Thursday, 31 May 2018

Steeleye Span - Commoner's Crown (1975)

  

Released January 1975

Recorded at Morgan Studios, London

The second of Steeleye Span’s fully-fledged electric folk albums and the last before new producer Mike Batt would help them achieve chart success. After “Now We Are Six”, with its occasional lapse into poor quality indulgence, this was, thankfully, a far more well-rounded and credible album.Immaculately played, a wonderful mix of heavy guitar riffs, strong drums and folky fiddle parts and, of course, Maddy Prior’s almost medieval voice, the songs on this album are strong and often tragic, as many of these traditional folk ballads were. “Little Sir Hugh” is about the murder of a young boy and the frightening tale of “Long Lankin” involves the murder (and possible rape) of a housewife on her own in her house by a mysterious visitor. It is a truly unnerving song. These songs, grisly as they are, are the album’s highlights.

There is also the customary fiddle reel, this time based upon a pice by Bach entitled “Back Goes To Limerick”, which merges Bach’s music with an Irish country reel. “Demon Lover” is a harmonious, catchy and tuneful Irish-sounding song, but to this day I have no idea what it is about and the same applies to the perplexing “Elf Call”. The latter has a great drum and guitar sound though. “Dogs And Ferrets” is an appealing slice of traditional ale-swilling English country folk. Sung a capella It lifts the mood somewhat after the morbid “Long Lankin”. As indeed does the intriguing, lilting folk air of “Galtee Farmer”, backed by an insistent, throbbing electric guitar.

“Weary Cutters” is an Irish-sourced a capella folk ballad, faultlessly sung by Prior and “New York Girls” is a rousing bar-room folk song based in New York, presumably sung there by immigrants from the UK in the late 18th/early 19th century. It suddenly finishes for some reason.

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