complete studio work of the early (and perhaps most influential) line-ups of Steeleye Span which featured both Ashley Hutchings and Martin Carthy playing in the same band. I've already reviewed the first and third album on the ProgArchives, so I'm gonna keep it short now. What you'll find on this set is:

Hark! The Village Wait (14.5/15P.). This, in my opinion, is an absolute masterpiece of the folk rock genre. Whilst all following Steeleye Span albums until Now We Are Six lacked a drummer, this debut album includes shared drum work by Gerry Conway and Dave Mattacks. Both drummers are really good, but especially Dave Mattacks with his incredibly airy and sophisticated playing is in top form on this album and helps make the jangly and steadily flowing Lowlands of Holland the folk rock masterpiece it has become. One special detail: there's not a single acoustic guitar on this album; in favor of instrumental diversity the acoustic guitar duties are taken by swirling autoharps, the mandola and other fairly obscure instruments. The electric dulcimer - thanks to the late Tim Hart - also appears more frequently than the electric guitar!

Please To See The King (12/15P.). This one's absolutely radical. The new guitarist Martin Carthy, the man who turned Bob Dylan on to British folk music around 1961, replaced his acoustic guitar with a Fender Telecaster and transferred his percussive folk styling exactly to his new instrument. You do not hear anyone play the electric guitar like that anywhere else. The new and classically-trained multi-instrumentalist Peter Knight also brings in a sharper arrangement, for instance the spine-tingling chorale in the weird Gentle Giant like piece Boys of Bedlam, the distorted viola drone of Prince Charlie Stuart and the counterpointal syncopations of The Blacksmith. Situated somewhere between The Byrds, The Velvet Underground and traditional British folk this album is totally unique and shocking in its distorted primal sound.

Ten Man Mop (9.5/15P.). On this album the band decided to go acoustic again - not a bad idea, particularly when a person like Martin Carthy is in the band. But in the end the remaining three lengthy electric pieces are actually a lot more convincing than the acoustic tracks which are basically unremarkable jigs and fun songs. More interesting is the heavy riffing and rapid banjo picking of Skewball, maybe the heaviest track Steeleye Span have ever recorded. When I Was On Horseback, profiting a lot from the atmospheric interplay of electric dulcimer and viola, however, ranks amongst the finest tracks in the band's oeuvre.

The CD set adds two a-capella bonus tracks; both were released on samplers and singles around that time. Rave On (1970), a Buddy Holly cover, is incredibly fun to listen to. General Taylor (1971), a shanty about a deceased seaman, is a kind of piece you wouldn't expect on an album of an electric folk band, but the power of the vocal harmonies is pretty huge.

I have to mention that there are extensive re-issues of the single albums with lots of BBC sessions added on bonus CDs. It might be worth it getting them for the musical quality of the performances (especially the 1970 recording of The Bold Poachers is intriguing), but the sound quality is absolutely horrible - most probably home-made tape recordings of a MW transmission. These reissues don't include any studio outtakes, which means that the only two available outtakes in good sound quality can also be found on this The Early Years set. Everything's clear and remastered on this set, and the booklet (including interviews about and photographs of the early years of the band) is absolutely decent, too. In-detail track-by-track liner notes would have been really interesting, but you rarely get such information in a CD booklet - except for the awesome Byrds remasters.

Get this set when you're interested in British folk rock - this might be some of the most authentic recordings from that genre.

Einsetumadur | 4/5 |

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