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Steeleye Span Hark! The Village Wait album cover
3.74 | 55 ratings | 12 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Calling-On Song (1:12)
2. The Blacksmith (3:40)
3. Fisherman's Wife (3:14)
4. Blackleg Miner (2:47)
5. Dark-Eyed Sailor (5:58)
6. Copshawholme Fair (2:34)
7. All Things Are Quite Silent (2:39)
8. The Hills Of Greenmore (4:01)
9. My Johnny Was A Shoemaker (1:11)
10. Lowlands Of Holland (6:00)
11. Twa Corbies (2:06)
12. One Night As I Lay On My Bed (3:30)

Total time 38:52

Line-up / Musicians

- Maddy Prior / lead (2,3,6,7,8,12) & backing vocals, 5-string banjo (10), step dancing (6)
- Tim Hart / lead (4) & backing vocals, guitar (2,4,7,8), 5-string banjo (3), electric dulcimer (5,6,12), fiddle (10), harmonium (11)
- Terry Woods / guitar, mandola (2,3), 5-string banjo (4,12), concertina & mandolin (6), backing vocals
- Gay Woods / lead (3,5,9,10) & backing vocals, auto-harp (3), concertina (5), bodhrán & step dancing (6)
- Ashley Hutchings / bass

- Gerry Conway / drums (2,3,5,6,7,8)
- Dave Mattacks / drums (4,10,11,12)

Releases information

ArtWork: Ian Baxter with Brian Ward (photo)

LP RCA Victor - SF 8113 (1970, UK)

CD Mooncrest - CRESTCD 003 (1991, UK)

Thanks to zafreth for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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STEELEYE SPAN Hark! The Village Wait ratings distribution

(55 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

STEELEYE SPAN Hark! The Village Wait reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Wonderful first album by this legendary band. It was formed by ex Fairport convention bassist Ashley Hutchings who wanted to explore more of the british folk roots than Fairport Convention was willing. He was fortunate enough to gather such a band of great musicians and singers, releasing the first of a long string of critical acclaimed albums. It was a pity that Hark! The Village Wait was the sole Steeleye Span album to feature both the talents of female singers Maddy Prior and Gay Woods. The Woods couple would be leaving the group soon after the completition of the recordings for this LP.

The sound is quite traditional, of course, but it does include some drumming provided by Dave mattacks (Fairport Convention) and Gary Conway (future member of Fotheringay and The Pentangle). The music is a sophisticated, very well played, reading of traditional english and irish tunes. And from the beginning Steeleye Span (the name came from the ballad Horkstow Grange, about an argument between John Bowlin and Jon Span, nicknamed steeleye) was a special band. The chemistry between band members was amazing for such a new outfit. Progressive? Yes! For they did put those traditional, simple, songs into a whole new light, with modern instruments and giving them new, bold structures. They would evolve into something more rockier in the future, but from the get go they were too advanced for the time to be labeled as just another folk essemble.

Hark! The Village Wait (Wait was a medieval town band) is still my favorite CD from this groundbreaking folk band. I´m really glad that they are now on PA at last. If you want to hear some great traditonal folk music with elaborate and tasteful arrangements (with some progressive leanings here and there) and beautiful vocals, then this is a must have.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars When Hutchings left Fairport around the same time Denny did, it was to create a group that was to get back to the basics, back to the pure roots of folk, because he thought that FC had become bastardized musically and infected by both rock and other non-purist material. Let's face it, he was right, but then again we sort of liked this non-purest folk. So Hutchings set out to meet duo Hart/Prior and the Sweeney's Men Woods couple to form a super folk group that would record one album (this presently reviewed). The group's name came from a character in a fighting song Horkstone Grange (excuse my Linclonshire slang) . The Woods couple would quit without even playing a concert to join the Irish Dr. Strangely Strange and then form their own group The Woods Band. With a very provincial and pastoral artwork, SS' first album is certainly a folk rock landmark, but one must recognize there are very few things that would make this album a prog, least of all the songwriting as the songs are all reprise of traditional folk repertoire and the group only adapts them to their tastes. The drum stool is shared by the habitual duo: the irritating Dave Mattacks (check out his pedestrian boring style in Spirogyra) and the more passe-partout Gerry Conway.

