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STEELEYE SPAN

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Steeleye Span biography
"Steeleye Span is like a bus. It goes along and people get on and off it. Sometimes the bus goes along the route you want to go, and sometimes it turns off, so you get off." -- Maddy Prior

As one of the two most important bands to blend traditional British folk musics and rock - the other being the legendary Fairport Convention - STEELEYE SPAN represented both the revival of this music in Britain and its ventures into contemporary times. Completely authentic but with a modern spark their peers never quite matched, the ensemble's development was one of the most evolving in popular music.

By 1969, an electrically charged Folk scene had fully emerged in England. That year after a road accident in which their drummer was killed, singer Sandy DENNY and FAIRPORT CONVENTION recorded 'Liege and Lief', a project led by bassist Ashley HUTCHINGS and Richard THOMPSON's startling electric guitar. The album would influence an entire movement though the group was divided about this direction and split, FC proceeding without HUTCHINGS or DENNY. Ashley HUTCHINGS carried on and after a good first rehearsal with established Folk duo Maddy PRIOR & Tim HART and husband and wife team Terry & Gay WOODS, a first incarnation recorded STEELEYE SPAN's [the group's name is taken from a character in Lincolnshire ballad 'Horkstow Grange'] debut in 1970, 'Hark! The Village Wait'. Comprised of trad. Folk with the added dimension of HUTCHINGS's bass and guest drummers Gerry CONWAY and Dave MATTACKS, the album is also noted for the dual female vocals of PRIOR and WOODS. Terry and Gay WOODS were replaced that year by veteran guitarist/singer Martin CARTHY and violinist Peter KNIGHT. This line-up recorded 'Please to See the King' (1971) and 'Ten Man Mop, or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again' (1972), LPs unique in their use of hard rock colors.

By late 1972, CARTHY and founder HUTCHINGS left to pursue more purist Folk avenues. Guitarist Bob JOHNSON and bassist Rick KEMP were brought in and provided an expanded hard-blues sound to Steeleye, and the group secured a new contract with Chrysalis which released their fourth, 'Below the Salt' in late '72. Further cultivating electric blues but always showcasing traditional Celtic and folk, some numbers dating back over a hundred years, 1973's 'Parcel of Rogues' was released and later that year the band drafted rock drummer Nigel PEGRUM [GNIDROLOG,URIAH HEEP,SMALL FACES]. Having supported fellow Chrysalis act JETHR...
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STEELEYE SPAN discography


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STEELEYE SPAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.86 | 54 ratings
Hark! The Village Wait
1970
3.33 | 36 ratings
Please To See The King
1971
3.11 | 35 ratings
Ten Man Mop, or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again
1971
3.72 | 48 ratings
Below The Salt
1972
3.59 | 40 ratings
Parcel Of Rogues
1973
3.53 | 44 ratings
Now We Are Six
1974
3.29 | 37 ratings
Commoners Crown
1975
3.14 | 35 ratings
All Around My Hat
1975
3.64 | 30 ratings
Rocket Cottage
1976
3.47 | 23 ratings
Storm Force Ten
1977
2.18 | 13 ratings
Sails Of Silver
1980
2.39 | 9 ratings
Back in Line
1986
3.47 | 13 ratings
Tempted And Tried
1989
3.82 | 13 ratings
Time
1996
2.96 | 7 ratings
Horkstow Grange
1999
3.49 | 9 ratings
Bedlam Born
2000
5.00 | 1 ratings
Present (The Very Best Of Steeleye Span)
2002
3.53 | 11 ratings
They Called Her Babylon
2004
3.04 | 7 ratings
Winter
2004
3.14 | 10 ratings
Bloody Men
2006
3.06 | 9 ratings
Cogs, Wheels And Lovers
2009
3.26 | 9 ratings
Wintersmith
2013
4.20 | 5 ratings
Dodgy Bastards
2016
3.85 | 4 ratings
Est'd 1969
2019

STEELEYE SPAN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.70 | 13 ratings
Live at Last
1978
4.33 | 3 ratings
Tonight's The Night, Live!
1992
5.00 | 2 ratings
Concert
1995
4.67 | 3 ratings
The Journey
2001
5.00 | 1 ratings
Steeleye Span (Featuring Maddy Prior)
2002
5.00 | 1 ratings
Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert
2006
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live at a Distance
2009
5.00 | 2 ratings
Now We Are Six Again
2012
5.00 | 1 ratings
50th Anniversary Tour
2019
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live at De Montfort Hall Leicester, 1977
2019

STEELEYE SPAN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.00 | 2 ratings
Classic Rock Legends
2001
5.00 | 1 ratings
The 35th Anniversary World Tour 2004
2005
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Wintersmith Tour featuring Terry Pratchett
2014

