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Steeleye Span - Wintersmith CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span


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3.33 | 11 ratings

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4 stars This is definitely an album that I have tried to play in the summer time with poor results. It's not because the album is bad. It's just too damn wintery in feel which makes it perfect for early December and the rest of the cold snowy season.

The Wintersmith, released last year (2013) is a collaboration between Steeleye and Discworld series author Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is the million selling author of young people's fantasy stories that are on par with the Harry Potter series of fantacies, just to give you an idea of what your in for.

Prattchett wrote the lyrics of Wintersmith, based on his novel of the same name, which deals with one of the seasons of nature , winter, taking on a corporeal form and falling for a village girl named Tiffany.

First off, I would have to say that between this concept and the folk hard rock fusion of the music, combined with trad. instruments like Northumbrian pipes, this is the most progressive outing from Steeleye Span that I've ever encountered and that was an unexpected delight.

The band drafted in uber producer Chris Tsanderides to engineer the album while Steeleye are still the producers. This helped to tone down Tsanderides' often shrill sounding production and resulted in an excellently heavy, but not overdone, rhythm section and some louder and more piercing electric guitar. it's not Deep Purple meets Fairport as some reviewers have made it out to be, but it is highly effective and a refreshing sound change for the band.

As the Wintersmith himself is a character, bassist Rick Kemp and guitarist Julian Littman alternate vocals with the evergreen Maddy Prior. I wish Maddy sang a bit more on this album but she is the incarnation of the heroine Tiffany, so it has to be. Kemp and Littman are both excellent vocalists, so fear not.

The album grabs you immediately with the Dark Morris song, a preview of the musical themes to come, before jumping in the brooding title track Wintersmith which teases with little telltale traces of the musical nuances that this album will soon offer and features the first of many great lead vocals from Kemp. Featured prominently is the Celtic tinged fiddle of 4 decade member Peter Knight, who more than anyone else, evokes a feel of the forest and the smell of pine into this music. The other member of note is long time drummer Liam Genocky, who pulls a few surprises with his deft drum work and percussion work.

Prior does her best "Annie Haslam' sweet sounding vocals on the songs Band Of Teachers and Hiver before both she and Kemp launch into the astoundingly propulsive Fire And Ice. Their vocal harmonies, along with Littman's, on the song's fantastic chorus is one of the album's many highlights.

After listening to the anthemic Crown Of Ice and the beautiful ballad First Dance, were off to the instrumental Dark Morris tune that sounds both maniacal and melodious at the same time. A virtual dance into the Wintersmith's dark cold world.

There are two beautiful ballads on this album, First Dance , elegantly sung by Prior, and the albums closer (when the Wintersmith eventually recedes due to on coming springtime) titled we Shall Wear Midnight. I believe the last is sung by Littman and instead of Kemp, but I'm not sure as it's still performed beautifully.

The album does have a few clunkers that drag out the running time like Wee Fee Men and the fairytale like The Good Witch, but all in all, it's a terrific album and one of the best ever produced by Steeleye Span. 4 Stars and I highly recommend it to fans of Folk Prog, especially to fans of both the Strawbs, Fairport Convention and Horslips. And remember, winter goes by quickly, so get it now.

SteveG | 4/5 |


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