Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Steeleye Span

Prog Related

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Steeleye Span All Around My Hat album cover
3.15 | 42 ratings | 7 reviews | 7% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Black Jack Davey (4:16)
2. Hard Times Of Old England (5:13)
3. Cadgwith Anthem (2:46)
4. All Around My Hat... (4:08)
5. Gamble Gold (Robin Hood) (3:41)
6. The Wife Of Usher's Well (4:33)
7. Sum Waves [instrumental] (4:03)
8. Dance With Me (3:54)
9. Bachelor's Hall (5:45)

Total time 38:19

Line-up / Musicians

- Maddy Prior / vocals
- Tim Hart / vocals, guitar
- Bob Johnson / vocals, guitar
- Peter Knight / violin, mandolin, vocals
- Rick Kemp / bass, vocals
- Nigel Pegrum / drums

Releases information

Artwork: John O'Connor

LP Chrysalis ‎- CHR 1091 (1975, UK)

CD Shanachie ‎- SH 79059 (1989, US)
CD BGO Records ‎- BGOCD158 (1992, UK)

Thanks to zafreth for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy STEELEYE SPAN All Around My Hat Music

STEELEYE SPAN All Around My Hat ratings distribution

(42 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(7%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (45%)
Collectors/fans only (12%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

STEELEYE SPAN All Around My Hat reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars By the time of this eighth album, SS is a far cry from the superb super folk group that had recorded the great Hark debut album, a very different outfit that had separated after the poor Commoner Crown (in spite of good sales) only to regroup again later that year and produce All Around My Hat, which would eventually (and surprisingly?) become their best selling album; this in a period where folk was definitely expanding into rock realm (Jethro Tull's Song From the Wood or Gryphon or GG's exploration of pre-classical musics) well past the folk-rock realm of the previous decade (from 65 until 75). With such an atrocious artwork though, one can wonder how this album met so much commercial success, as there is no evident single or hit to carry it. Compared to their listless CC forerunner, AAMH is a much rockier album, seemingly taking from where Now We Are Six and Parcel Of Rogues had left off and CC had ignored. And sure enough, the opening Black Jack Davy bears a strong Tull-influence, most notably on the guitar riff and in the typical string arrangements. And it won't be the only track throughout the album, that we'll be able to apply the same remark: indeed Wife Of Usher Well and the closing Batchelors Hall. Even the instrumental Sum Waves has some Tull flavour on the strong guitar alone. There are also woodwinds spread throughout the album, mostly flutes and oboes, but they don't have a determining influence on the music.

Not everything is Tull-inspired though, as Dance With Me or Hard Times bear a Fairport feel (with Maddy pulling a credible Sandy in the former) that of course made them a constant comparison with Convention. Pure folk is still present with the almost a capella Cadgwith Anthem, its almost country-esque follow-up title track and the fun hedgehopping Gamble Good.

For me, AAMH is not really an interesting album for progheads and - even though it's clearly their rockiest album so far (ever?) - rockers alike, but it will please many, but certainly not folk purists, whom will pull their hair out of despair. Although a vast improvement on CC, AAMH is seen as their last classic album with the following Rocket Cottage (that I've never seen or heard) and I suggest most everyone to stop their SS explorations at these two.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars Steeleye Span hit commercial paydirt with "All Around my Hat". which was produced by Mike Batt. He managed to nurture the natural dancability of the group's sound with the right rock beat, while also allowing for pleasing variation in the material. One can see why it succeeded on that basis alone, but when you add that the subject matter tends to the more palatable, it's a no-brainer.

"Black Jack Davey" is an oft interpreted traditional song, and was my first exposure to Steeleye Span. Its fine melody and decisive phrasing of the title are appealing, as is the theme of a woman foregoing all the creature comforts to run off with her roguish paramour. "Hard Times of Olde England" and the title cut, the latter a huge British hit, have many similarities, especially in the rollicking underlying rhythm. It's one case where I really don't mind a formula being repeated. The sentimental "Wife of Usher's Well" is highlighted by an engaging story and soaring vocal harmonies, and "Gamble Gold/Robin Hood" really demonstrates Batt's production prowess to good effect. The closer "Batchelor's Hall" extols the wisdom of remaining single, and, while it is this album's version of a novelty song, it also speaks to the group's love of other styles such as swing, and integrates it with their more conventional approaches far better than, say, their old rock'n roll adaptations.

While "All Around my Hat" may not quite measure up to the group's best work, it is certainly an album that could be a starting point to not only the group's discography, but the overtly Englishe version of folk rock. I should know, since it was my first Steeleye Span purchase, as a teenager first tipping my baseball cap to the whole genre.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars After two very good Folk rock (as opposed to mere Folk) albums in Now We Are Six and Commoner's Crown, which also were the two best and most progressive Steeleye Span albums (that I've heard anyway), the band moved into the pop realm with this album.

