Thursday, 22 November 2018

Steeleye Span - Winter (2004)

In the bleak midwinter....


Released in 2004

Recorded in Oxford

This is a truly wonderful Christmas/winter album as Christmas goes electric folk rock. The UK's finest electric folk rockers lend their experienced hands and voices to this appealing collection of carols, traditional winter songs and a couple of their own seasonal compositions. Some of the material on here are among my favourite Christmas numbers of all time, and the album gets a rousing  play in my house in the period December 19th to the 25th. I find it hard to believe that anyone could not enjoy some of the songs on here. It is simply joyful in places. Traditional folk festive fare at its finest.


1. The First Nowell
2. Down In Yon Forest
3. Unconquered Son
4. Chanticleer
5. Bright Morning Star
6. Winter
7. See Amid The Winters Snow
8. Mistletoe Bough
9. Sing We The Virgin Mary
10. Today In Bethlehem
11. Blow Your Trumpet Gabriel
12. Hark The Herald Angels Sing
13. Good King Wenceslas
14. In The Bleak Midwinter                               

Top of the bill, for me, are the barnstorming folk rock versions of The First Nowell (given the traditional spelling, of course) and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, which are given the full All Around My Hat rocking treatment. Good King Wenceslas is delivered at a breakneck pace, full of almost punky guitar riffs, as if The Ramones are in the studio with them. In the Bleak Midwinter is just glorious, with Maddy Prior's crystal clear voice at its haunting best, accompanied by Peter Knight's evocative violin. See, Amid The Winter's Snow is awarded a lusty, hymnal delivery that just raises the spirits upon hearing. It is one of my favourite winter hymns.

The remaining material are mainly traditional folk songs with a winter relevance, along with the negro spiritual Blow Your Trumpet Gabriel, the first time the group have explored that particular genre. All the album has a fine late winter's afternoon ambience to it, but those folk rock carols are just majestic. Highly recommended. Forget your Michael Bublé or Rod Stewart roasting their chestnuts on an open fire, put this on for half an hour.


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