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Steeleye Span - Winter CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span


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3.11 | 8 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Good King Wenceslas, on a pogo stick

Given that Steeleye Span's principle commercial success has tended to come over the festive period, mainly due to singles such as "Gaudete" and "Fighting for strangers", it is perhaps surprising that they have not previously recorded an album of Christmas songs. Surely the record company must have pleaded with them over the years to deliver what would clearly be a major boost to the band in terms of sales. It took until 2004 though for the reformed line up to undertake such a project, following on quickly from their comeback album "They call her Babylon".

The album consists of 14 interpretations of Christmas carols and traditional folk songs relating to the same period. Songs such as "The first Nowell" "Hark the herald angels sing" and "In the bleak midwinter" are given the electric folk treatment, transferring them into highly appealing (if hardly prog!) feasts of melody. It is though the less well known numbers such as "Unconquered sun" (from the Roman Sol Invictus) sung by Peter Knight and William Austin's "Chanicleer" which will really appeal to fans of the band. While such songs have a winter connection, they are fine Steeleye Span numbers in their own right. Maddy Prior's voice seldom sounded better, Knight's fiddle playing is superb, and Ken Nicol demonstrates that he has spent many a long hour acquiring the lead guitar sound we associate with the band.

"Bright morning star" is a purely a-cappella multi part harmony number which exploits the band's vocal talents to the full while the Peter Knight composed title track is a beautiful violin led instrumental which also features some fine classical guitar. Another highlight, "Mistletoe Bough", has a power and majesty seldom heard on a Steeleye Span album. Maddy's best performance (of a fine bunch) is on the lovely "Sing We the Virgin Mary", a simple song of great beauty. Peter Knight's weeping violin adds some fine colours to the song too.

"Good King Wenceslas" is subject to the most liberal interpretation, the version here bordering on a folk punk one, really!

In all, a highly enjoyable album. Inevitably it is generally lighter than most of the band's work, and certainly does not venture anywhere near their prog folk capabilities. Those who enjoy the music of this legendary band should get on OK with this offering.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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