Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Steeleye Span - Bloody Men (2006)

Released November 2006

After thirty-six years of releasing high quality folk-rock, Steeleye Span proved that they could still do it with this vibrant and confident double album. The line-up was Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp, Peter Knight, Ken Nicol and drummer Liam Genocky.


1. Bonny Black Hare
2. The Story Of The Scullion King
3. The Dreamer And The Widow
4. Lord Elgin
5. Three Sisters
6. The 1st House in Connaught
7. Cold, Haily Windy Night
8. Whummil Bore
9. Demon In The Well
10. Lord Gregory
11. Nedd Ludd 1
12. Nedd Ludd 2
13. Nedd Ludd 3
14. Nedd Ludd 4
15. Nedd Ludd 5

The album kicks off with the delightfully bawdy “Bonny Black Hare”, something a young girl says can be found “under my apron”. It is full of saucy double entendres, is sung by Maddy Prior in suitably lascivious fashion ad Peter Knight plays his violin to make it sound like an electric guitar, wild and screechy. It is an excellent track, full of verve and vitality. “The Story Of The Scullion King” is a male vocal song written by the group, but very much in the style of the traditional ballads they had been singing for all those years. Quite what it is about is difficult to decipher. It is historical, as to be expected, but quite what incident it is describing I am unclear about. It has a rock, as opposed to folk, beat to it. The next track, “The Dreamer And the Widow”, is a tender ballad with Maddy Prior on lead vocal singing over a gentle acoustic guitar and violin backing. She sweetly leads on “Lord Elgin” as well, a melodic catchy, almost AOR-sounding band-penned tune. Once again, Peter Knight’s violin backing is sumptuous as is the lead guitar. This is a very appealing song, they seem to have discovered the knack of writing songs that sound like traditional songs, yet have a contemporary, commercial feel to them.

“Three Sisters” is a delightful, thoroughly infectious, upbeat number, with all members singing harmoniously over a riffy backing. I love this one. “The 1st House In Connaught” is a jaunty Irish jig, with Knight’s violin to the fore. Steeleye have often re-worked previously recorded songs, this jig is re-worked from 1989’s “Tempted And Tried” and next they do it again with “Cold, Haily, Windy Night” from 1971’s “Please To See The King”, which is given a pulsating rock makeover compared to the bleak original rendering of it. “Whummil Bore” is a song about a servant lad looking through a bore-hole in the wall at The King’s daughter as her maids were dressing her. It is a beautifully sung song by Maddy Prior, and is actually rather a moving, sad lament about his adoration of her beauty as opposed to the creepy tale it may initially seem.

“Demon In The Well” features some addictive blues guitar over a solid, punchy insistent drum sound. It is Steeleye doing a slow folk blues. Most impressive and muscularly powerful. “Lord Gregory” is a dignified slow rock ballad, with more great guitar and violin.

Disc 2 is a first for Steeleye Span - a five-part suite of songs about folkloric 18th century character “Ned Ludd”, from whom social protest group The Luddites took thier name. They objected to the mechanisation of traditional industries. Their gripe has been somewhat misinterpreted over the years. They feared the decline of traditional skills and the erosion of workers’ rights and subsequent poor treatment more than they objected to progress. While the songs are all connected, narratively, they also function well individually. The experiment works and is immaculately played, particularly by Peter Knight, as always. Check out the solo on “Ned Ludd Part 3”. The songs are all appealing and catchy and the suite is most enjoyable (educational too).

In conclusion, this was a very impressive, immaculately played and sung album from a group who just never seem to get old.


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