After the almost a capella opening Calling-On Song, which shows that the group's stronger points would be the superb vocals especially singing in harmony. The next few tunes are definitely excellent folk, good adapted folk rock and somewhat electrified folk rock. Indeed some very excellent tunes like Blacksmith, Blackleg Miner, Fisherman's Wife, Quite Silent etc. Other songs (Greenmore, Dark-eyed Sailor, etc.) are relatively without much interest because already heard thousands of times before and SS is unable to give them a new life,.The group evens manages to unearth some real rare songs like the superb Copshawholme Fair and the fabulous Lowlands Of Holland. With this last track, an 6-mins gem that finally allows enough room for the musicians to expand and have a little interplay, SS seems headed straight for FC or Pentangle's territories of electrified folk rock, just what Hutchings wanted to avoid. Go Figure.

Overall I'd say that with this first album, SS comes as close as Malicorne and Ougenweide did for their own country's folk. A guardian, a restorer and a transmitter of faith and know-how. However highly I think of this album, you might be surprised at the very average (but good, not essential) rating I give, it is because I take a full star away because there isn't one single original song from the group or even a single member's composition.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars Steeleye Span's debut is in many ways the heir apparent to Fairport Convention's "Liege and Lief" released a year before. After that landmark recording, Ashley Hutchings left to form his own group that was to focus more on traditional music, contrasting with Fairport's more eclectic mindset. He formed Steeleye Span along with Maddy Prior, Tim Hart, and Gay and Terry Woods.

In spite of this lineage, "Hark the Village Wait" is a more tentative and timid affair than was "Liege and Lief", but also more consistent. The band does seem to be having a bit of trouble integrating the strong personalities, and the recording ends up being quite an anomaly in the vast Steeleye discography, being the only one of the first 3 to contain drums (albeit furnished by hired musicians) and the only one to include the Woods'.

The one aspect for which they are all on the same page is the desire to bring to life English, Scottish, and Irish traditional songs and dances, which they spell out clearly in "Calling Out Song". It is followed by their first rendition of "Blacksmith". The blacksmith, with his arsenal of masculine tools, symbolizes a sort of blue collar virility which attracts the protagonist. This type of sexual symbolism runs rampant in these traditional tunes, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, but the theme was to reappear frequently in Steeleye Span's interpretations. The band also selects the excellent "Blackleg Miner" and "Lowlands of Holland" and performs them admirably.

One bonus is that, for those who became fans of the Pogues nearly 20 years later, Terry Woods of said group exerts some influence that can be felt in bouncy tracks with strumming banjo and accordion arrangements like "The Hills of Greenmore". It's a shame that his departure signaled the end of these types of landlocked shanties. An additional plus is that we get the combined voices of Gay and Maddy here and there to brighten the musical palate, as in the lovely "All things are Quite Silent".

No one could have imagined the careers that would ultimately hang, at one time or another, on this unassuming work of young and idealistic musicians. Such is the weird and wonderful nature of the UK folk rock village.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The wait is over (before it began)

Following the release of the landmark prog folk Fairport Convention album "Liege and lief" in 1969, that band found themselves at something of a crossroads. The album had opened up several possible directions to them, but the members were split on which to follow. Co-founder Ashley "Tyger" Hutchings was seen as the traditionalist who sought to keep the band on the folk path they had been treading for a couple of years. He was outvoted though, and as a result chose to move on.

Hutchings teamed up with folk duo Maddy Prior and Tim Hart, and the trio brought in Terry and Gay Woods to complete their line up. As the band did not include a drummer as such, Gerry Conway and Dave Mattacks (both of whom are well known in the folk rock circuit) helped out. Uniquely for either Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span, this meant that the album featured two female vocalists. The band name Steeleye Span was chosen from the numerous options available within folk songs (reportedly as a result of a rigged ballot!), and the quintet set about recording this their debut album which was released in 1970. The title does not in fact mean "listen to the village awaiting something", but "listen to the small group of musicians who play in the village", such groups being referred to as "waits".

The songs here are mostly traditional numbers, interpreted and adapted by the band to adopt a more contemporary sound. A number of them have remained part of the band's repertoire through the years, and several have reappeared on subsequent Steeleye Span albums.

