A Parcel of Steeleye Span does as it says: It combines their first five Chrysalis albums - Below the Salt (1972), Parcel of Rogues (1973), Now We Are Six (1974), Commoner's Crown (1975), and All Around My Hat (1975) (chronologically, the band's fourth through eighth albums overall) - into one nicely remastered package. Also included are a few stray dogs related to the albums, including the single version of "Gaudete" (which, unlike the LP track, does not fade in at the beginning but comes from a cold start) and a live recording of "The Wife of Usher's Well" from 1974, predating the track's inclusion on All Around My Hat.
Of the five, my favourite albums are Below the Salt and Parcel of Rogues, the last ones to feature Steeleye as a drummerless band; all the rhythm is provided by Rick Kemp's bass playing. Nigel Pegrum joined the band for Now We Are Six, my least favourite of this set - not for Pegrum's membership (indeed, the drums put Steeleye on more of an even keel with their closest rivals, Fairport Convention), but more for the rather twee tone of the children's songs included (the title cut and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"). Commoner's Crown rebounds a bit from its uneven predecessor, but still not terribly memorable to me. All Around My Hat has Steeleye finding their new feet and kicking away in full folk-rock plumage; the title cut remains one of my favourite Steeleye tracks, along with "Hard Times of Old England."
A good remastering job done properly by EMI; downsides? Recording info is a bit scant, and no liner notes, which would have given the listener some insight into what was going on with the band at the time, hence this set is docked a star.
Lastly, RIP Tim Hart, who passed away in late December of 2009. You'll be missed, friend.