The hit single, and title track All Around My Hat is quite awful compared with anything from the previous two albums. The songs here are overall simpler, shorter and definitely less progressive and less adventurous. This is also less rock than previous albums and more towards Folk pop, I would say.

The inevitable conclusion is that neither the Folk purist nor the prog fan will be pleased with this album.

Only for fans and collectors this one.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars It's OK to enjoy it, really!

Steeleye Span's eighth album, "All around my hat" was their second of 1975, and their most successful release to date. That success can be attributed in great measure to the title track, which was released as a single in the UK, peaking at number 5. This would be the only time in their entire career (to date) the band would release a top 10 single.

Such success can be a double edged sword, and in this case it led to traditionalists accusing the band of selling out. Such accusations are however rather misguided, since the album as a whole contains some familiar Steeleye Span material. Once again the line up is unchanged, and the selections are almost exclusively based on traditional folk songs.

The opening "Black Jack Davey (or "Davy")" for instance would have felt right at home on the fine "Now we are six" album. The song is based on a Frances James Child (collected) ballad alternatively known as "The gypsy laddie". The song contrasts soft verses with an excellent upbeat chorus, the version here featuring a fine instrumental arrangement. The following "Hard Times of Old England" is equally strong in the melody department, Maddy Prior harmonising superbly with the rest of the band. Prior's style of delivery here is slightly different, with an almost country twang to it. The song also contains a good instrumental break led by guitar.

"Cagwith anthem" is a joyful example of folk sung in a-cappella fashion, the brass accompaniment (apparently uncredited) making for a pleasing closing section. The instrumental "Sum waves" offers something of a departure from the usual jig track. Here, the violin playing is much looser, perhaps even distorted, the result being an interesting variant from the band norm. The male vocals on "The Wife of Usher's Well" actually sound like they were sung by producer Mike Batt. The song is based on another Child ballad, the arrangement once again being immensely satisfying. "Gamble gold" tells a good old tale of Robin Hood meeting a peddler who turns out to be a relative of his. The traditional title of the song is actually "The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood".

So now we come to the much derided title track. The main thing "All around my hat" suffers from is over familiarity. OK, so it is hardly the most challenging of songs, folk or not, but here we have Steeleye Span's "Owner of a lonely heart" or "I know what I like". This is a highly accessible but nonetheless well recorded song which is far from deserving of the snooty dismissal it seems to attract. Honest, it is OK to enjoy the song, the prog police will not come knocking at your door to destroy your collection. By the way, the 12 months and a day reference relates to the traditional period for mourning.

On "Dance With Me", Maddy sound like she has been inhaling helium, singing right at the top of her range. The song is a lighter, if rather nondescript affair. The album closes with "Bachelors Hall", a sedate song with a drunken sing-along chorus.

Much of the credit for the punchy rhythms which prevail can be placed with producer Mike Batt who, despite his association with The Wombles, has a fine pedigree when it comes to production. Because of the link with Batt and the enormous success of the title track, it is all too easy to view this album superficially and dismiss the contents en-masse. To do so though is to deprive oneself of a fine Steeleye Span album, well up to the standards set by its recent predecessors.

Incidentally, the decidedly unappealing sleeve is similar to that of Rick Wakeman's "No earthly connection" in that with the right equipment the corrected image can be viewed. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time!

Review by Einsetumadur
3 stars 9.5/15P. After the symphonic folk grandeur of the previous two albums Steeleye Span abstract the through-and-through folk material even more, at least on about one half of the tunes. But this time it frequently sounds quite much like children's music. If you want to inure your small children to folk rock, however, go for it!

After the pretty atmospheric art rock/folk rock melange of the previous two albums with full-time drummer Nigel Pegrum, Steeleye Span decided to intensify their approach of implanting folk melodies into self-penned (art) pop songs even more. The critics weren't as deeply impressed as in the case of, for example, Please To See The King, but I do think that there's still a good bunch of fine songs on this album, some of them even able to compete against the immaculate side A of Commoner's Crown. Notwithstanding, some of the through-and-through pop numbers tend to become a bit boring after a while, even though even some of these songs include some little specialities - in their lyrics, in their rhythm or in their arrangement - which keep me from skipping them.