The album opens with a brief a cappella "Calling on song", with lyrics adapted by Hutchings which set the scene perfectly not just for the album but for the band over the years. "The blacksmith" features the fine voice of Maddy Prior, the acoustic arrangement being highly reminiscent of fellow folkies Pentangle. The melody is based on the hymn "To be a pilgrim". The first of the newer songs is a version of the fine Scottish songwriter Ewan MacColl's (father of Kirsty) "Fisherman's wife". The song tells a familiar tale of awaiting the return of the boat with Gay Wood stepping forward to take lead vocal for the first time. Her harmonies with Prior are highly effective, giving the song a slightly haunted feel.

"Blackleg miner" is thought to date from the late 19th or early 20th century, but its lyrics became equally relevant during the 1980's and the infamous miner's strike in the UK. Steeleye Span nailed their colours to the mast at that time through a high profile performance of the song shortly after the dispute ended. "Dark eyed sailor" could be a track extracted from "Liege and lief", the atmosphere being similar to that of "Crazy man Michael".

Further traditional songs such as " "Copshawholme Fair" and "All Things Are Quite Silent" serve to cement the introductions to what is undoubtedly a highly gifted group of musicians, and in particular to the distinctive vocal tones of Maddy Prior, with which we shall become far more familiar on subsequent albums. "The Hills Of Greenmore" features a less common lead vocal, I think by Tim Hart (but possibly by Terry Woods).

"My Johnny Was A Shoemaker" is a brief song with some fine unaccompanied multi-part female vocal harmonies. At 6 minutes "Lowlands of Holland" is the longest track on the album, the song once again having a Pentangle feel. It appeared on the first LP-length recording of Irish songs made in Ireland (called "The Lark in the Morning"), the version here being faithful to Paddy Tunney's interpretation on that release.

"Twa corbies" is a derivative of the traditional song "Three ravens", a harmonic number about two (or three) ravens discussing in rather gruesome terms what they should eat. The album closes with " One Night as I Lay on My Bed", a song about a lover visiting his sweetheart.

"Hark! The village wait" turned out to be a posthumous release, the tensions within the band turning ever more acrimonious, and leading to the departure of husband and wife Woods before it was even completed, let alone released. Note that the earliest versions of this album (on RCA) have a different sleeve illustration.

As with Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span's debut stands alone in their catalogue, both in terms of the one off line up and the music it contains. Admittedly, the differences with future albums are less obvious here, but as a whole the band adhere firmly to a traditional style of delivery. It is however a highly enjoyable affair which will appeal to those with a bent for prog folk.

Review by Einsetumadur
5 stars 14.25/15P. - The equally mindblowing counterpart to Fairport Convention's folk rock ideas of 1969-1971: less instrumental pyrotechnics and less original compositions than on 'Full House', but more Britishness and more obscure instruments which jangle and slide through the scenery. This album is most simple regarding time signatures and chord progressions, but as sophisticated as can be in terms of arrangement, melody and accentuation.

The years from 1969 to 1971 were doubtlessly the years in which the insertion of British folk to rock music was on its peak. Think Genesis' pastoral work Trespass, Supertramp's debut album, the music Fairport Convention were doing at that time, the foundation of the Albion Country Band and all that stuff. Steeleye Span, a grouping of already renowned folk musicians which too came into being in that time, plotted the sketches of an authentic British folk rock album in a shared house in the idyllic British county of Wiltshire in 1970. Ashley Hutchings, bassist and bandleader formerly of Fairport Convention, had been inspired by the inventively moody and minimalistic work of the Canadian band The Band and wanted to transfer this approach to the British lore. It wasn't a start geared to the media, but in hindsight the band Hutchings assembled around him must have raised great expectations amongst the followers of the British folk rock scene. The couple of Tim Hart and Maddy Prior had already recorded two albums of pretty traditional, but resonant renditions of some of lesser-known folk songs. With Gay Woods he had a silky alto voice to accompany Maddy Prior's crystal-clear mezzosoprano (listen to My Johnny Was A Shoemaker for a beautiful unaccompanied duo), and Gay's husband Terry came in as an able multi-instrumentalist who added lots of different string instruments to the album sound along with Tim Hart.

