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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)

3.85 | 51 ratings
Hark! The Village Wait
1970
3.31 | 33 ratings
Please To See The King
1971
3.10 | 33 ratings
Ten Map Mop Or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again
1971
3.71 | 45 ratings
Below The Salt
1972
3.58 | 37 ratings
Parcel Of Rogues
1973
3.52 | 40 ratings
Now We Are Six
1974
3.27 | 34 ratings
Commoners Crown
1975
3.13 | 33 ratings
All Around My Hat
1975
3.63 | 27 ratings
Rocket Cottage
1976
3.55 | 19 ratings
Storm Force Ten
1977
2.23 | 11 ratings
Sails Of Silver
1980
2.53 | 7 ratings
Back In Line
1986
3.49 | 11 ratings
Tempted And Tried
1989
3.84 | 11 ratings
Time
1996
3.00 | 5 ratings
Horkstow Grange
1999
3.51 | 7 ratings
Bedlam Born
2000
3.55 | 9 ratings
They Called Her Babylon
2004
3.04 | 5 ratings
Winter
2004
3.15 | 8 ratings
Bloody Men
2006
3.13 | 7 ratings
Cogs, Wheels And Lovers
2009
3.27 | 7 ratings
Wintersmith
2013
5.00 | 3 ratings
Dodgy Bastards
2016
4.00 | 2 ratings
Est'd 1969
2019

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

3.68 | 12 ratings
Live at Last
1978
4.00 | 2 ratings
Tonight's The Night, Live!
1992
5.00 | 1 ratings
Concert
1995
4.50 | 2 ratings
The Journey
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert
2006
5.00 | 1 ratings
Now We Are Six Again
2012

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

3.00 | 1 ratings
Classic Rock Legends
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
The 35th Anniversary World Tour 2004
2005

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
3.00 | 3 ratings
Fighting for Strangers
1976

STEELEYE SPAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Est'd 1969 by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.00 | 2 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
3.68 | 12 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
3.55 | 19 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
3.13 | 33 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
3.63 | 27 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
3.27 | 34 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
3.52 | 40 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.
 Ten Map Mop Or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.10 | 33 ratings

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Ten Map Mop Or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ten Man Mop finds Steeleye Span continuing their journey into sparse, stripped-down aesthetics and their application to classic folk. It's the continuation of a sound initiated on Please To See the King, and which I found more compelling there because it suited the sombre mood of its material. Here, there's a mixture of atmospheres called for, including some which are outright jolly (if a bit macabre at points), and as such the nigh-ghostly presence of the band isn't always as appropriate. I'd recommend trying out Please To See the King before giving this one an airing - and giving it a miss if you dislike that album. If you do like it and want more of the same, though, this is a perfect pick.
 Please To See The King by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.31 | 33 ratings

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Please To See The King
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Please To See the King finds Steeleye Span undertaking a stylistic shift from their first album best illustrated by The Blacksmith, a song also recorded on the debut. Part of the point of the folk revivalist groups of the 1970s wanted to make was how much potential the old standards had for reinterpretation, and Steeleye Span have gone in for that in a major way; rather than recording a song once and having done with it, they have no qualms about rerecording pieces of their repertoire if they think they can tease out something different from it.

Thus, whilst the version of The Blacksmith on Hark! The Village Wait has a jauntiness that belies the essential betrayal and heartbreak at the core of the song, the version here is stunningly stark and minimalist. This sets the tone for much of the rest of the album, which explored just how stripped-down and raw electric folk could get whilst exploring a broad range of subject matter. There's a darkness underlying things - even something jaunty-sounding like Boys of Bedlam or Female Drummer has a manic glint to the eye (as in the former case) or is singing about something being unfairly denied the narrator (in the latter case), whilst Lovely On the Water is absolutely haunting. If this doesn't justify the electric folk revival of the 1970s, nothing does.

 Storm Force Ten by STEELEYE SPAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.55 | 19 ratings

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Storm Force Ten
Steeleye Span Prog Related

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Steeleye Span's 10th album 'Storm Force Ten' was released in 1977. Two weeks later, the Sex Pistol's released the single 'Anarchy in the UK'. Steeleye Span had released 10 albums in 7 years, while Sex Pistols was just starting. Punk was becoming the music that would destroy progressive rock, or at least try to. At least, it shook it up for a while, if nothing else. However, the rise of the punk movement was one of the main reasons this album went unrecognized, and interestingly enough, it was one of Steeleye Spans most atypical records.

The band was in upheaval as Bob Johnson left with violinist Peter Knight and together, they worked on a concept album released under Johnson's name. Johnson and Knight would later return in 1980. Instead of replacing Peter with another violinist, Steeleye Span took a risk and hired John Kirkpatrick to replace him on accordion, thus making Storm Force Ten the only album in their discography to feature an accordion. The big positive here is the return of guitarist Martin Carthy to the band.

The album starts with 'Awake Awake' which is a traditional song derived from 'The Song of Solomon' from the Bible. Of course, the band puts their rock edge to this folk song with the song starting with the full band singing the chorus before the accordion comes in joined by drums. Maddy Prior sings the first part of each verse while the other members take turns singing the second half of the verse. 'Sweep, Chimney Sweep' is sung in harmony and a capella by the entire band all the way through. This is also a traditional song which was also sung a capella by the Copper Family considered the first family of English roots music.

'The Wife of the Soldier' is an anti-war song written by Bertolt Brecht, but this version uses a different melody than the original. A straightforward instrumental background supports Prior's vocals, and, again, the accordion takes the place of the violin. Martin Carthy sung this version on the album 'Byker Hill'. Next is the longest track 'The Victory', another traditional song first published in 1888. This version is given a great progressive treatment here with varying tempos and styles, and is one of the band's best long songs. It also is more adapted to the rock style than most of the other tracks on this album, less traditional sounding.

'The Black Freighter' is another Brcht song (also known as 'Pirate Jenny') and has been covered before by Judy Collins in the 60s. The words are about a fantasy entertained by a barmaid putting high and mighty men in their place. Again, the song takes on the progressive sound and some sassy guitar, while still retaining its folk roots. The remaining three tracks are all traditional songs. 'Some Rival' was previously also known as 'Some Tyrant' or 'A Rival Heart'. It is a very old love song sung again by Maddy with a much simpler sound as she is accompanied by acoustic guitars. 'Treadmill Song' is about the device used in English prisons to invoke hard labor long ago, not an exercise machine of yore, even though this song was originally written in 1906. The arrangement is quite well performed, rock spirit with the usual folk roots. 'Seventeen Come Sunday' is a song based on a version written by Robert Burns, the English bard. The song is otherwise known as 'As I Roved Out'. The real folk version of the song was quite ribald and the rewritten versions were tamed and censored. The folk sound is highly retained on this version.

This album should have not been so overlooked, but because of the timing of the release, it was overshadowed by the sudden increase in interest of the punk movement. It is one of the bands most enjoyable albums, carefree and fun. But, it has instead become quite forgotten in the bands repertoire. Steeleye Span would soon split after the release of this album and Maddy would quickly release a solo album. The band wouldn't release another album until 1980 with the return of both Bob Johnson and Peter Knight, though the band would also be quite shaken up for a while afterwards, and it would be hard pressed to release a satisfactory album for a while after. Lovers of Progressive Folk should however, give 'Storm Force Ten' a try before dismissing it as it was one more classic that sadly gets ignored.

Thanks to Atavachron for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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