The fairytale-like song Dance With Me, which - without Maddy Prior's vocals - wouldn't be out of place on Caravan's Cunning Stunts, begins in a really sublime way with a classically inspired variation of the chorus harmonies, played by two electric guitars; like quite a lot of bands in 1975 Steeleye Span had also discovered the Uni-Vibe chorus/vibrato device and use it to quite a good effect on this album. But then Nigel Pegrum jumps into a pretty stupid shuffle rhythm, and for the rest of the piece the estrangement of this song from its folk roots happens to be a few tads too acute for me. Neither the more or less featureless fiddle solo nor the uninspired backing vocals really grade the whole thing up considerably. Nonetheless I must admit that this ultra-jolly song has a sort of morbid humor to it because of its pretty awkward story. The girl who wants a knight to dance with her is, in fact, an elf princess who - in a carrot-and-stickish manner - pampers the knight before announcing she will curse him to death. This song originally stems from Denmark, and - indeed - this is the country which a really popular German ballad comes from: Der Erlkoenig ('The Elfin King') by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In Goethe's ballad a feverish boy is taken home on horseback by his father, and meanwhile he hallucinates about an elfin king who frightens the child with announcements of both caress and death; in the end, the child dies - contrary to the knight in Dance With Me whose fate remains dubious. So at least, the irony of this ridiculously huge contrast between music and lyrics keeps me interested - as well as the lyrics which are, without doubt, more profound than most of the songs which sound similar.

Hard Times Of Old England really makes me wonder how the band made such an arrangement of a song which, for instance, the all-acoustic Etchingham Steam Band (around Ashley Hutchings and Shirley Collins) in a diametrically different way one year earlier. Again there's the straightforward shuffle rhythm, but this time there's no weird story which could re-define the meaning of the recording. All in all this 5-minutes-plus track is just too long, and apart from a brief pseudo guitar solo the band just tries hard to get all the stanzas together (and, again and again, the chorus). And the brief guitar solo lacks the blazing lead playing of, for instance, Richard Thompson. Steeleye Span had great guitarists (Bob Johnson on Seven Hundred Elves was pretty cool and avant-garde), but none who could play well on top of a rock'n'roll groove; this solo is actually some slight deviation from the rhythm guitar track. I skip this track.

Gamble Gold continues this children's music attitude - most authentically with Nigel Pegrum providing the hook of the song, a really simple melody, on three recorders in an accurate music school fashion. Overall this is pretty dull and cliche-laden, and representative of the way how I don't like folk to be - too much pop and too few inspiration. I even liked the tongue-in-cheek St.Eleye choir stuff from Now We Are Six much more since it had some jolly humor and some kind of atmosphere. This is basically pop - in spite of some nice academic little twists, such as the 3/8-chorus interspersed in the 4/4 song.

All Around My Hat, another rock'n'roll shuffle thing, is on a different level; it's a pretty crude combination of two different folk songs, one of them apparently also used by the Irish as some kind of a protest song in the British-Irish civil war. You actually don't notice that these are two different songs stuck together, and you don't notice any political connotations either - neither one was conceived as a political song, anyway. Although it's got the very same rhythm as Hard Times Of Old England, the catchy and 100% positive chorus give it a charm which is hard to resist. Maddy Prior's lead vocals in the verses, on top of the tight shuffle, are filled with Prior's trademark vocal glissandos and some snotty accentuation which I always liked a lot. There are simply not too many folk singers who deliberately 'jump off' the basic vocal melody, just in order to slide to the correct note from, let's say, four half-tones below. And, to lighten things up even more, Nigel Pegrum can be heard playing some recorder counterpoints very low in the mix - and of course one shouldn't forget the clever mandolin/fiddle-unisono adaptation of sort of a Scottish jig coming in at about two thirds of the song. That's art pop of a different type - inspired music providing fun for both the analytic and the more immediate listeners.

Sum Waves is, apart from some low notes which are seemingly vocal drones, an instrumental piece of Scottish origin, given a faintly bluesy treatment. Maddy Prior states in the liner notes that the band intended to abandon a clear melody in favor of atmosphere and drone. Especially via headphones this approach sounds quite interesting indeed, although there are many folk songs - including Steeleye Span recordings (Saucy Sailor, for instance) - which get into those Scottish/hypnotic/ambience realms even more. The multi-tracked violins and the deep vocal drones, however, are impressing, and the sedate bluesy rhythm is something you don't find too often in this context.

But Steeleye Span were able to force the whole matter further up with a set of four songs which I like even more than the previously mentioned songs. The Wife Of Ushers Well, a relic from the Now We Are Six sessions, for instance, is an amazingly good piece of folk rock. Dense riffs, mighty harmony vocals and enough little rhythmic twists overall, most probably brought in by drummer Nigel Pegrum, to keep the listener entertained. Tim Hart, along with Maddy Prior the only original folk musician in the band, takes the lead vocals in the quiet narrative stanzas - surrounded by Nigel Pegrum's multi-instrumental work on flute and oboe which really proves that the collaboration of the two proficient arrangers Peter Knight and Nigel Pegrum was a real fruitful one. The anthemic chorus, sung by Prior, Knight, Hart, Kemp and Johnson to Pegrum's quick hi-hat 16ths, brings the music back to its British roots and make this track the only genuine 5-star moment on this album. Interestingly, parts of the chorus share melodies with a beautiful song Maddy Prior and Tim Hart already performed in 1968 as a duo, The Gardener, which in turn also appears under the name Proud Maisrie. The complete duo work by Hart & Prior has been collected on an inexpensive 2CD set called Heyday - essential listening for friends of British folk!