And sound is, to sum it up, what this album is in a way all about. Lots of instruments with a really complex frequency response occur (most strikingly the autoharp with all those resonating strings) and in their arrangements there are so many flourishes and details to explore that, if you ensure to listen to a good-sounding copy of this album with a decent pair of headphones, you will enjoy forty minutes recorded with a pure and powerful sound, dulled neither by a muddy production nor by big amounts of compressors, effects or other sonic glutamate which so many albums suffer from. And interestingly there's not a single acoustic guitar to be heard on this album. I'm pretty sure this is one of the reasons for the album's great plasticity.

The Scotch song Fisherman's Wife, for instance, features the swirling sound of the autoharp to a finger-picked banjo backing in the left channel and mandola in the right channel. But don't worry, the banjo doesn't give the music a country or bluegrass touch at all; this particular song, with its two-part vocals by Gay Woods and Maddy Prior, gives a perfect impression of a long-ago Scottish winter, depicting how a fisherman suffers big hardship to finance a family which actually doesn't exist due to his exceedingly time-consuming job. The barely understandable Scotch lyrics and the strangely accentuated worksong-like rhythm create a surreal atmosphere quite alike The Strawbs' song Witchwood. More 5-string banjo may be enjoyed in the Tim Hart sung Blackleg Miner, an upbeat driving song about strike-breaking miners and the union men's hostile attitude towards them. Hart's voice doesn't have a most common timbre, but after sitting through the three Hart&Prior duo albums I've ended up liking his fairly original voice more than just tolerating it. He's certainly one of the bright figures of British folk revival and sorely missed after his death in 2009. And it's him who, along with Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention, popularized the electric dulcimer as the British pendant to the slide guitar, a potent drone instrument with a woodier sound than a simple electric guitar. On Copshawholme Fair Tim Hart's seminal electric dulcimer playing is first placed in the foreground, along with Ashley Hutchings' bass playing which is located somewhere between Paul McCartney and James Jamerson. It's Hutchings who is the metronome of the band since actually he plays the guide track and ties the sound together, allowing the drums to play more freely. The bluesy All Things Are Quite Silent hobbles slowly on and on in a 3/4 measure and gets maximum effect out of two clean Telecasters which bend, slide and dance around the thumping bass line; one of them was seemingly fitted with the famous B-Bender device constructed by Gene Parsons and Clarence White. And indeed this song with those jangling guitars would fit quite well on a Byrds album, if it wasn't for Maddy Prior's voice.

Finally there are the two studio drummers who weren't full members of the band. Gerry Conway, later playing with Fotheringay, Jethro Tull and Cat Stevens, played 60% of the drum tracks and is a canny and careful drummer who has the right sense of hearing to play along the lyrical metre of the song. And in that case this also means playing against the common accentuation in rock music. But the remaining 40% of the drum duties were taken by Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks, a drummer who has played on hundreds of renowned albums (including the 801 studio album), and this guy drives and grooves like hell. He doesn't play like Paice or Bonham, at least not on this album, but rather like a young Phil Collins on Nursery Cryme: a swinging style comprising imaginative fills, played with the suitable power in the louder parts and with an impressionistic subtlety in the more comtemplative moments. Listen to Lowlands of Holland which is, in my opinion, the very best track to check if this album suits your taste. Lyrically, it's one of the two songs on this album which deal with young women lamenting the deaths of their sailor lovers missed in action. While the girl mourns her true love her social surroundings remind her that there are also other men in the village where she lives. She disobeys and rejects these pieces of advice, promising to rather reduce her hygiene and living standard completely than take another man. A simple story of cruel fate ruining a lover's life? Or a story of a young woman who strongly objects to the shallowness of her society, a society which regards a partnership as merely something functional, overlooking everything which one could call 'spiritual'? The raw break-out of emotions in the song - for a British girl it is pretty raw, indeed - rather supports the second interpretation. There's the menacing drone of the rhythm electric guitar, the 5-string-banjo which sounds like the relic of a time before electricity defined the human life, the hectic violin enmeshing the wavy lead guitar howl which breaks through before each stanza - and finally this restless drum track in which Mattacks pumps and drives without even thinking about calming down. Mindblowing! You might think that I'm a wee bit pathetic about this song, but I don't know many pieces which amaze me even after several years of listening to them more than once per week. Check it out even if you're only vaguely interested in folk-like music from the UK.

