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Maddy Prior: Ballads & Candles

Maddy Prior: Ballads & Candles (Park PRK CD54)

Ballads & Candles
Maddy Prior, Family & Friends

Park Records PRK CD54 (CD, UK, December 2000)
Park Records PRK VID54 (Video, UK, December 2001)
Park Records PRK DVD54 (DVD, UK, December 2003)

Maddy Prior: Ballads & Candles (Park PRK DVD54)

This is a live recording by Maddy Prior, Family & Friends from her Christmas tour of 1999 at Cambridge Corn Exchange, London, and Warwick.

Musicians

Maddy Prior, vocals [all tracks except 5];
June Tabor, vocals [2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9-12, 16, 18];
Rose Kemp, vocals [6, 13];
Steve Banks, drums, percussion, vocals;
Troy Donockley, electric guitar, uilleann pipes, low & tin whistle, cittern, vocals;
Nick Holland, keyboards, vocals;
Rick Kemp, bass, vocals;
Peter Knight, violin

Tracks

CD

  1. The Blacksmith (Roud 816) (3.41)
  2. Blood & Gold / Mohacs (3.37)
  3. The Boar's Head Carol (Roud 22229) (2.37)
  4. A Virgin Most Pure (Roud 1378) (4.20)
  5. All in the Morning (Roud 287) (4.00)
  6. Shepherds, Arise! (Sing, Sing All Earth) (Roud 1207) (3.28)
  7. Doffin Mistress (Roud 2133) (2.20)
  8. Betsy Bell and Mary Gray (Roud 237; Child 201; G/D 6:1257) (5.34)
  9. Hind Horn (Roud 28; Child 17; G/D 5:1022) (6.00)
  10. Singing the Travels (Roud 873) (3.35)
  11. Long Shadows (4.17)
  12. The King (Roud 19109) (1.25)
  13. Rose (3.58)
  14. Mother and Child (3.05)
  15. Alex (3.55)
  16. My Husband's Got No Courage in Him (Roud 870; G/D 7:1367) (3.30)
  17. Blackleg Miner (Roud 3193) (3.31)
  18. Padstow (Roud 305) (3.58)

All tracks trad. except
Track 2 Andy Irvine / Jane Cassidy; Dan Ar Braz;
Tracks 11, 14, 15 Maddy Prior;
Track 13 Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp

Video / DVD

  1. Intro, with an excerpt from
  2. My Husband's Got No Courage in Him (Roud 870; G/D 7:1367)
  3. The Band, with excerpts from
  4. Long Shadows
  5. The Great Silkie of Sules Skerry (Roud 197; Child 113)
  6. Hind Horn (Roud 28; Child 17; G/D 5:1022)
  7. Rose
  8. Alex
  9. Blood & Gold / Mohacs
  10. Doffin Mistress (Roud 2133)
  11. A Virgin Most Pure (Roud 1378)
  12. The Lark in the Morning (Roud 151)
  13. Padstow (Roud 305)
  14. Bonus track: Tribal Warriors (promo video from the album Arthur the King)

Sleeve Notes

It may not have taken exactly that long to come together, but in a very real sense Maddy Prior's Christmas tour of 1999 was 35 years in the making. The year's landmark first came to attention several months earlier, during the making of the Ravenchild album. A quick trawl through the history books and it dawned that this was indeed Maddy's thirty fifth album in as many years, a strike rate made all the more incredible when compared to the bands who release two albums in eight years and are still blessed with a high profile.

Of course, part of the reason for such an amazing work-rate has been the singer's penchant for a large variety of collaborations over the years. Despite a commitment to Steeleye Span that lasted nearly thirty years, Maddy was still able to produce a body of work as a solo artist, as part of a duo, fronting her own band, in collaboration with the Carnival Band as well as guesting with numerous names over the years. This needed marking.

It soon became clear that a series of shows over Christmas would be the perfect solution. Maddy's traditional Yuletide tour with the Carnivals was being held over till 2000, but there was still a huge demand for her own particular take on festive music. Why not combine that with an overview of her career? She had made a habit of revisiting several points of her career within her solo work but there was still an awful lot of material that was just not suited to that three piece format. A plan to put together a full band was the obvious answer - but more than just any band, a collective of musicians who had all played alongside Maddy over the years but had never appeared together on the same stage. Most had never even met.

The first pieces of the puzzle were Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, her current musical lynch-pins. Nick's keyboards have been a vital element in Maddy's solo work for the best parts of ten years while Troy brought his various instruments on board for 1997's Flesh & Blood and has been along for the ride ever since. The rest of the band fell into place bit by bit. Steeleye were represented by two of their most famous names - Peter Knight on violin and Rick Kemp on bass. In the Carnival Band corner was to be Steve Banks, providing not only drums but also violin. Having made two albums together as the Silly Sisters, Maddy and June Tabor had not sung together for [more than ten] years but were to relish the opportunity of performing as a pairing once more. With the past taken care of, there also had to be a nod to the future in the shape of Rose Kemp - Maddy & Rick's daughter (the band became dubbed Maddy Prior, Family & Friends) and a blossoming singer and songwriter in her own right.

With a couple of weeks furious rehearsals and one low key warm up behind them, Maddy stepped out onto the stage of the Cambridge Corn Exchange and launched into a spine tingling solo rendition of The Blacksmith, a tune not only from the very first Steeleye Span album but from her earliest days as a singer on the British folk club circuit. As such it was a fitting way to launch three nights (the all too brief tour would also visit London and Warwick) of pure magic. As promised, the shows were something of a history lesson taking in some solo work but heavily featuring gems from both the Steeleye & Silly Sisters vaults, all given a new and vibrant twist for the proceedings. One of Maddy's overriding aims for the shows was to draw on the rich depth and range of the voices involved and the set subsequently ranged from solo and duet pieces (the combination of Maddy and June provided nothing short of stunning) to the full blown, almost choral, sound of everyone en masse.

The evening proved an important reminder - if such were needed - of the range of material that Prior has turned her hand to over the years. Predominantly English in origin (none more so than the Padstow May Song, a huge favourite being performed for the first time in years), the set would also take in British, American an Eastern European material as well as Maddy's own songs of life, love and family - Rose gallantly sang harmony on the eponymous piece written for her as a toddler. Elsewhere, there was material detailing the flippant (a raucous My Husband's Got No Courage in Him) to the serious, the dramatic Agincourt Carol and Andy Irvine's Blood & Gold. Then there was the festive material. All in the Morning (a wonderful solo spot from June), The Boar's Head Carol, A Virgin Most Pure, Sing, Sing All Earth and others all captured the mood of the season perfectly but also in unique fashion, Christmas music played and sung as it was intended hundreds of years ago.

But perhaps what made these shows so special were the personalities involved, both on and off stage. Meeting the audiences night after night was a joy, many of them regular faces from both Maddy and Steeleye tours, but also a large number returning to the fold after an absence, revelling in the sounds of their youth. Such exuberance was more than reflected by the musicians themselves, whose enjoyment in performing was obvious. Each night was whiled away in various hotel bars, reminiscing on old times and speculating on the future before the party headed their separate ways as the first heavy snow of the winter began to fall, safe in the knowledge that they had been part of a truly exceptional musical experience. Thanks to Maddy, Rick, June, Nick, Pete, Steve, Troy, Gareth Sound, Gareth Lights, Rose, John, Nico & Rosie and everyone who came along. Enjoy.

Phil Udell, Dublin, October 2000