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Steeleye Span - Below the Salt CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span


Prog Related

3.66 | 54 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

With Carthy's leaving the group as well the group's main founder Hutchings (leaving to found the Albion Country Band, SS had to resort once again to more line-up shuffling. Leaving Hart and Prior has the only remaining (and original) members, they kept violinist Peter Knight, but fetched Bob Johnson on guitar (and vocals) and Rick Kemp on bass, who didn't have an easy task in filling Hutching's shoes. BTS is the first album of what many will call the classic line-up, which indeed is the start of most SS's stable period. With a festive medieval artwork, the group continued with the label Chrysalis, which would soon get to help this version of SS with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson's involvement (but that's for later).

No matter what some fans might say this line-up is no more "prog" than previous and it's certainly not this album that will prove their point, aside a few attempt at electrifying little known folk songs, such as the opening Spotted Cow, the boring and completely un-innovative jig medley Bride's Fancy bringing in a barnstorming snooze, the closing saucy sailor (recorded louder than the rest of the tracks for more "drama," I guess) and the sleep-inducing Barleycorn. Elsewhere the a-capella Rosebud In June, the lengthy King Henry (it's got an electrified fiddle solo in the closing minute) and the short Latin-sung Gaudette bring in a bit of variety on the album. Slightly of more interest for progheads are Sheep-Crook And Black Dog, which changes tempo and climate halfway through (that's got to be prog), and the other semi-jig Royal Forester (this is more than a filler), but it's a little too few to rivet a proghead to his seat and get excited.

But I saved the "best" for (second) last to prove my point: try to compare a real progressive band like Traffic and their version of John Barleycorn and listen to SS's version in the present album, and you shall see exactly the difference between a prog band and just another band who chose to stay traditional; while Traffic's version is riveting awesome and brings chill to the listener, SS's version is a pure bore, but most likely closer to the original version (if there ever was one) but here it appears as a filler.

All things considered, BTS is not a bad album per se, even a good pure folk album, but it's got no place on this site whatever others will say. So it gets three stars on its pure value, but it's certainly not essential, even less so than the debut album.

Sean Trane | 2/5 |


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