On the first sight it seems as if there were no keyboards played during the recording of this album. In a way, this is even true. All of the duties which Hammond organs, pianos, Mellotrons or similar instruments usually do are taken, in an orthodoxically British way, by reed instruments such as harmonium and concertina. The list of instruments, however, as published on the excellent Zierke web encyclopedia of folk music, is erroneous. There's harmonium both on tracks 2 and 11, and there's concertina on tracks 5, 6 and 8. And these instruments do contribute quite a lot to the overall atmosphere. Twa Corbies, although quite brief, is surely the most shocking piece on this record. While the harmonium on The Blacksmith, a rhythmically most complex ballad about an attractive adulterer, rather lays a langurous carpet underneath the busy guitar and mandola work, you get subtle Gryphon-like harmonium notes in Twa Corbies. And the lyrics? Tim Hart, Gay Woods and Maddy Prior, again in finest Scottish English, impersonate two ravens which discuss about how to decompose the corpse of a fallen knight most effectively. Great Britain doesn't have the reputation of a really dark humour for nothing! When listening to that piece I do not only feel reminded of The Young Tradition's frightening version of Lyke-Wake Dirge, but also of medieval church music owing to the way Tim Hart acts as a 'choir cantor' playing the lead melody on the harmonium. The concertina sounds less gothic overall. In Dark Eyed Sailor it, played by Gay Woods, provides the plaintive sea shanty feeling. It's actually the same topic as in Lowlands of Holland, but the narrating woman is deeply in grief and hence quieter. Furthermore, listen carefully to the inventive bass guitar playing and the shimmering electric dulcimer setting the tenderly moving ostinato of the tune. One of the songs which can captivate you completely if you're in the mood for such stuff. The playing in Copshawholme Fair, handled by Terry Woods this time, is audibly different and more confident. The concertina, albeit staying close to the vocal melody, often plays independently from the vocal melody, for example at 0:50 when Woods plays a damn fine 'upward' counterpoint to the (from the melodic point of view) jumping sung part. The last part of the song features the only dance on this album (no endless jigs & reels here!), including a recording of the two lady singers step-dancing. The Hills of Greenmore, an Irish song with pretty obscure lyrics about hare hunting, even owes his uplifting and upbeat sound to the concertina. It is a genuinely hymnal song with a beautiful melody, sung quite decently by Terry Woods with his listenable Irish accent, and one of the most interesting Gerry Conway drum rhythms on this record because he continuingly plays against the common 4/4 accentuation, getting a pretty jolting metre into this tune.

The last song on the album, and in my opinion an unrecognized jewel, is One Night As I Lay On My Bed, in which all of the great components of the early Steeleye Span sound are united: the rootsy banjo playing (which is really in the foreground), the twang of the electric dulcimer and some sublime Maddy Prior vocals, either solo, or double-tracked, or backed by Gay Woods, depending on the stanza. And most importantly, Dave Mattacks and Ashley Hutchings are a perfectly working rhythm unit who simultaneously do this exciting start-stop twist in each stanza, beginning each one with a really long fill, building up a straight rhythm for some bars and deconstructing it again in the end. In written language it might sound more off-key than it really is, but in any case the piece just never gets going, but rather turns around every time. I like it, anyway. And I also sense a slightly snotty attitude in Prior's vocals, which might fit with the storyline that a young man argues his girlfriend into letting him creep in her bed via the bedroom window, seeing to it that her parents won't notice him.

I often read that Steeleye Span - at least on this album - are regarded to be merely a class B band compared with Fairport Convention. To me, this distinction is neither reasonable nor correct. Steeleye Span weren't a band which tried to be Fairport Convention, but which rather attempted to do something different to what Fairport Convention were about to do then. Liege and Lief was a glimmering and radical reconsideration of folk music from a rock point of view. The musicians in the first Steeleye Span line-up were basically folk musicians, and started exploring rock music under the influence of Ashley Hutchings. This is the reason for the great difference in sound, and for the fact that Hark! The Village Wait and Fairport Convention's Full House differ quite a lot from each other. The point in which they are similar is the high level of sophistication and the moony genuinely British atmosphere, integrating large parts of a long musical tradition into a time of new technical and musical possibilities. This album succeeds in doing that without even a hint of embarrassing outdatedness or employing questionable pub shanties. It simply never fails to amaze me even after many years of listening. Thus, it fully deserves the full 5-star-rating and a recommendation sans restrictions.

