This site too slow? Try a mirror  --  Subscribe to the Guide  --  Find artist:
the Ectophiles' Guide: * Guide Home* What's new* * Alphabetical* Genre* Commentator* Location* Random artist* Search* Contact the editors* Credits

Steeleye Span


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Folk/rock based on traditional songs

Status:

Most recent album, Cogs, Wheels and Lovers (2009)

See also:

Wikipedia's Steeleye Span page

Unofficial site

The Ectophiles' Guide entries for: Maddy Prior, Silly Sisters, Martin Carthy, Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, members of the band (and projects of band members) at various times.

Comparisons:

Malicorne, Fairport Convention. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Covers/own material:

Own arrangements of traditional songs and their own compositions with a traditional flavour

General comments:

Pace fans of Fairport Convention (who may be said to have invented the genre) Steeleye were the quintessential British Folk/Rock band. A bunch of folkies who liked to rock, they brought rock instruments and sensibilities to British traditional music in a series of albums throughout the '70s which brought our musical heritage to the notice of millions of pop fans. At their best, their arrangements were wonderfully fresh and invigorating: clearly demonstrating the timelessness of the songs' subject matter. Steeleye really did play folk/rock, not just folk music with electric instruments. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Recommended first album:

All Around My Hat. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Actually, I'd go for a compilation first. If you can find Original Masters, that's a great compilation, but any of them will do. My favourite single albums are Please to See the King, Ten Man Mop, Parcel of Rogues, and Storm Force Ten, though there's scattered brilliance in even the lesser albums. (Neile)

Recordings:


Hark! The Village Wait

Release info:

1970—Mooncrest (U.K.)—CREST CD 003; Shanachie (U.S.)—79052

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

For fans only

Group members:

Ashley Hutchings—bass, vocals
Terry Woods—mandola, guitar, vocals
Gay Woods—concertina, autoharp, bodhran, vocals, step dancing
Tim Hart—guitar, banjo, dulcimer, fiddle, harmonium, vocals
Maddy Prior—vocals, banjo, step dancing

Produced by:

Sandy Roberton

Comments:

A straight-forward collection of traditional songs played on a mixture of acoustic and electric instruments. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Please to See the King

Release info:

1971—Mooncrest (U.K.)—CREST CD 005; Shanachie (U.S.)—79075

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Ashley Hutchings—bass, vocals
Martin Carthy—guitar, banjo, organ, bells, vocals
Peter Knight—fiddle, mandolin, organ, bass, bells, vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, dulcimer, bells, vocals
Maddy Prior—vocals, spoons, tabor, tambourine, bells

Produced by:

Sandy Roberton

Comments:

The best of the early Steeleye Span. The addition of Carthy and Knight adds greatly to the instrumental proficiency and creates a true "band" sound. Several favourites are to be found here, especially "False Knight on the Road", "The Lark in the Morning", and "Female Drummer". (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

This is also one of my favourite Steeleye Span discs. The renditions of the songs are consistently wonderful, and in addition to the great songs listed above, it includes my favourite version of "The Blacksmith", as well as "Boys of Bedlam", and "Lovely on the Water". Not to be missed. (Neile)


Ten Man Mop (or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again)

Release info:

1971—Mooncrest (U.K.)—CREST CD 009; Shanachie (U.S.)—79049

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

For fans only. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Recommended. (Neile)

Group members:

Ashley Hutchings—bass
Martin Carthy—guitars, organ, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, tenor banjo, mandolin, timpani, vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, dulcimer, organ, 5-string banjo, mandolin, vocals
Maddy Prior—vocals, spoons, tabor

Produced by:

Sandy Roberton

Comments:

Very much the mixture as before, but this one doesn't quite hit the sweet spot in the same way as Please to See the King. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Maybe not quite as consistently excellent as Please to See the King, but this is still one of my favourite Steeleye Span discs—I'm especially fond of "Four Nights Drunk", "When I was on Horseback", "Marrowbones", and "Skewball". I obviously like this one more than nightwol does, so your mileage may also vary. (Neile)


Individually & Collectively (compilation)

Release info:

1972—Mooncrest—ZCCAB5 (cassette)

Availability:

Probably no longer available

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Ashley Hutchings—bass, vocals
Martin Carthy—guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
Maddy Prior—vocals

Produced by:

Sandy Roberton

Comments:

This compilation contains a marvelous selection of the best tracks from the two preceding Steeleye albums, Maddy & Tim's Summer Solstice and Martin Carthy's Shearwater. From the latter is included the fabulous "Famous Flower of Serving Men". If only it were available on CD, this would be the ideal introduction to the Steeleye Span of this era. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Below the Salt

Release info:

