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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars As the 1970s proceeded, Steeleye Span became more rock-folk than folk-rock, adding ever denser bass, drums and rhythm guitars and a more aggressive attitude. Yet even by this late stage, they held steadfast to their goal of bringing traditional songs and dances to life. Unfortunately, the whole pop music world had changed drastically just in the year since the hugely successful "All Around my Hat", and it seemed there was no longer much market for music of Steeleye's ilk. As a result, although "Rocket Cottage" is a superb hard folk effort, and more consistent than its predecessor, it seems to have been largely ignored.

While "London" has as strong a pedigree as anything the group has done, I don't find the sing songy style working as well for Steeleye at this stage. Instead, "Orfeo/Nathan's Reel" and "The Brown Girl" have a greater impact, with more incorporation of lighter progressive elements in the form of changes of pace and alternating moods and instrumentation. In addition, the band's choice of traditional material has been fine tuned at this point, as well as their ability to match the appropriate vocalist to the material, rendering "The Twelve Witches" and "Sir James the Rose" among Tim Hart's best contributions as member, ably backed by Maddy on the chorus of the latter. The listener really wants to know the peculiar powers of each of the twelve witches and the gory fate of Sir James. In the instrumental department, "Sligo Maid" is miles ahead of the mostly tepid and rote work we've seen on prior recordings, with driving electric guitar and fiddle working in unison, and syncopated bass and drums. Sure one can hear the influence of the disco era in the wah wah guitars, but when have we heard them with cascading fiddles and a traditional Irish tune that gets stuck in your head for days?

While it may not have a catchy "hit" like "All Around my Hat", "Rocket Cottage" is fueled by greater energy and enthusiasm and may be of more interest to fans here simply for its punchier approach and small "p" progressive arrangements.

Report this review (#186246)
Posted Saturday, October 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Minstrels in space

For some reason Rocket Cottage is an album that is harder to find than the immediately preceding albums by Steeleye Span as well as many later albums. But finally I got my hands on this one and I must say that it was worth my while as this is one of the band's most progressive albums and also a definite improvement over the misguided attempt to cross into the commercial with All Around My Hat. Indeed, I would say that together with Now We Are Six and Commoner's Crown, Rocket Cottage is the best of Steeleye Span's first decade as a recording and performing unit.

Over a series of several albums since the early 70's there was a clear progression in the music of Steeleye Span with each album from Below The Salt onwards adding further and further Rock elements including of course electric guitars first and then drums and even some discrete keyboards while also expanding their versions of traditional material giving them more adventurous arrangements. Sadly, they also mixed in some Pop elements by making a few covers of modern songs and they even had a hit with the title track from All Around My Hat. Thankfully, there is no obvious attempt to repeat that on Rocket Cottage but London is the closest they get. The sillyness of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and To Know Him Is to Love Him from Now We Are Six and New York Girls from Commoner's Crown is represented by the short tune at the start of The Drunkard (I don't know the name of the tune, but I recognize it.)

For Rocket Cottage they but opt instead of continuing their interesting fusion of Folk and Rock. The music here leans slightly more towards the Rock than to the Folk compared to all their earlier albums. Rocket Cottage is also slightly heavier than any earlier album and the electric guitar sound is much improved over their early experiments with the instrument. The vocal arrangements are complex on a cappella songs like The Bosnian Hornpipes. There are some sparse keyboards here as well, though not very much. Any fan of Prog Folk should be able to like this fine album!


Report this review (#276114)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2010 | Review Permalink

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