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Steeleye Span - Bloody Men CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span


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3.21 | 10 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars No Luddites here

Released in 2006 "Bloody men" is, at time of writing, Steeleye Span's latest studio album. The line up remains surprisingly stable, with those who created "They call her Babylon" in 2004 all returning to the fold.

The album is split into two distinct parts, each occupying one disc. Disc one sees the band reverting to the policy of their early years whereby they create folk rock interpretations of traditional folk songs. The gap between recordings has clearly been put to good use, and the tracks here are among the finest the band have recorded for many years.

The opening "Bonny black hare" is perhaps a strange choice being a song generally associated with Fairport Convention. This interpretation of a song with less than subtle lyrics is though quite different to Fairport's. Here guitar and violin support a gruff vocal by Maddy Prior giving the piece a much harder edge. "The Story of the Scullion King" sees Prior taking a break, the male vocals on this pleasant ballad offering an early change of mood and style. Prior returns for the lullaby like "The Dreamer & the Widow", a simple but still enjoyable song.

Things take something of a change for the following two songs which wander towards pop territories. "Lord Elgin" and "The three sisters" have catchy hooks and foot tapping rhythms; while hardly challenging they are fine folk based pieces. "The 1st House in Connaught" sees a welcome return of a jigs and reels instrumental led by Peter Knight's violin. Strangely though, this is simply an extended reworking of a track which appeared on the relatively recent Steeleye Span album "Tempted and tried".

The Fairport Convention connection appears to return again for "Cold Haily Windy Night", which sounds for all the world like Sandy Denny and Dave Swarbrick have somehow reunited. Strangely, the song is another reworking of a track which appeared on a previous SS album, this time the much older "Please to see the king". The version here is along the lines of the opening track on this album, with lead guitar and violin creating a fine rock edge to the rendition.

The sweet ballad "Whummil Bore" disguises a tale of a peeping Tom as he looks through a hole (a whummil bore) at an attractive lady. "Demon of the Well" is the sparsest song on the album, providing Maddy with the opportunity the prove that reports of her voice being past its best are to be taken with a large pinch of salt. The emphasis on her voice also gives us the chance to listen to an intriguing tale unfold.

The final track "Lord Gregory", originally known as "The Lass of Roch Royal", is one of the many folk ballads collected by Francis James Child. The morbid nature of the story sits well alongside the previous track. Prior's Celtic flavoured delivery is perfect for this tale of rejection and death.

Technically, there is no reason why the tracks on disc 2 should not have been added to the first disc. The "Ned Ludd" suite is though a complete piece in its own right. It only runs to around 16 minutes, but the piece represents the band's first ever attempt at creating something other than a stand alone song. Composed by bassist Rick Kemp with a little input from the rest of the band, the suite is loosely based on the Luddite movement led by the eponymous Ned. Lyrically, the various songs draw in other significant events which arose from the industrialisation and automation of tasks previously done manually in the 18th and 19th centuries. Musically, while the songs sit well together, they are primarily linked by theme. This is though an admirable attempt by the band at moving beyond their comfort zone.

In all, a fine addition to the Steeleye Span catalogue.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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