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Steeleye Span - Portfolio CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Skimming the years

At the time of its release in 1988, it was probably assumed that "Portfolio" covered the entire extent of Steeleye Span's life-span. Founder Tim Hart had left some years earlier, and although the band had gone on to record "Back in line", it looked as if their time as an active project would come to a conclusion sooner rather than later. History shows that this was not to be the case, and the name Steeleye Span carries on as an active unit even today.

This collection gives us a very superficial overview of all the band's albums (with the strange exception of "Ten man mop") from "Hark, the village wait" right through to the above mentioned 1986 album "Back in line". The LP version, which ran to two discs, has four more tracks but the same albums contribute tracks to each.

I cannot say that had I been compiling the album, I would have chosen the same tracks by any means, but when most albums submit only one or two tracks, that is perhaps to be expected. Nevertheless, the omission of landmark songs such as "King Henry", "Drink down the moon", "Seven hundred elves" etc. does suggest to me at least that there is an element of randomness to the selections.

The band's best know singles, "All around my hat", Gaudete" and "Fighting for strangers" are all present, but only the last of these might be considered worthy by fans of the band. The version of "Thomas the rhymer" is the inferior abbreviated one found on later prints of "Now we are six". On the other hand, it is good to see the 8 minute "The Victory" being squeezed in, in full.

Of the tracks on the LP but not the CD, the operatic "The black freighter" from "Storm force ten" is ambitious but disposable, but "Long Lankin" could have justified its place on the CD with ease.

From a personal point of view, it is good to hear the three tracks from "Back in line", as I have yet to get hold of that album. Of these, "Edward" is the most striking, although it does confirm that the band are intent on continuing in the direction started on "Sails of silver". "White man" is even less like the folk band we know and love, the mood here being distinctly that of world music.

In all, this collection does its best to summarise 16 years and a dozen albums, but the challenge really is too great to expect anything other than the merest glimpse of the band. Anyone dipping a toe in the water with this collection will probably wonder what all the fuss is about. While it offers a small indication of the type of music Steeleye Span were experts at, it is probably more misleading that it is worthwhile.

Report this review (#207827)
Posted Friday, March 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is my basic introduction to Steeleye Span. I am certainly no expert on this band and don't own any other of their releases, but I thought this would be a good intoduction to their music. This collection is a recap of about 20 years of their work in 20 songs- not an easy thing to do for any band. I enjoy about 3/4 of this (mostly the first part) and those songs which are more clearly in the folk tradition rather than pop. Some highlights for me are "Dark-Eyed Sailor", "Gaudete", "The Victory", "Sligo Maid" and "White Man". I'm sure this collection falls short of encapsulating the career but I think, for myself anyway, it is a good introduction to a band with a very long career. 3 stars
Report this review (#282413)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars (Recognize the style of the cover art? If you know Talk Talk albums, you can't mistake the James Marsh painting.)

This compilation of Steeleye Span was the third I have listened to (among few studio albums), and clearly the best of them. Easy Livin in his 2-star review talks about misleading randomness, but I have no such feeling. There may be some omitted landmark songs, but (being no expert of this band at all) I think this serves very well as an introduction to the 16-year timespan it covers, whether you're completely new to the band or have heard several albums. Of course a single disc can't do that very deeply, satisfying also connoisseurs, but hardly it has to. The most important thing is that it's packed with good music. (Since they are put under Prog Related here, a quick word on them: they were among the most succesful folk-rock bands during the seventies, rivalled by Fairport Convention. They performed mostly "Trad." material using mainly electric instruments - with professionalism and skill that was not for granted among folkies, and their key vocalist is the lovely Maddy Prior. BTW, the first place I heard her was in Mike Oldfield's Incantations.)

With 16 tracks - 20 on the original 2-LP - this CD represents some of the best music of their halcyon days of the seventies and briefly shows their evolution up to the 1986 album Back in Line. Also positive is that the short and basic liner notes give information on the album sources and the major changes in line-up in a user-friendly way. Thumbs up for this one!

Report this review (#550536)
Posted Saturday, October 15, 2011 | Review Permalink

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