Review by friso
4 stars Steeleye Span - Hark! The Village Wait (1970)

The debut of the British folkrock-band Steeleye Span is one of the groundworks of the genre, in line with Pentangle's 'Basket of Light' and Fairport Convention's 'Liege and Lief'. Around 1970 the folkrock movement would find the sound that would prove to be the least timebound with mild rock arrangements, traditional instruments, authentic female vocals and an total absence of modern electronic sounds, kitch production or popinfluences.

On the debut Steeleye Span has a relatively long list of twelve tracks of re-arranged tradional folk tracks. There some variety, with a cappela moments and a slightly progressive approach on 'The Blacksmith'. Furthermore one hears a lot of traditional instruments that give music an authentic feel, seemingly unhindered by the drums and bassguitar in the background. Maddy Prior has a great voice and gives the record some motherly warmth whilst remaining that magical charm that folk can facilitate. Gay Woods sings some soulfull leads on a few other tracks, which is good for the variety.

If you have never heard a good seventies folk-rock record (there are many younger people around here like me) and aren't to straight a proghead, you wouldn't do yourself too much harm in approaching the genre with this album or the beforementioned albums by other bands. Next to 'Hark! The Village Wait', one will find Steeleye Span would also deliver a real great album with 'Below the Salt', which I myself would prefer by an inch.

Great folkrock, great seventies vibe and sound, and beautifull replayvalue due to its charming effect on the livingroom. The big three and a halve it is.

Review by GruvanDahlman
5 stars I really, really love the british folk rock of the early 70's. Being a sucker for all things british I can't help but being totally under the spell of music such as this. It fills my body and soul with such energy and tranquility, sense of history and existence it is hard to describe in words.

"Hark!..." is probably one of my all time favorites, a constant member of my top5 when speaking folk. It is simply outstanding. The material, the vocals and the intrumentation is classic and truly magnificent. There is a questionable quality to the audio, sometimes, but in some weird way it oly adds to the value of the music. I think that the murkyness enhances the experience. Maybe that's just the case if you, like me, love the music behind the fuzzy veil.

There are beauty and there's grimness, tragedy and sorrow on here. My favorite tracks HAS to be "Dark-eyed sailor" and "The blacksmith". Actually, the latter I've heard in several renditions but none matches the crude brilliance of Steeleye Span's version.

For some Steeleye Span came to their fore on later albums but I beg to differ. This is their finest hour and what an hour it is. It is not so that later albums lacks in charm or quality. No, that is not what I mean. All I am saying is that this is inspiration through divine intervention. Apart from being partial to the British isles I am also partial to history and listening to "Hark!..." I get the sense of ability to transport myself through time and space, absorbing history and music in one stroke.

"Hark!..." has not left my Ipod for the last couple of years and brings the same smile to my face now, listening to it as I write, as the first time I heard it way back. Alongside Fairports "Liege & Lief", Barry Dransfield's first solo album, John Martyn's "Solid air" (for it's amazingly progressive rendition of the folk prog genre) and Pentangle's "Basket of light" this first album of Steeleye Span ranks as THE folk album one must have if you are at all interested in the genre.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Steeleye Span's debut album may not be a very authentic collection of quasi-medieval folk rock numbers, but damn if it isn't an enjoyable one. The translation of tradition material into an electric folk rock context is expertly judged, with none of the awkwardness which can occasionally come with such exercises, ably fulfilling Ashley Hutchings' goal of exploring traditional British folk to a greater extent than Fairport Convention were willing to do. Hutchings' apprenticeship in the Convention is put to good use here, with his assembled recruits all turning in excellent performances - the recruitment of Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, whose prior career as a duo had demonstrated their own knack for traditional folk material, is a particular coup and their vocals here are a particular treat.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is Steeleye Span's debut abum consisting of "rock" arrangements of 10 traditional songs including the much covered and renowned "The Blacksmith" (3:40), "Blackleg Miner" (2:45) The album is remarkable for multi-instrumentalist Tim HART's contributions of banjo, electric guitar, dulcimer, fiddle and harmonium with other traditional folk instruments (mandola, concertina, autoharp, acoustic guitars) over a foundation of drums, electric bass and gently picked electric guitar. Also notable are the presence of two female vocalists, Gay Woods and Maddy Prior--the former of whom would break off after this album to form a new band with her husband, Terry, called The Woods Band. The instances in which the two female leads sing together are quite magical. The pacing on the album is quite constant and slow, like a slow dance, and much of the music sounds familiar to Americans in a YOUNGBLOODS or CROSBY, STILLS & NASH way. This is an awesome album of electrified folk music.