STEELEYE SPAN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 4 ratings
Steeleye Span
1980
2.61 | 4 ratings
Portfolio
1988
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Collection
1991
2.17 | 4 ratings
Spanning the Years
1995
3.05 | 3 ratings
A stack of Steeleye Span
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
First Steps
2001
4.04 | 4 ratings
The Lark In The Morning - The Early Years
2003
3.14 | 3 ratings
A Parcel of Steeleye Span - Their First Five Chrysalis Albums 1972-1975
2009

STEELEYE SPAN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.03 | 4 ratings
Gaudete
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Thomas the Rhymer
1974
0.00 | 0 ratings
All Around My Hat / Black Jack Davy
1975
3.00 | 3 ratings
Fighting for Strangers
1976
0.00 | 0 ratings
Sails of Silver
1980

STEELEYE SPAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Back in Line by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1986
2.39 | 9 ratings

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Back in Line
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars While "Back in Line" seems overly optimistic for what is actually going on here, I suppose that, relative to the monumental misstep of "Sails of Silver", a bounce back was inevitable. It's just a shame that the only orb available was an underinflated balloon.

Once again the band is determined to write and perform its own material and, once again, it will never be mistaken for anything by Trad Arr, but at least here the emphasis is on the darker more brooding mood for which the group is better known rather than upbeat middle of the road rockers. "Edward" establishes this shift at the outset, and "Take my Heart" and "White Man" are even better, with Peter Knight the fresh choice for lead vocalist on the latter. He also contributes fiddle solos here and there that raise the bar on some ordinary numbers like "Isabel" and "Cannon by Telemann".

A dreary mood is all well and good I suppose, but it becomes oppressive on the otherwise promising "Lanercost" and "Scarecrow", with its 1980s oriented robotic percussion. A few of the other tracks are all too reminiscent of the prior effort, particularly "Lady Diamond" and "Peace on the Border". A sad truth is that the live version of the oft covered historical tune "Blackleg Miner" makes even the high points here seem dispirited by comparison.

For Steeleye to actually fall back in line would have to wait until the excellent "Tempted and Tried" 3 years later, but here at least the group has inserted itself a ways back in the queue. Just under 2.5 stars.

 Sails Of Silver by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.18 | 13 ratings

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Sails Of Silver
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars The ever morphing British folk rock institution that STEELEYE SPAN had become over the course of the 1970s had supposedly disbanded days after their farewell concert documented by "Live at Last" in 1978. It was therefore a surprise to find the classic lineup resurface just 2 years later. Whether this was at the request or demand of Chrysalis records is unclear, but it doesn't seem like anyone who mattered was happy with the result. Producer Gus Dudgeon might have briefly revived the fortunes of LINDISFARNE a few years earlier and, while that effort was predictably slick, at least it bottled the sloppy sweetness that was at the core of their popularity.

"Sails of Silver" offers no such qualified success as it bleaches the group's roots and parades a parody of power balladry to a bewildered public. It's not all dismal, with the opening two numbers offering promise that they might be able to achieve the unthinkable but the premise is so ludicrous that it could not have withstood 40 minutes even if the quality hadn't subsequently careened off the tracks. Workaday rhythms, forgettable tunes, and a pervading suspicion that the band is trying to fool us make this a rather uncredible retooling. "Let Her Go Down" and "Harvest Home" seem authentic enough to effect a waterlogged rescue but they don't nearly make up for the generic indignities of "Barnet Fair", "Senior Service", "Where are they now", and "Longbone", any of which could have been a fair throwaway number on previous outings but here are like a gaggle of unsavory hall monitors you can't get past without a whiff of their stale cigarettes.

If you need any further evidence of the destructive nature of this debacle, it propelled long time member Tim Hart out of the industry for good. It is fortunate that the group kicked off a more than respectable revival later in the decade that persists to this day, for if "Sails of Silver" had been their final voyage they might still be lost.

 Storm Force Ten by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.47 | 23 ratings

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Storm Force Ten
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars Exit, for the moment, Bob Johnson and Peter Knight, and substitute returning earlier member Martin Carthy and newbie John Kirkpatrick. The net effect is twofold: Martin Carthy was present for 2 of Steeleye's least distinguished outings in the early 1970s and his stodginess is here manifest once again, unfortunately in the long song format that suggests Steeleye, while obviously aware of their waning popularity, and no idea why or how to recover.

Luckily Kirkpatrick plays accordion, which means that fiddle has seeded to squeezebox as ethnic instrument of note, albeit only for this release and the subsequent "Live at Last". That does help to invigorate the best material here. Even if "The Victory" is 40% "Demon Lover", 40% "All Around my Hat", and only 20% noteworthy and "Awake Awake" isn't convincing as ballad or rocker, reflecting the band's new found clunkiness, "The Black Freighter" suggests that SPAN can rock more than just trad arranged material and send JUDY COLLINS into the corner to cry herself to sleep, "Treadmill Song"'s accordion and guitar interplay hint what might have been given more time, which sadly was not afforded, as it were, and closer "Seventeen Come Sunday" is actually fun.

