Okay, this album is certainly more "commercial"(by 1970`s standards) than preceding albums, but that fact is academic at this point in time. Listening to the album now, any comparisons with "pop" music are irrelevant because pop music has changed so much since 1975 that the tracks on All Around My Hat sound pleasingly "old-fashioned"(for want of a better phrase).
All nine of the tracks are adaptations of traditional songs and tunes. I suspect that the problem the dissenters have with it is the fact that the album is so accessible, with some catchy songs that grow on you very quickly.
I took to the album on first hearing it, but that`s not to say that I subsequently tired of it, because I didn`t. I still listen to All Around My Hat(the whole album) regularly and I rate it highly.
In its defence, it contains nine genuine trad./rock tracks, with no silly gimmicks, which is more than can be said for the oft-praised Now We Are Six and Commoners Crown which fans consider to be vastly superior to the "Hat" album. Well, they may be superior in some ways, but what about the two nursery rhyme tracks on Now We Are Six, with the band members imitating a school choir!? Gratuitously silly, boring, unfunny, pointless, and a waste of valuable album space. On the same album, there is also a cover of a completely incongruous To Know Him is To Love Him, with David Bowie(!) guesting on alto sax. Crass commercialism, or just a misguided gimmick? On Commoners Crown, there was another pointless guest appearance, Peter Sellers this time, playing "acoustic"(ha-ha-very witty)ukelele, and contributing some of his "Goons" gibberish on the track "New York Girls". What was the point of that? Were the band just trying to impress us with the fact that they actually KNEW these "celebrities"? The bottom line is, the presence of these two guests on a Steeleye Span album is utterly superfluous, not to mention irritating.
So, be warned about those two albums.
Give All Around My Hat a chance. I recommend it especially to those unfamiliar with the band as it was my first Steeleye Span album and got me into their music.
I would have given it five stars but I have one gripe, concerning the mixing of the album. The musicianship is fine, but on some tracks Peter Knight`s fiddle solos are undermined by inappropriately loud guitar licks, with the result that the guitar basically spoils the fiddle solos. But it was the Seventies, and they were young and frivolous. If they were to record those tracks now, I`m sure they wouldn`t make that mistake.