1. "A Calling-On Song" (1:12) a cappella folk harmonies; folk perfection. (5/5)

2. "The Blacksmith" (3:40) rock instruments expand upon the usual arrangements of this traditional classic. Maddy Prior has THE classic folk voice. (8.5/10)

3. "Fisherman's Wife" (3:14) Gay Woods in the lead vocal of this rather dull, droning song. Even the musicianship is sloppy and lackluster. (7/10)

4. "Blackleg Miner" (2:47) Tim Hart and what sounds like Gay Woods in dual harmonized vocals for the opening while Tim takes sole possession of the lead thereafter. Nice steady banjo work from Terry Woods. (8.25/10)

5. "Dark-Eyed Sailor" (5:58) an electrified rock format, this song has my favorite blend of instrumental palette on the album, with some really nice vocal arrangements as well. (8.75/10)

6. "Copshawholme Fair" (2:34) the music on this one gives the song an awesome tension to augment the story being told by Maddy Prior. Also, there are "parts" to this song (with the brief instrumental outro). (9.25/10)

7. "All Things Are Quite Silent" (2:39) slow tempo, simple instrumental backing for a very special vocal (with great background harmonies in the chorus sections). A top three song for me. (10/10)

8. "The Hills Of Greenmore" (4:01) opens like a sea shanty with a male lead vocal (solo through the majority of the song). Classic folk tune very tightly performed. (9/10)

9. "My Johnny Was A Shoemaker" (1:11) another a cappella song with excitingly complex vocal arrangements. (5/5)

10. "Lowlands Of Holland" (6:00) with Terry Woods in the lead we get another flawless rendering of a traditional folk classic. Great instrumental support and fills. (9.5/10)

11. "Twa Corbies" (2:06) opens with full band a cappella vocal arrangement. Bass, harmonium and cymbal play join in during the second verse with electric guitar chord strums added thereafter. (9/10)

12. "One Night As I Lay On My Bed" (3:30) electric guitar and banjo with full support of laid back rhythm section play a syncopated kind of foundation while the ladies sing the lead in tandem. Great song. (9.5/10)

Total time 38:52

An album of very polished, very professional renderings of traditional folk classics performed by some of the all-around best folk musicians Britain ever put out.

4.5 stars; this classic of folk and Prog Folk music is a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music marred by the blemish of one lackluster song.

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1 stars This will be my last review on progarchives. So, Fairport is considered either prog-folk or prog-related. Ok, I can see that, since they were one of the first to develop a mixture of traditional folk songs with new instrumentation. But that doesn't mean every spin-off is also prog. No, Steeleye Spa ... (read more)

Report this review (#2439807) | Posted by Kelder | Friday, August 21, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "Hark! the Village Wait!" shaped many sounds of things to come for British folk rock. It's much more traditional than the band's later rockier stuff, but was still progressive because they twisted these old songs mainly by going electric and adding drums. There are great harmonies, melodies and i ... (read more)

Report this review (#627103) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Sunday, February 5, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars No record of my knowing ever invited me to listen to it's music till Steeleye Span's Calling-on song, and listening to this record is worth the time! Steeleye Span was born out of the duo of Maddy Prior and Tim Hart, who earlier on (in 1968) made a record called Folk Songs of Old England. Som ... (read more)

Report this review (#574788) | Posted by the philosopher | Friday, November 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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