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Steeleye Span - Please To See The King CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span


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3.31 | 41 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Violinist turns fiddler

Even before Steeleye Span's first album "Hark, the village wait" was released, the band had suffered its first line up change with the departure of husband and wife Terry and Gay Woods. The remaining trio quickly called up the (now) legendary Martin Carthy and violin (as opposed to "fiddle" as he was classically trained and played in an orchestra!) player Peter Knight as replacements, and began work on "Please to see the king". The revised line up still did not boast a drummer or percussionist, and this time, no guests were brought in to fill that department.

On the other hand, the band started to move away from the acoustic atmosphere of their debut towards a more electric sound, an interesting development given "Tyger" Hutchings reported reasons for leaving Fairport (although it has been suggested in more recent times that his leaving Fairport was primarily due to the death of Martin Lamble).

"Please to see the king" contains ten tracks, all of which are interpretations of traditional folk songs. The choice of opening track, "The Blacksmith" may seem rather odd, given that the song had appeared on the band's debut. This version though is much harder, with Martin Carthy taking on electric guitar for the first time in his career. The song gives a good indication of the way the album will pan out, the band being far more willing to step out of their comfort zone this time around.

Peter Knight first comes to the fore on "Cold haily windy night", where the combination of electric guitar, violin and harmonised male/female vocals together with a captivating melody create some electric folk magic. The band's first instrumental track is the fiddle led jig "Bran O'Lynn/The hag with the money", a piece which mirrors the work of Carthy's long term musical partner Dave Swarbrick with Fairport and as a solo performer.

"The lark in the morning" here is not the traditional Irish song, but one collected by the noted English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. The a-cappella "The king" is effectively the title track, the song emanating from a Welsh tradition observed at the end of winter. The album closes with a delightful vocal performance by Maddy Prior on "Lovely on the water".

While the songs remain true to their origins in terms of melody and structure, the instrumental arrangements were at the time of the albums released seen as pioneering and progressive. In this respect, Steeleye Span were every bit as instrumental as Fairport Convention in the creation of prog folk. Sadly, the revisionists of today will sometimes try to diminish the significance of that influence.

In all, a highly enjoyable folk rock album which sees Steeleye Span rapidly developing their trademark sound and style. The absence of drums is unfortunate, especially in view of the generally harder nature of the instrumentation, but is should not be allowed to detract from a well put together set.

The 2006 Castle Music/Sanctuary CD release has a second disc and no less than 25 bonus tracks. These are all taken from sessions played by the band for BBC radio in 1970 and 1971. The quality of the recordings is poor, and some of the tracks appear twice or more. There is little of real (as opposed to historical) interest, but band obsessive will be pleased to hear versions of songs such as the odd single "Rave on" and the handful of other songs which did not make it on to studio albums.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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