Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Steeleye Span - Now We Are Six Again (2012)

Drink down the moon....


Recorded live in 2012

This is a live recording of Steeleye Span's 1974 folk rock album Now We Are Six. The songs are performed in a solid, muscular fashion, with a nice bassy, depth of sound. Rick Kemp's bass is melodic and dominant, Maddy Prior's vocals mature and strong, Peter Knight's violin sublime as always and Liam Genockey's drums match Nigel Pegrum's original rock sound from 1974. It is taken from one concert, I believe, which had the full 1974 album as its first half, followed by a second set of extra material. All the songs are included on this double CD.


"Now We Are Six" tracks

1. Seven Hundred Elves
2. Drink Down The Moon/Cuckoo's Nest
3. Now We Are Six
4. Thomas The Rhymer
5. The Mooncoin Jig
6. Edwin
7. Long A-Growing
8. Two Magicians
9. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
10. To Know Him Is To Love Him

The two openers are classics from Steeleye's newly-enhanced 1974 punchy folk rock sound - the solidly rocking Seven Hundred Elves and the upbeat but beguiling Drink Down The Moon/Cuckoo's Nest. Now We Are Six was a bit of a throwaway track on the original album but it is given new life here, with a haunting Maddy Prior vocal. The iconic Thomas The Rhymer is an absolute triumph, full of atmosphere, powerful rock passages and evocative folky parts. This is a most difficult song to play live, I should imagine, and the group deliver it fantastically. Check out Peter Knight's violin - beautiful. Maddy Prior's vocals throughout the song are peerless.

The Mooncoin Jig is as the title suggests, a traditional instrumental jig. It is performed here with considerable "oomph" and vitality, the drums pushing it on, energetically. Edwin is a narrative rock and violin chugger of a song, sung on lead by Peter Knight concerning, it would seem, the killing of a young man, Edwin, by the parents of his young lover and the grief of the young girl, Emma, for her lost love. Once more, Knight's violin is stunning.

Long-a-Growing is a sad tale, sung beautifully by Maddy Prior of a young man who wishes to grow to win his maiden's love, he does indeed grow, marries, has a child, then dies at eighteen. A tragic tale, as many of these traditional folk tales are. The lively Two Magicians is a traditional, very "folky" song with a tongue-twisting chorus and a tale of a young girl who doesn't fancy the idea of losing her maidenhead to a grubby, dusty blacksmith and ends up becoming a nun. Some killer violin from Knight, of course.

Where the original album went wrong was with the two positively dreadful songs that ended it - the bizarre cover of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with the group putting on childrens' voices and a perplexing cover of The Teddy Bears' To Know Him Is To Love Him. The former is improved somewhat here by Knight's magnificent violin soloing. Similarly, the latter is much better than the original, with good vocals and excellent saxophone. It is still totally incongruous, however.

Extra live tracks

1. Just As The Tide

2. Let Her Go Down
3. Edward
4. Two Constant Lovers
5. Prince Charlie Stuart
6. Cam Ye O'er Frae France
7. Creeping Jane
8. Cold Haily Windy Night
9. Bonny Black Hare
10. All Around My Hat                       
11. Gaudete

The remaining part of the concert is equally impressive. Highlights are the rousing Just As The Tide, the delightfully bawdy Bonny Black Hare, the narrative rock of Edward, the tragic, heartbreaking seafaring tale Let Her Go Down and the traditional folk of Cam Ye O'er Frae France, with its deliberately jarring rock guitar. The drums on an untempo version of Cold Haily Windy Night are infectious and Creeping Jane is deliciously toe-tapping (it is the tale of a racehorse by the way). For those who like to hear "the hits", the gig ends with the obligatory All Around My Hat and the Latin seasonal vocal chant of Gaudete.

This is a highly recommended live album from a band who remain timeless.


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