STEELEYE SPAN – EST’D 1969 (Park Records PRKCD154)

Est'd 1969There are bands who seem to have always been there and have established a reputation that even allows them to break out into the mainstream on occasions.  Steeleye Span are one such band and this year they celebrate their 50th Anniversary with a brand new record Est’d 1969.  Perhaps you would expect some kind of retrospective and you might reasonably expect ‘All Around My Hat’ to appear at some stage.  However as lead vocalist Maddy Prior said in a recent radio interview, with Brian Player on Wey Valley Radio, “We’ve done a couple of “Best of..” type albums and I think we’ve covered that, and I thought for our 50th we should do something new.” They certainly have produced something new, and very good, being familiar enough for people who have followed them from the start to feel at home with whilst being fresh enough to appeal to new ears.

The album is a mixture of new songs, along with the traditional, but it has that distinctive sound of Steeleye Span to it.  The album opens with ‘Harvest’ and I’m sure that a lot of people, without knowing in advance who the band are, would recognise them within ten seconds.  If they didn’t get it from that then after twenty seconds there would be no doubt at all in their minds.  A close harmony opening, very reminiscent of ‘Gaudete’, gives way to a rollicking folk song that is going to go down a storm at festivals and live shows with a chorus you can’t help but sing along to “And we’ll roar out, roar out, roar out our harvest home.

Of the nine track on the album it’s difficult to pick which ones to talk about because there’s such a range across it.  Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’ is dominated by Maddy Prior’s voice, deeper than it was but still beautiful, and with a surprisingly detailed backing that doesn’t detract from the words.

Of the traditional songs ‘The Boy And The Mantle’ (Child Ballad 29) is an saga lasting over six minutes and demonstrates the best of prog rock folk, with a harpsichord and electric guitars adding to the effect.

Although the track listing is nine there are actually ten tracks as ‘Domestic’ has two songs in it, the second of which gratifyingly starts with “As I walked out one May morning” to show without doubt folk is the heart of Steeleye Span’s music.  This also harks back to The Silly Sisters, being a song Maddy used to sing with June Tabor.  The men don’t particularly come out well on either track.

Est’d 1969 has a huge range, different styles and tempos and new band members bringing their own influences but retaining the core sound in an evolution rather than rebellion.  Over fifty years cycles begin to appear so Benji Kirkpatrick is now part of the band, following in father John’s footsteps.   Given all the changes how is that sound maintained?  Maddy Prior again “It’s very interesting having new people, young people, who don’t know a lot about traditional music…they think they know what it is before they join us and then they discover it’s much more complex than that”.

There are a couple of chances to see Steeleye Span play at festivals over the summer but then also a major tour in November and December; full details are on the website.  If you can’t wait until then to get Est’d 1969, and you shouldn’t, it’s released on 28th June and is available from Park Records

Happy Birthday, Steeleye Span, 50 years young and still making a huge contribution to the folk scene.  Long may it continue.

Tony Birch

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 Artist’s website: http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

‘Harvest’ – live:

Steeleye Span celebrate 50 years

Steeleye Span

Park Records are delighted to announce the release of EST’D 1969 from Steeleye Span on 24 June 2019 ahead of UK dates later in the year.  This is a new collection of songs, featuring contributions from all seven of the band members [with a guest appearance from Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull on ‘Old Matron’]. EST’D 1969 captures the ethos of the heritage and history of the band itself, but also the rich vein of tradition that they draw inspiration from, but remains fresh and contemporary. This is a celebration of 50 years but the band continues to look to the future.

‘Space Oddity’. ‘Suspicious Minds’. ‘Pinball Wizard’. ‘Whole Lotta Love’. ‘Come Together’ – 1969 could easily be said to be a vintage year for music, the end of a decade that changed the world and the introduction to one that would prove equally inspirational. It would also see the birth of a band that would start as an idea to electrify traditional music and would go on to become one of the most enduring stories in the folk world and beyond. Over the past fifty years, Steeleye Span have come to define the concept of English folk rock – taking it from the world of small clubs into the charts, concert halls and festivals around the globe.

The story of their career has included incredible moment after incredible moment – taking Latin carol ‘Gaudete’ onto Top Of The Pops, recording with David Bowie and Peter Sellers, showering their audiences with pound notes, scoring a top five hit with ‘All Around My Hat’, touring UK arenas with Status Quo, reuniting virtually all their members for a famous 25th anniversary show and entering their fifth decade as creatively inspired and active as ever – including the acclaimed Wintersmith album with Sir Terry Pratchett.

Featuring some of the most famous names in folk music from down the years (Martin Carthy, Tim Hart, Bob Johnson, John Kirkpatrick, Peter Knight, Ken Nicol, Liam Genockey), the band has perhaps been most identified with Maddy Prior – one of the most distinctive voices in British music. Helping found the band with her musical partner Tim Hart, she has steered Steeleye through their various incarnations, as well as a successful solo career and a number of regular collaborations with the likes of June Tabor and The Carnival Band. Steeped in the mythology and history of the British Isles – and beyond – her lyrics have retold some of the most notable stories in the tradition. Tales of love, tragedy, injustice, murder, revenge and redemption – all have come to personify the band’s musical sound, a marrying of folk tunes with the finest in rock instrumentation.

As they celebrate their milestone anniversary with EST’D 1969, Steeleye Span show no signs of slowing down. Releasing seven studio and four live albums since the turn of the century, their current seven piece line-up ranks as one of the strongest of their long history and features John Kirkpatrick’s son Benji amongst others. The band perform this summer at Glastonbury, Cornbury and Beautiful Days Festivals and will be touring the UK extensively in Winter 2019.

Artists’ website: http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

They’re still doing it. ‘All Around My Hat’ – live:

Live Dates

Friday 28th June           Glastonbury Festival   Glastonbury
Sunday 7th July            Cornbury Festival    Oxfordshire
Sunday 18th August      Beautiful Days Festival Devon
Thursday 14th November         Hedon  Zwolle (HOLLAND)
Friday 15th November Concertzaal      Tilburg (HOLLAND)
Saturday 16th November          Duiker  Hoofddorp (HOLLAND)
Sunday 17th November            Paard   Den Haag (HOLLAND)
Wednesday 11th December      The Haymarket Basingstoke