It's a shame the band did not include a studio version of the incredible "Montrose" epic at this time, though the live rendition that was issued the next year remains a career highlight, while this isn't. Now we are storm force six?

 Est'd 1969 by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.85 | 4 ratings

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Est'd 1969
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Heart of the Matter

4 stars What can I say? Folk is the name of the game, and really well played it is. Robust vocal harmonies, whimsical but expert changes in rhytmic accents and signature, very physical and never electronic textures on all registers and on the percussion in particular.

A refreshing new instalment by a classic band, not leaning so much on tradition, as on present inventiveness. Concerning precisely the creative forces involved here, the album benefits greatly (even when not only) from the outstanding guest musicians: Ian Anderson on flute, adding as much dynamics as you might desire to "Old Matron", and Sophie Yates on harpsichord, wrapping "The Boy and the Mantle" with cristaline texture.

 Live at Last by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Live, 1978
3.70 | 13 ratings

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Live at Last
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars There's an alternate timeline where this was, as originally intended, the final Steeleye Span album. Whilst the band have obviously gone on to produce much new material, this is the result of various reunions undertaken with various motives: when they put out this album, it really was their plan that this would be it.

Were that the case, this would be a fine way to go out. With Martin Carthy having returned to the fold on Storm Force Ten, the band spend this live album very much back in the electric folk territory they originated in, as opposed to the more folk-rock style they perfected in their middle period. Most of the material on the album wasn't recorded for a preceding studio album, and there's some real gems here - the crowning jewel of which is the epic Montrose, perhaps the most complex and ambitious epic the band ever attempted, and an original composition of theirs at that rather than a rendition of an old standard.

 Storm Force Ten by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.47 | 23 ratings

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Storm Force Ten
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Having reached explored as far into the "rock" side of the folk/rock borderlands as they ever would on Rocket Cottage, Storm Force Ten finds Steeleye Span charting a course back towards folk territory, with perhaps a snifter of sea shanties added into proceedings in keeping with album title and overall theme. Martin Carthy returned to the fold here, having hopped off the Span-wagon after Ten Man Pop, helping to give this a "back to basics" air, though it seems like Steeleye Span's voyages in rock territory have left them with some tricks up their sleeve - take, for instance, the somewhat progressively-inclined epic The Victory.
 All Around My Hat by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.14 | 35 ratings

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All Around My Hat
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

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).
 Rocket Cottage by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.64 | 30 ratings

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Rocket Cottage
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Steeleye Span rebounded from their glancing collision with popularity (heralded by the All Around My Hat single and accompanying album) with this piece, which took their folk-rock blend about as hard into the rock end of things as they'd ever manage to steer it. The closing The Drunkard is a bit alienating, the messing-about involved taking a bit too long before things settle in, and there's still enough roots in traditional folk songs (and a delightful a capella Bosnian Hornpipe rendition) to keep the folk fans happy, but this is really one for those who wished that Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull would meet in the middle somewhere.
 Commoners Crown by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.29 | 37 ratings

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Commoners Crown
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars When it comes to Steeleye Span's mid-1970s folk rock phase (as opposed to the more purist folk tendencies they exhibited at other parts of their career), some prefer this one to Now We Are Six, some give the crown to its predecessor. I'm in the latter camp, myself - the opening Little Sir Hugh feels like it could do with more work before it's really finished, whilst the closing New York Girls is just a goof-off number (compared to the To Know Him Is To Love Him cover on Now We Are Six, which was actually pretty decent in its own right).

Don't get me wrong, though: between those two bookends this is a very fine folk rock album indeed. That version of Long Lankin gives me chills every time.

 Now We Are Six by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.53 | 44 ratings

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Now We Are Six
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The expansion of Steeleye Span's lineup alluded to in the album title for this one finds their sound pivoting further from the more purist folk of the preceding Parcel of Rogues and firmly in the direction of progressively-inclined folk rock. The touch of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson at the production desk might have something to do with this, of course; the album represents Steeleye Span approaching from the folk side of the border the same sort of territory which Jethro Tull would often approach from the rock side, especially on Songs From the Wood. And Steeleye's occasional yen for a 1950s cover to add levity to proceedings this time around turns up a sneaky cameo from David Bowie, who lends saxophone work to an eerily ramshackle take on Phil Spector's To Know Him Is To Love Him. It's not quite typical of their output, but it's a very well-accomplished diversion.
Thanks to Atavachron for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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