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Steeleye Span - Storm Force Ten CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span


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3.44 | 25 ratings

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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.

TCat | 4/5 |


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