1972—Chrysalis/BGO (U.K.)—BGOCD 324; Shanachie (U.S.)—79039

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals

Produced by:

Steeleye Span & Jerry Boys

Comments:

A new line-up, a new label, and a new sound. This album marked the debut of the most successful version of Steeleye Span. The sound is more focussed and every track worth its place, my favourite being "King Henry". Almost thirty years on, this is still music to delight. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Parcel of Rogues

Release info:

1973—Chrysalis/BGO (U.K.)—BGOCD 323 (U.K.); Shanachie (U.S.)—79045

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals

Produced by:

Steeleye Span & Jerry Boys

Comments:

Even more electric and lively than its predecessor, this album rocks along at a tremendous lick. Full of fascinating playing and with never a dull moment. Whew! It's hard to pick favourites from such a consistently good album, but "The Weaver & the Factory Maid" is especially thrilling. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

This is a wonderful album! My favourites here are the blithe "One Misty Moisty Morning", the nasty "Alison Gross" and the haunting "Cam Ye O'er Frae France". (Neile)


Now We Are Six

Release info:

1974—Chrysalis (U.K.)—CCD 1053; BGO (U.K.)—BGOCD 157; Shanachie (U.S.)—79060

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals, electric dulcimer, banjo
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums, tambourine, oboe, flute, recorder, synthesizer

Guest artists:

David Bowie—alto sax

Produced by:

Ian Anderson ("Production consultant")

Comments:

Much of this album is quite superb—some of the best work Steeleye ever put on record. "Seven Hundred Elves", "Drink Down the Moon", "The Two Magicians" and the outstanding "Thomas the Rhymer" are absolute classics. Anderson's excellent production fills out the sound and adds weight to the, by now, familiar Steeleye instrumental and vocal texture. Furthermore, the addition of Pegrum's solid drumming filled a gap that had been apparent on the last couple of albums. Unfortunately the cutesy title track and rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" seriously mar the album and have got even less listenable over the years. A great pity as this would otherwise be my favourite Steeleye album by far! Beware that the CD put out by Chrysalis has an edited version of "Thomas the Rhymer" (3'16" as against the full 6'44"). (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

I agree completely with this assessment of the album, though I also seriously dislike the final track, Phil Spector's "To Know Him is To Love Him". But there are all those other wonderful songs to overshadow that, amongst those don't forget "Long-A-Growing". Delightful. I found it well worth getting the import version to have the extended "Thomas the Rhymer"—a stunning track. (Neile)


Commoners Crown

Release info:

1975—Chrysalis (U.K./Australia)—432063-2; BGO (U.K.)—BGOCD 315

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

For fans only

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals, electric dulcimer
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums, flute

Guest artists:

Peter Sellers—acoustic ukelele

Produced by:

Steeleye Span & Robin Black

Comments:

One of my favourite Steeleye albums. This is a consistently pleasing album, but without ever quite catching fire and non-fans may find it rather samey. The expansive ballad "Long Lankin" is particularly well crafted. Owners of the original album will notice that Peter Sellers vocal contribution to the final track was cut short on the CD re-issue (on the Australian Chrysalis release at least). (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

To me this is one of their weaker efforts, though I do adore "Long Lankin", "Demon Lover", and "Elf Call". (Neile)


All Around My Hat

Release info:

1975—Chrysalis (U.K.); Shanachie (U.S.)—SH 79059

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums

Produced by:

Mike Batt

Comments:

With the benefit of hindsight it's apparent that the unique talents of arranging genius Mike Batt were just what Steeleye Span needed. With his help, they came closest of all on this album to achieving the ultimate synthesis of traditional songs and rock instrumentation. Fresh and invigorating, with all the drive and momentum of the best parts of Now We Are Six allied to a sharper, cleaner production (Pilsner lager rather than Yorkshire bitter), this album shines out as Steeleye at their best. Standout track for me remains "The Wife of Ushers Well", but there are really no duds here. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

For some reason I have never particularly liked the title track of this one, and so this has never been one of my favourites. "Black Jack Davy" is great, though, as is "The Wife of Ushers Well". (Neile)


Rocket Cottage

Release info:

1976—Chrysalis (U.K.); BGO (U.K.)—BGOCD 318

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

For fans only

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums

Produced by:

Mike Batt

Comments:

For some reason the second Batt-produced Steeleye album totally failed to recapture the excitement of the first dose of the formula. A disappointment on release, this album has remained my least favourite Steeleye album of the '70s. For completists only. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Original Masters (compilation)

Release info:

1977—Chrysalis—CH2 1136; BGO (U.K.)—BGOCD322

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums

Produced by:

various from previous albums

Comments:

This is a 2-album (or 2 cd) compilation of songs the previous albums. I got it when I first fell for Steeleye Span and it has my favourite of their songs on it from their early albums, and one lovely song, "Bonny Moorhen" that is unique to this album. I highly recommend this as a starting point if you can find it. I found this on cd, but have kept my vinyl version both for nostalgia's sake and because the compilations are quite different. The vinyl version has a different order and includes "A Calling on Song", "The King", "Little Sir Hugh", "Demon Lover", "Dark Eyed Sailor", "Hard Times of Old England", and "Blackleg Miner", which are replaced on the cd version with "The Wife of Ushers Well", "Long Lankin", "The Mooncoin Jig", "Drink Down the Moon", and "Jigs: The Bride's Favourite/Tansey's Fancy". (Neile)

Storm Force Ten

Release info:

1977—Chrysalis/BGO (U.K.)—BGOCD 337

Availability:

Widely available in the U.K.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
John Kirkpatrick—accordion, vocals
Martin Carthy—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums

Produced by:

Steeleye Span & Mike Thompson

Comments:

If only all "contractual obligation" albums could be this good! The return of Martin Carthy and the addition of John Kirkpatrick on accordion revitalised the band and refreshed their sound. Less overtly rocky than their recent albums, this album delights the ear time and again. Their Brecht interpretations ("The Black Freighter" and "The Wife of the Soldier") are especially fine. One of Steeleye's best! (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Has two great Bertold Brecht/Kurt Weill covers and some of Steeleye Span's best neo-trad songwriting on it. This is one of their finest albums. (Neile)


Live at Last!

Release info:

1978—Chrysalis (U.K.)—CHR 1199 (vinyl); BGO (U.K.)—BGOCD 342 (CD)

Availability:

Wide in U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
John Kirkpatrick—accordion, vocals
Martin Carthy—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums

Produced by:

Tim Hart & Mike Thompson

Comments:

Infectiously enthusiastic live performances from the line-up that made Storm Force Ten. A fitting way to close the band's career. A lot of fun to listen to, it makes me wish I'd seen this incarnation live. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

A delightful live recording of some great material. Has "The Atholl Highlander's/Walter Bulwer's Polka", "Saucy Sailor / Black Freighter", "The Maid and the Palmer", "Hunting the Wren", "Montrose", "The False Knight on the Road", and on the U.S. release, "Rag Doll" which on the U.K. release is replaced by "Bonnets So Blue". (Neile)


Sails of Silver

Release info:

1980—Chrysalis (U.K.); Park Records (U.K.)—PRKCD 40

Availability:

Wide in U.K.

Ecto priority:

Mostly for fans only

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, keyboards, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums, percussion, woodwind

Produced by:

Gus Dudgeon

Comments:

All songs here are originals, and the results are mixed—there are a couple of good neo-trad songs, like "Gone To America", but overall this is mostly fairly forgettable, sadly. I think some of the songs I only like because they've become so familiar over the years. (Neile)

Back in Line

Release info:

1986—Flutterby (U.K.); Shanachie (U.S.)—79063

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Mostly for fans only

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Peter Knight—violin, piano, bass, percussion, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, guitar, vocals
Vince Cross—DX7 synthesizer
Nigel Pegrum—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Steeleye Span & John Acock

Comments:

Quite a mixed collection of songs—I've never managed to bring myself to pay for a cd version to replace my vinyl copy, but I've still hung onto the vinyl version. There's a wonderful version of "Edward" and "Lady Diamond" on the upside, but on the downside there two really didactic boring songs, "Peace on the Border" and "White Man" (though this one is interesting musically if you can ignore the preachy lyrics). (Neile)

Tempted And Tried

Release info:

1989—Dover (U.K.); Shanachie (U.S.)—64020

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

For Steeleye Span fans

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Tim Harries—bass, keyboards
Nigel Pegrum—drums

Produced by:

Bob Johnson, Peter Knight, & Bob Etchells

Comments:

The traditional songs are much better than the originals included on this album. Their version of "Shaking of the Sheets" is particularly good, but this is a mixed bag. (Neile)

Portfolio (compilation)

Release info:

1989—Shanachie (U.S.)—79071

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended if you're looking for an easy-to-find sampler

Group members:

Personnel varies with the chosen songs

Produced by:

various

Comments:

This is a fairly good selection—not necessarily my favourite cuts, but it's a good introduction to the band's career up to 1989. Not a bad starting place, especially as it's readily available in the U.S., but if you can find Original Masters you'll find it a little richer compilation. (Neile)

Tonight's the Night...Live

Release info:

1992—Shanachie (U.S.)—79080

Availability:

Wide in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Tim Harries—bass, keyboards
Liam Genocky—drums

Produced by:

Peter Knight and John Etchells

Comments:

