Thursday, 31 May 2018

Steeleye Span - All Around My Hat (1975)

Released October 1975

Recorded at Air Studios, London

Steeleye Span’s Mike Batt-produced shot at the big time. Trying for a more commercial, chart-friendly style of folk-rock, Batt encouraged them to up the volume on the electric guitars and drums and they certainly do that on some truly excellent tracks - the haunting tale of female unfaithfulness that is “Black Jack Davy”, the rousing and exhilarating fast fiddle plus electric guitar rock of “Hard Times Of Old England” and, of course, the only real hit single they ever had (not including the Christmas novelty “Gaudete”) in the rumbustuous singalong fun of “All Around My Hat”.

“Cadgwith Anthem” is a beautiful a Capella, with a lovely brass part at the end, that sees the band returning to their true folk roots, as indeed does the instrumental “Sum Waves”. “The Wife Of Usher’s Well” is a beautifully melodious (with all vocalists taking roles), but sad tale of a wife who loses all three of her sons, presumably in some overseas conflict. “Gamble Gold” is pleasant enough, though - harmonious vocals and a great drum sound. “Dance With Me” is another tuneful romp based, apparently, on a Scandinavian folk song, while “Bachelors’ Hall” has an air of grandiose mystery about it, plus some killer guitar and violin, particularly at the end.

One listen to Maddy Prior’s voice soaring along with the band as the rock kicks in on “Hard Times Of Old England” is just such a pleasure. Along with “The Wife Of Usher’s Well”, with Peter Knight’s stunning violin work, two of the band’s finest moments. Furthermore you still can’t beat Maddy’s vocal on “All Around My Hat”.


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