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Steeleye Span They Called Her Babylon album cover
3.55 | 9 ratings | 2 reviews | 12% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2004

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Van Diemen's Land (4:52)
2. Samain (5:58)
3. Heir Of Linne (6:49)
4. Bride's Farewell (4:17)
5. They Called Her Babylon (6:19)
6. Mantle Of Green (5:22)
7. Bede's Death Song (0:41)
8. Diversus And Lazarus (6:43)
9. Si Begh Si Mohr (4:12)
10. Child Owlet (5:07)
11. What's The Life Of A Man? (5:29)

Total time 55:49

Line-up / Musicians

- Maddy Prior / lead vocals
- Ken Nicol / guitar, vocals
- Peter Knight / violin, Octave violin, keyboards, vocals
- Rick Kemp / bass, vocals
- Liam Genockey / drums

Releases information

CD Park Records ‎- PRK CD70 (2004, UK)

Thanks to zafreth and easy livin for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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STEELEYE SPAN They Called Her Babylon ratings distribution

(9 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (50%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

STEELEYE SPAN They Called Her Babylon reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars A mostly original Steeleye Span album

They Called Her Babylon is a surprisingly strong and consistent album from a band that had been around for so long. There may not be any significant surprises for those who have followed the band since the beginning; we have fiddle, electric and acoustic guitars, male and female vocals, Rock drums, progressive aspects and many great melodies. However, the material is, unusually for the band, mostly original and not adaptations of traditional Folk tunes. This makes it all the more impressive! I have not yet heard all of their albums, but the style here is similar to that of the Time album. The instrumental and vocal skills of the band are indeed impressive with wonderful instrumental passages in many songs. Some songs Rock harder than you might expect from this band! Samain is one of these and this is perhaps also one of the more progressive songs.

There is a very nice balance between up tempo songs and ballads and between the Rock and the Folk element. There is also a nice balance of male and female vocals. The very distinctive vocals of Maddy Prior are as good as ever. Her voice may be an acquired taste, but I think it is simply lovely. The strongest point is the complete avoidance of misguided Pop attempts that were present on most of their albums from the 70's and 80's. It is not easy to pick out any favourite songs as every song is good.

My great fondness for British Folk Rock has taken me somewhat by surprise in recent years. Some ten years ago when I first started to discover progressive music, I used to think that I almost hated anything remotely connected to Folk music! But, in fact, many of the major Prog bands from the 70's are actually deeply influenced by Folk music (Jethro Tull, Genesis, Camel, etc). Bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are not Prog bands, of course, but they offer much for a Prog fan to enjoy! For me personally, I particularly like the 90's and 00's periods of these two great British Folk Rock bands. The Rock element is much stronger here than in their early days and the production is much improved over their very earliest albums.

Those who simply can't stand British Folk Rock will not change their minds after listening to this album. But for anyone who liked this kind of music, They Called Her To Babylon will not disappoint. I would even say that this is one of Steeleye Span's best albums!

Excellent addition to any Prog Folk collection

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Back by Prior arrangement

During the recording of the 2000 album "Bedlam Born", things got rather stretched between the band members. Even before it was finished, the line up started to disintegrate, with Gay Woods leaving and Bob Johnson retiring on health grounds. Peter Knight and Tim Harries soldiered on in the live arena supported by various guests, but soon after former member Rick Kemp had rejoined, Harries decided separately that his time with the band was up.

In 2002, Knight managed to persuade Maddy Prior and Liam Genockey to rejoin the band, and Bob Johnson to come out of retirement. The line up re-recorded some of the band's best known songs, but Johnson's health remained poor, and he was not up to participating in the supporting tour. Guitarist Ken Nicol joined in his place, and the resulting line up, which included only Peter Knight from the previous album, recorded this album in 2004.

Fans were pleased at the news of a reformation of what many considered one of the band's strongest line ups, and Ken Nicol's folk pedigree (he had worked with Ashley Hutchings among others) was unquestionable too.

The album opens with one of its highlights, "Van Diemen's Land" (an early name for the Australian island of Tasmania). This version of a traditional Irish song, sometimes known as "The gallant poachers", is stately and atmospheric. Interestingly, it opens with a male vocal, the return of Maddy Prior being kept up their collective sleeves for the first verse. When Maddy does come in, her voice is controlled and rather out of character, even adding brief spoken word along the way.

Things turn back towards the classic Steeleye Span years with the upbeat "Samhain" a homage to a Gaelic festival. Even here, Prior's voice is only heard in harmony although the resulting guitar driven song remains strong and enjoyable. "Heir of Linne" finally finds Prior taking centre stage alone. This Child ballad tells the tale of a fool and his money being soon parted, although in this case the song has a happy ending as he regains his wealth. This is not by any means the band's strongest song, but it does have substance. "The bride's farewell" appears to be a folk song of Eastern European origin. It opens with multi-part a-cappella harmonies, but feature a strangely muted Maddy Prior on lead vocal. The slightly jaunty nature of the song contrasts with the heavier instrumental sections.

The title track tells the tale of an incident during the English civil War of the 17th Century. The song tells the tale in rather literal form, the male lead vocal sounding rather Strawbs like. Peter Knight adds some fine violin to what is for the most part a dirge with an uplifting chorus. "Mantle of green" is where we find Maddy's best vocal performance of the album. This reflective traditional Irish song with sparse instrumentation also includes some emotive violin from Knight. It is a simple but lovely piece.

The very brief "Bede's death song" is effectively a harmonic interlude piece leading to the upbeat "Diversus and Lazarus", another Child ballad ("Dives and Lazarus"). This time the song tells a sort of parable, once again in literal form. Musically, the strong lead guitar harks back to some of the band's early work around the time of "Now we are six". The male vocals here are rather out of character for the band. "Si Begh Si Mohr" is based on a melody written by the 17th century Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan. Here the tune is played out on fiddle, this being the only instrumental on the album. The air has a relaxed, melodic feel of the type heard for the slower dances at ceilidhs.

"Child owlets" is a stomach turning tale of a young man being framed and murdered, delivered in deadpan fashion by Prior. Ken Nicol's guitar work here enhances the track considerably. The album closes with "What's the Life of a Man?" a song written by Bob Copper of the contemporary Copper family. The piece is delivered as a sort of "Auld lang syne" sing-along, making for a fine end to the album.

Whether "They called her Babylon" satisfied the expectations of the band's fans is open to question. There is no doubt that it contains some strong material or that the individual performances are competent. There is at times though a lack of atmosphere or cohesion, the individual songs seeming overly disconnected from each other. Overall, this is an enjoyable listen, but the album certainly does not command a place at the top table of Steeleye Span releases.

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