Steeleye Span: The Collection
Castle Music CCSCD 292 (CD, UK, June 1991)
Note: Wil Tirion (email@example.com) pointed out to me that track 12 is not Sailor's Bonnet from the LP Tempted and Tried as noted on the sleeve cover but instead Saucy Sailor from the album Below the Salt. I changed the track list accordingly.
- All Around My Hat (Roud 22518)
- Thomas the Rhymer (Roud 219; Child 37)
- Alison Gross (Roud 3212; Child 35)
- John Barleycorn (Roud 164; G/D 3:559)
- King Henry (Roud 3967; Child 32)
- One Misty Moisty Morning (Roud 20075)
- The Mooncoin Jig
- Long Lankin (Roud 6; Child 93; G/D 2:187; Henry H735)
- The Fox
- Shaking of the Sheets (Roud V11404)
- Rogues in a Nation (Roud 5516)
- Saucy Sailor (Roud 531; Laws K38; G/D 1:49)
- Black Jack Davy (Roud 1; Child 200; G/D 2:278; Henry H124)
- Seven Hundred Elves (DgF 52D)
- Robbery with Violins
- Seventeen Come Sunday (Roud 277; Laws O17; G/D 4:791; Henry H152)
#4, 5, 12 and 17 were originally released on
Below the Salt
#3, 6, 11 and 15 were originally released on Parcel of Rogues
#2, 7 and 14 were originally released on Now We Are Six
#8 was originally released on Commoners Crown
#1 and 13 were originally released on All Around My Hat
#16 was originally released on Storm Force Ten
#9 and 10 were originally released on Tempted and Tried
During the Seventies, Steeleye Span enjoyed a very high profile as the standard-bearers for British folk/rock music at a time when the genre was in danger of falling into oblivion. While Fairport Convention were perhaps better known in Britain, Steeleye were arguably a much more international group and remain an ongoing (if occasional) concern in the Nineties.
The group was launched at the beginning of 1970 after conversations at folk festivals during the previous year between Ashley Hutchings (bass, who had just left Fairport Convention), Tim Hart (guitar, vocals) & Maddy Prior (vocals), a duo who had made two albums of traditional material, and Irish couple Gay & Terry Woods.
The Woods left after the first album; Terry is now a member of the Pogues. For the next two Steeleye releases, the group was joined by Martin Carthy, perhaps the most highly rated British traditional folk singer and guitarist of modern times, and violin virtuoso Peter Knight. Hutchings departed after two more LPs to form the first of numerous Albion Bands, while Carthy returned to acoustic folk. It was at this point that Steeleye Span began to evolve, and the era covering the music on this album began to be made.
After recruiting bass player Rick Kemp (ex-Michael Chapman Band) and guitarist Bob Johnson (a friend of Knight), Steeleye signed with Chrysalis Records. Below the Salt, released in 1972, briefly reached the UK album chart and included John Barleycorn (a song about the invention of beer, also recorded a couple of years earlier by Traffic), King Henry and Gaudete, a 16th Century song about the birth of Christ sung in Latin, which appropriately reached the UK Top Twenty at Christmas 1973 after release as a single.
Released in mid-1973, Parcel of Rogues, was more successful than any of its predecessors, its highlights including Alison Gross, One Misty Moisty Morning, the more-or-less title track Rogues in a Nation and the brilliant Peter Knight showcase with the unnecessary title, Robbery With Violins (groan!). Now We Are Six, released in 1974, was the group's sixth original album and was cut with a sixth member, drummer Nigel Pegrum. Their first LP to reach the Top Twenty, it included the classic Thomas the Rhymer, The Mooncoin Jig (which features Peter Knight displaying his virtuosity on mandolin and tenor banjo) and Seven Hundred Elves.
A prolific Steeleye released two new albums during 1975. The first, Commoners Crown, is represented here by Long Lankin, still a favourite among Steeleye aficionados. Eight months later came Steeleye's biggest album, All Around My Hat. Producer Mike Batt of Wombles fame was keen to utilise his talents on something more adult than imaginary furry rodents, and the results were spectacular - the album became the group's first to reach the UK Top Ten, and the joyful title track became their only Top Five single to date. That track is included here, as is Black Jack Davy.
Batt also produced Rocket Cottage. released in 1976 and a minor commercial success. At that point, Knight and Johnson left to make their own album, The King of Elfland's Daughter. [Both were replaced by guitarist Martin Carthy and accordion player John Kirkpatrick and produced] Steeleye's Storm Force Ten - appropriately their tenth album, from which Seventeen Come Sunday is including here. This line-up also cut 1978's Live at Last!, the final Steeleye Span album of the seventies, after which the group split - only to reassemble in 1980 for Sails of Silver, which featured the classic Hart, Prior, Kemp, Knight, Johnson and Pegrum line-up.
After that, Tim Hart decided to give up playing music for a living, while Maddy Prior and Rick Kemp, who were by then married, launched their own band. There was silence until 1986, when the final line-up reformed without Hart to make Back in Line on the independent Flutterby label. By 1989, when Dover Records invited the ex-Steeleye alumni to make a new album marking the group's 20th Anniversary, Rick Kemp declined, although Prior, Knight, Johnson and Pegrum were happy to oblige with assistance from bass player Tim Harries. The result was Tempted and Tried, and included here are The Fox, Shaking of the Sheets and Sailor's Bonnet.
One last thing - the group name, Steeleye Span is a character in a relatively obscure Lincolnshire folk song titled Horkstow Grange, which is about an argument between John Bowling and Steeleye Span, and the name was suggested by Tim Hart. So now you know...
John Tobler, 1991