I hardly ever listen to this one. It has a disappointing version of "Tam Lin" on it, and overall I like their studio albums better than this. It's probably just me, though, as I'm generally not fond of live albums. (Neile)

Time

Release info:

1995—Shanachie (U.S.)—79099

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

For fans only

Group members:

Maddy Prior—vocals
Gay Woods—vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Tim Harries—bass, keyboards
Liam Genocky—drums

Produced by:

Steeleye Span & John Etchells

Comments:

Steeleye Span just ain't what they used to be. Still there are some wonderful songs on Time. It's just that their reissues show how great they were, even when they weren't necessarily in their prime. In any case, this album marks the return of Gay Woods to the group. (Neile)

Spanning the Years (compilation)

Release info:

1995—Chrysalis/EMI—F2-32236

Availability:

Unknown

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Ashley Hutchings—bass, vocals
Terry Woods—guitar, vocals
Gay Woods—concertina, vocals
Martin Carthy—guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals
Tim Hart—guitar, vocals
Maddy Prior—vocals
Robert Johnson—guitar, vocals
Rick Kemp—bass, vocals
Nigel Pegrum—drums
John Kirkpatrick—accordion, vocals

Guest artists:

David Bowie—alto sax
Peter Sellers—acoustic ukelele

Produced by:

Sandy Roberton, Steeleye Span & Jerry Boys, Ian Anderson, Steeleye Span & Robin Black, Mike Batt, Steeleye Span & Mike Thompson, Gus Dudgeon

Comments:

For Steeleye Span fans (and those of you interested in hearing them and brave enough to shell out for a 2-CD set), there's a new compilation available. As the owner of a lot of Steeleye vinyl, I was glad to see this show up. (Kate_Tabasko@transarc.com)

Horkstow Grange

Release info:

1998—Park Records—PRKCD 44

Availability:

Available in the U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Gay Woods—vocals, bodhran, tambourine
Tim Harries—vocals, keyboard, bass, piano
Bob Johnson—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, flamenco guitar, vocals
Peter Knight—violin, vocals

Guest artists:

Dave Mattacks—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Steeleye Span

Comments:

This is Steeleye Span's first album without Maddy Prior, and I like it much more than I anticipated. Like all of their later (and many of their earlier) albums it's a mixed bag, and parts are better than others, but the high points are very good—and are among my favourite moments from the band. The album opens well, with "The Old Turf Fire", then "The Tricks of London", and "Horkstow Grange" (the song the group gets its name from), then missteps (for me) with the next two songs "Lord Randall" and "Erin"—just a little lacking in verve for my tastes. "Queen Mary/Hunsden House" is nice, and then I love their long version of "Bonny Birdy" which alone is worth the price of admission. "The Bonny Irish Boy" is lovely, and "I Wish That I Never was Wed" a delightful romp. The next, "Australia", is another I don't like much, but that last two tracks are quite strong, "One True Love" and "The Parting Glass". Overall, this album is a pleasant surprise! (Neile)

A Rare Collection 1972-1996

Release info:

1999—Raven (Australia)—RVCD-90

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Steeleye Span fans

Group members:

Various over the years

Comments:

This is a compilation of rarities, single versions of songs, etc. Fans of the band will find this essential, for the rarities: "Lanercost", a U.K. b side with a gorgeous chorus; "The Royal Forester" a live track; "The Boar's Head Carol", a single with terrific group harmonies; "The Holly & The Ivy" with its silly greetings at the beginning; some lovely live versions of familiar songs, including soundchecks; and some funny little odd bits and pieces of appearances with others. Shows th range of the band, and especially shows them having some fun. (Neile)

Bedlam Born

Release info:

2000—Park Records—PRKCD55

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Gay Woods—vocals, percussion
Peter Knight—electric & acoustic violins, keys, vocal
Tim Harries—bass, keys, electric guitar, vocals
Bob Johnson—guitar, vocal
Dave Mattacks—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Steeleye Span

Comments:

While there's nothing horribly wrong with any of them, there's not a single song on this collection that I particularly care about—none of them really quite come alive. I had high hopes for this since I'd liked so much of Horkstow Grange, but no go. (Neile)


Thanks to Steve Fagg for work on this entry.

Why the ads?
the Ectophiles' Guide: * Guide Home* What's new* * Alphabetical* Genre* Commentator* Location* Random artist* Search* Contact the editors* Credits

DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2014-03-28 16:49:54.
Please request permission if you wish to
reproduce any of the comments in the
Ectophiles' Guide in any context.

The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music is copyright © 1996-2004 by the editors.
Individual comments are copyright © by their authors.
Web site design and programming copyright © 1998-2004 usrbin design + programming.
All rights reserved.