on August 19, 2002
This is a great traditional jam. The singing and instrumentals are quite good. It's not really rock, but it still rocks if you like something with a traditional twist.
It's interesting to note that Jethro Tull dropped Steeleye Span as a backup band from their concert tours because so many people would leave after Steeleye Span had finished their set not waiting for JT.
on March 9, 2002
Steeleye Span was not the highest profile of the late 60s bands attempting to create a British Isles version of folk rock, but could certainly hold their own with the star power of Fairport Convention or Pentangle. Steeleye Span lacked a bonafide guitar prodigy like Fairport's Richard Thompson, or Pentangle's dueling virtuosos John Renbourne or Burt Jansch, but Steeleye's Martin Carthy was the central figure in the 60s British folk revival. Carthy, a musicologist, made heroic efforts to maintain the integrity of the orginal source material and it paid off with "Please To See The King". Released in 1971, it put Steeleye Span as the vangaurd band in the British Isles folk revival. By that time, Fairport had gutted it's original line-up, and Renbourn and Jansch's solo projects impacted the quality of Pentangle's studio recordings.
"Please To See The King" was one of albums I played incessantly in the early 70s and like so many of my vinyl albums, got lost, misplaced, worn out or stolen. In the 90s when I began rebuilding my collection of music in the compact disc format, I was reluctant to purchase this album. Some of Fairport's music I repurchased on CD had horrible production values, and Burt Jansch and John Renbourn's rambling jazzy riff tradeoffs sounded...well.. so inanely "sixties." I am happy to report that "Please To See The King" does not disappoint. The glorious choral arrangements which Carthy often painstakingly transcribed from field recordings dating back to the 1920s are a revelation. The tight four-part harmonies could stand alone as acapella pieces. Maddy Prior's earthy and autumnal mezzo-soprano has lost none of it's allure, upon hearing it again. Carthy's use of electronic technology never became an end unto itself, he'd make the guitar sound like a bagpipe when a bagpipe was indeed appropriate to the song. "The Blacksmith" which opens the album is just one example of Steeleye's collective genius at arranging traditional music. The exquisite vocal harmonies date back to ancient British Isle pageant signing. The guitar is electric but played with just enough reverb to make it like a lute. Maddy Prior's vocal is full bodied, yet mournfully plaintive. The electric fiddle of Peter Knight looms in the background and steps forward for a short but tasty solo. On "Please To See The King" each band member is a well oiled part, and the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts. Steeleye outlasted their peers and made quality music well into the 80s because this band never became a star-vehicle, but simply made brilliant music together.
on May 8, 2007
My introduction to Steeleye was their fifth album "Parcel of Rouges" album and I just had to have more. I bought all their back catalog and eagerly awaited new releases.
"Hark the Village Wait" ... tuneful, melodic, classical, skillful ... all excellent artists co-existing on the album (but not as a group). Rating A+.
"Please to see the King" ... losing the Woods was catastrophic, gaining Carthy and Knight made up for it. A new grittiness thanks to Carthy and a new dimension in Knight's fiddle. Rating A+.
"Ten Man Mop" ... Maybe not as easy to listen to as the first 2 but classic Carthy and tunes as good as any. Rating A.
"Below The Salt" ... MC's leaving is a great loss for the group. I really don't think he could have gone much further, so this is something new for the group. More melodic, but lacking the cutting edge of the first three. Oh, Ashley Hutchings had gone as well. Rating A-.
"Parcel Of Rogues" ... Easy to listen to, and better than their previous offering. The same line-up, but had found their feet with this one. Not as technically good as 1 to 3, but still a great listen. Rating A.
After that it goes downhill. They still did the occasional (OK several) good thing(s), but never again reached their earlier heights. Even when MC returned with John Kirkpatrick to refresh their reportoir, they just couldn't match the first 5. If you like the pop-ier, more commercial music, maybe their later stuff is for you, but listen to the musicianship, undertones, vocals and harmonies of their first 5 albums for the real stuff.
Steeleye Span pioneered folk rock along with Fairport convention (whose music I still haven't picked up yet, though I've been meaning to for variety's sake). If you're a Steeleye Span fan, you will like this CD. Period. It's a Steeleye classic, and one of my many favorites.
Skip the newer releases, like: They Called Her Babylon, Bedlam Born, Bloody Men.
Go for the Classics: Tempted and Tried, All Around my Hat, Sails of Silver, Storm Force Ten, Rocket Cottage, Hark! The Village Wait, Please to See the King, Ten Man Mop, Commoners Crown, Now We Are Six, Parcel of Rogues, Below the Salt, Back in Line.
If you must pick up "modern" Steelye albums, pick up: Time (one of their best "modern" releases) and Horkstow Grange (their other good "modern" release). "Winter" is supposed to also be good, on par with the classics (traditional arrangements of holiday songs), though I haven't yet seen it.
The above "classic" albums cover the early and middle years.
on September 15, 2005
This and Below the Salt are two favorites and Now We are Six my least favorite. Maddy Pryor is something else again and to hear her in person is even better. I've loved this band since the sixties or from the beginning and have never tired of them. If you haven't heard them, do so. Great, great, great. And Gaudete on Below the Salt is truly awesome, with the group singing a capella. These two albums are a must.