Black Jack Davy and Cadgwith Anthem, however, come pretty close. Black Jack Davy, a song with both a history in America and Great Britain, ties in well with the sound of the previous Commoner's Crown album, but adds a string arrangement by Mike Batt, who also produced the album. I'm not a definite fan of Mike Batt's AOR solo material, but songs like The Ride to Agadir and Winds of Change feature the handwriting of a songwriter and arranger with an independent style, a distinct voice and an ability to record songs which are bombastic, but rarely embarrasing. His string arrangements are pretty similar: they do have a certain Victorian pomp, but I never really cared if they are (or aren't) inappropiate to this kind of music. They blend in fine and add to the atmosphere - and, most importantly they get along extremely well with Pete Knight's classically influenced fiddle playing and Nigel Pegrum's oboe counterpoints. Maddy Priors sings lead in the verses, and the male choir of Hart, Johnson, Kemp and Knight takes the pre-chorus and chorus. Especially the pre-chorus is really powerful, and - comparing this recording with other renderings of the song - Steeleye Span have added quite a lot of original ideas to a song. Re-arranging a folk song in a convincing way, contrary to what some critics say, definitely does require a songwriting skill, even if one mostly works with songs which already exist. And it needs a certain 'historical' commitment, as well, which makes working in this genre a really different, but interesting task.

The Cadgwith Anthem brought me - who originally comes from Bavaria (Germany) - memories of the kind of the authentic Bavarian traditional music. Sadly, this area of Germany is widely (and incorrectly) known as the mere capital of beer, pretzels and a particularly slimy deviation of folk music, including yodeling on plastic europop rhythms. Both the Cadgwith Anthem, which deals with a small town in Cornwall, and many Bavarian folk songs share the close connection of music to human settlements, elaborate harmony vocals and the tender homophonous brass pads (trombone/horn/trumpet). All in all, the relation between the Bavarian music and the music of the Scottish Highlands people would be even bigger, but this comes pretty close. (If you get that special emotional connection to this kind of music as well, and if you're interested in music of different ethnic cultures, I can highly recommend you check out the album Tiroler Kirchtagmusig by the Inntaler Saenger, which is basically authentic Alpine folk music.)

For the lengthy album closer Batchelors Hall Tim Hart uses his electric dulcimer again, enveloping the listener in the gentle drone of this fine instrument. The song might remind you of American country music - and if it does, it doesn't without reason: it's in fact a rare Steeleye Span arrangement of an American folk song. Bassist Rick Kemp, previously destined to be the successor of Gordon Haskell in King Crimson in 1971, sings the lead vocals here and gives the song a tight, gritty mood. Furthermore I'd like to mention the beautiful fiddle solos by Pete Knight which have that special broken-hearted feel of the real good American country fiddlers, such as Byron Berline. Sadly, the first chorus - again with the huge string arrangements in the background - gets a bit too sweet to fit in with the biting lament of the verse. The second one works out fine because the band gradually build up more layers of sound after the first chorus; hence, the change to the second chorus is more fluid.

Taken together it's hard to decline that this album ain't flawed. But in its best moments it still shows a band with a distinct vision and sound, and a healthy balance of pop professionalism (mostly in the arrangements) and atmosphere. Even though all the preceding Steeleye Span albums are more captivating than this one, I can thoroughly recommend this to folk rock lovers - especially in the context of the affordable A Parcel of Steeleye Span compilation which includes the complete five Steeleye Span albums between 1972 and 1975, plus four bonus tracks.

Review by Warthur
3 stars All Around My Hat marks the point when Steeleye Span's increasing injection of rock music ideas into their electric folk (a process begun on Now We Are Six and which would hit its maximum on Rocket Cottage) briefly happened to coincide with popular tastes, resulting in an unexpected commercial hit (largely in the form of the single release of the title track). It remains a pleasant enough piece - though with some absolutely hideous cover art - though I would not quite put it on the level of the Commoners' Crown album that preceded it (we have nothing penetrating into the dark folk horror heart of traditional English music the way Long Lankin does) or Rocket Cottage which followed it (the rock influences here are rather tame and have dated a little poorly).

Latest members reviews

4 stars "All around my hat" was released on the peak of Steeleye Span's career when SS was a big name around the world. They had lost some of their genuineness but they were still a great band. No they had drums(since Now we are six) in Nigel Pegrum, voice, guitar, tabor in Tim Hart, vocals in Maddy Prior, ... (read more)

Report this review (#889213) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Monday, January 7, 2013 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of STEELEYE SPAN "All Around My Hat"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.