2 CD.SET PRKCD52
Released:-1999.
DISC 1 - STEELEYE MARK 1.
1. Calling On Song. 4. Dark-Eyed Sailor.
2. Blacksmith. 5. Blackleg Miner.
3. Fisherman's Wife. 6. Lowlands Of Holland.
   
DISC 1 - STEELEYE MARK 2.  
7. Cold, Haily, Windy Night. 10. Gower Wassail.
8. Prince Charlie Stewart. 11. Lark In The Morning.
9. Jigs.  
   
DISC 1 - STEELEYE MARK 3.  
12. John Barleycorn. 15. Cam Ye O'er Frae France.
13. The Ups And Downs. 16. All Around My Hat.
14. Edward.  
   
DISC 2 - STEELEYE MARK 4.  
1. Wife Of The Soldier. 3. Sweep, Chimney Sweep.
2. The Maid And The Palmer.  
   
DISC 2 - STEELEYE MARK 5.  
4. Twa Corbies. 7. The Elf Knight.
5. Harvest Of The Moon. 8. Thomas The Rhymer.
6. The Water Is Wide.  
   
DISC 2 - ENCORES.  
9. Rave On. 10. Tunes.

 

THE ARTISTS:-

Maddy Prior
Gay Woods
Martin Carthy
Liam Genockey
Michael Gregory
Tim Hart
Tim Harries
Ashley Hutchings
Bob Johnson
Rick Kemp
John Kirkpatrick
Peter Knight
Nigel Pegrum


REVIEW BY NICK CLARK, OCTOBER 1999

THE JOURNEY
Steeleye Span Live at The Forum
Kentish Town, London
2nd September 1995

Four years after this historic concert events have conspired to allow the release of a CD of the best of the evenings entertainments.For those that don't know or can't remember, this was the night all the versions of Steeleye Span came together to reprise some of their best work. With the exception of Terry Woods from the first line up all the famous names that have appeared over the bands twenty-five years put aside their differences and played together - even the first line up that never managed it first time around.


The concert was the brainchild of Dave Hill, long time associate of the band and actor."When I asked them if they'd do it they all agreed" he said, "But that was because each one thought the others would refuse".


The result was the assembling of five line-ups including Tim Hart who had long since retired to a Canary island and had to come up with a dulcimer to play having not had one since quitting the band thirteen years previously. Other members to give their time for the gig (in aid of the charity War Child) included founder member Ashley Hutchings and folk legend Martin Carthy.The organisation was fraught with problems.Drummer Nigel Pegrum had to be flown in from Australia and the only member to span all the five line-ups - Maddy Prior had been told to rest her voice after an operation. She was needed on stage for the whole gig !


On the day, the hall in London was packed with folkies who watched Dave Hill with friend Brian Glover and Martin Carthy and spouse warm up the afternoon session before a rousing three hour finale of the ultimate Span concert.


For Span 1 Carthy sat in on banjo for Terry Woods who didn't show and Maddy and Gay sang vocals. For the second version he moved onto electric guitar and the band played early seventies material (the first version made only one album - 'Hark The Village Wait').He came back in the fourth version and the evening concluded with a line-up that included the then regular drummer Liam Genockey.The event was well-received by the press and even had a write up in The Guardian. Their reviewer concluded, "Dave Hill did more than raise money for Bosnia"



THE JOURNEY CD.

On the inner sleeve notes of this CD, concert organiser Dave Hill imagines the complete line-ups of Steeleye Span playing together as something akin to a music heaven that eventually - after twenty five years came true. We too shared in the un-necessary elongation of that time period as Park have waited a further four years to commit the event to record. Now, however, the wait is over and the label have come up with a double CD pack of more than two hours decorated in a beautifully packaged box with accompanying booklet. At 20 it may seem a little steep but believe me it isn't. If you never buy another Steeleye live record you should get this one. Why? Well it's very well recorded for one thing. The sound is crystal clear - not easy to get in live venues - and the mixing is top quality too. The crowd are there and enthusiastic but not affecting the listening pleasure of the songs. One casualty, unfortunately, is the banter. If you've ever been to a Steeleye gig you'll know the chat onstage and the song introductions are key elements in the performance. I suppose that given the length of the record, there was no chance to keep anything in which is understandable but a pity nonetheless. However...back to the music.

One of the most eagerly anticipated sections of the show was the reunification of the original Spanners who recorded the first album. They opened and are represented on the first disc by six songs all from their album. They never sang live together twenty-five years ago but you wouldn't know that from their performance. It was amazingly close to the record and I confess to more than a little tingle between the last line of 'A Calling On Song' and the first striking of the drum for 'Blacksmith'. Twenty-five years on and after only three days together the band were note perfect. Gay Woods, now back with them sang well on 'Lowlands of Holland' (my personal fave) to close the set for Mark 1.

Going into Steeleye's most commercial period with the Mark 2 and 3 line-ups I was surprised by their selections. They included 'Cold,Haily,Windy Night', some jigs and the Mark 2 set ended with 'Lark In the Morning'. The same line-up - still featuring Tim Hart as lead male vocalist - reminded me just what a brilliant traditional folk voice the Spanners could call upon. It really added to 'Gower Wassail' and continued to lead the line in the Mark 3 rendition of 'John Barleycorn'. I was disappointed at the absence of 'Gaudete' here but pleased that 'Cam Ye O'er Frae France' - a staple of the bands touring set at the time - was included. It really hit home - a powerful tour de force - that contrasted well with many of the quieter accappella songs and reminded one that Steeleye have always had a reputation for being at the louder end of folk rock. Anyone waiting for the obligatory 'All Around My Hat' will be appeased at the close of the Mark 3 performance on disc one.

The second record opens with the welcome arrival of the Mark 4 line-up - created, according to the sleeve notes, to fulfil record and tour obligations. Their only studio output 'Storm Force Ten' is represented by the song 'Sweep Chimney Sweep' but along with 'Wife of the Soldier' and 'The Maid and the Palmer' it represents a return to more traditional roots after the more commercially successful earlier seventies line-ups. Perhaps this is not surprising when you look at the musicians involved. This section is a welcome addition to the set.

The final part of the second disc is given over to the then current line-up. Gay returns to join Maddy Prior on vocals and the Mark 5 Spanners break into a new set composed of material from their album in preparation, 'Time'. Listen out for a new version of 'Twa Corbies' with much more instrumental clout but perhaps lacking some of the soul of the original. The touring favourite, 'Harvest of the Moon', came next and then a very fine version of The Water Is Wide'. Considering that this must have been one of its first outings and with the benefit of hindsight the latter number was sung so well by Gay Woods I have to say I believe it better than the subsequent studio version and later live recordings. The set closed with the traditional favourite, 'Thomas the Rhymer'.

And so to the encores - unusually perhaps an old single 'Rave On' was reprised sounding, for all its minor alterations, like the record of years earlier and then to conclude, further jigs - the popular 'Masons Apron' included allowing for a typically big finish.

Altogether then an excellent piece of work. Some real highs in hearing the earliest line-up perform and seeing how well the later ones had retained their high level of energy. Again one can only admire the standard of musicianship in coming into these songs with so little rehearsal and playing them so well - it could easily have been a much-practised studio recording. Perhaps this is to be expected given the musicians who have passed through Span in a quarter of a century but it is still a delight to hear and a really good album. Now where's the video to go with it?