on 9 September 2003
This is the definitive compilation of early Steeleye Span. The two CDs comprise the first three albums, Hark! The Village Wait, Please To See the King, Ten Man Mop, in their entirety, and in the correct track order. Also included are two bonus tracks, an a capella cover of Buddy Holly`s "Rave On"(what you might call a `novelty` track, but nicely sung), and the rousing General Taylor(the singing here is reminiscent of the Watersons, I think), which was previously only ever available on the compilation "Individually and Collectively"(originally released in 1972).
At not much more than a quarter of the price of these three albums on separate CDs, it`s a steal! It`s nicely enough packaged, too, and unlike other budget compilations of this material which often have the wrong band line-up pictured on the cover, the inlay booklet contains some interesting comments from the different musicians concerned, and there are some nice sepia and black and white photos of the two line-ups(Hart, Prior, Hutchings, Woods, Woods on the first album; Hart, Prior, Hutchings, Carthy, Knight on the other two).
For neophytes, it should be pointed out that these three albums are the most traditional-sounding of the Steeleye Span back catalogue, and the band`s sound changed quite markedly after 1971 when Carthy and Hutchings were replaced by Rick Kemp on bass and Bob Johnson on guitar, both of whom came from more rock-orientated musical backgrounds. The first two albums with Kemp and Johnson in the band(Below the Salt, 1972, Parcel of Rogues, 1973) are regarded by most, if not all, Steeleye fans as being classics.
I'm not sure that the cross-over success of All Around My Hat in 1975 did Steeleye Span or the folk-movement any long term favours. They never hit the charts again, and folk and folk-rock, both undergoing something of a renaissance, began their retreat underground, though there is no proven link between the two. The producers of Top Of The Pops may have relished the thought of the band in pixie-garb and tinkling bells skipping around a maypole, Pan's People style, but trivialising hundreds of years of folk heritage to the level of the Wombles couldn't ultimately enhance the movement's credibility. Although they succeeded in popularizing the music and bringing it into the mainstream for a while, something was lost in the process. In particular, it led to their earlier and finest work becoming overshadowed.
Hark! The Village Wait (1970) was a marvelous and groundbreaking album, to stand alongside classics like Liege And Lief, and featured the original line-up that included Gay and Terry Woods. Gay's vocals alongside Maddy Prior's gave the band a very special sound (see A Calling On Song and My Johnny Was A Shoemaker for the full accapella effect). The Woods introduced an element of Irish traditional music to the mix that founder member Ashley Hutchings had originally intended to be purely English, and this continued on the second album, Please To See The King (1971), even though Gay and Terry had left, leaving Maddy as the only girl in the group. In their place came the veritable Martin Carthy (who collected and brought to the band such songs as Cold, Haily, Windy Night; Boys Of Bedlam, based on an 18th century poem; and False Knight On The Road) and Peter Knight, a classically trained violinist. The difference in approach is demonstrated on the song The Blacksmith, a version of which appears on each album, both great, augmented by drums on the earlier arrangement. Please To See The King is an uncompromising, timeless album and both its line-up and style survived for their third LP, Ten Man Mop (1972). That they were not just a vocal-led band is demonstrated on three excellent instrumental medleys of jigs and reels found on Please To See The King and Ten Man Mop.
The Dark-Eyed Sailor is a folk club favourite and there are many wonderful records of it, featuring Carolyn Hester, June Tabor, Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts among many, but I think the stately rendition on Hark! The Village Wait, led by Gay Woods with Maddy Prior's harmonies bests them all. The accapella version of Buddy Holly's Rave On that started life as a bit of a joke also works really well. It is a rare American influence on the record and shows that a good song is a good song regardless.
The important thing to note about The Lark In The Morning - The Early Years is that it is not a compendium of the best of the first three albums; it is all three albums in their entirety, spread over 2 CDs, and therefore represents a considerable bargain. There is even a bonus track: General Taylor, another accapella tune, left over from the Ten Man Mop sessions. It found a place on a various artists compilation the following year.
File under: Essential Folk-Rock
on 14 November 2008
Maddy Prior's voice is still one of the most recognisable in the folk canon, along with Sandy Denny and Jacqui McShee, and this double CD contains the first three Steeleye Span albums which showcase a wide variety of their best songs, particularly those from the line-up of Maddy Prior, Ashley Hutchings, Martin Carthy, Peter Knight and Tim Hart on the second and third albums, Please To See The King and Ten Man Mop. These contain such classic songs as 'False Knight On The Road', 'Lovely On The Water' and 'When I Was On Horseback'. This early version of Steeleye had no drummer and the band subsequently became more folk rock orientated when Rick Kemp and Bob Johnson joined and Martin Carthy and Ashley Hutchings left for the Albion Country Band. Highly recommended.
on 8 February 2007
Steeleye Span released a series of classic albums in the 1970's from the first album - 'Hark the Village Wait' up to 'Rocket Cottage' in 1976, before losing their way somewhat with the final two Chrysalis label albums, 'Storm Force Ten' and 'Sails of Silver'.
This wonderful compilation consists of the first three Steeleye Span albums, Hark the Village Wait, Please to see the King, and Ten Man Mop on 2 CD's. This is vintage Steeleye Span at their very best, Maddy Prior has one of the best voices I have ever heard, if not THE best.
A nice way to purchase the first three albums in one, this album is beautifully packaged, and is a brilliant introduction to their music for young and old alike. This is timeless music. Do yourself a favour and buy this compilation!
on 7 January 2005
This compilation comprises the first three albums by Steeleye Span. The first is good, but not especially ground-breaking. The second (Please to see the King) is the best electro-acoustic folk album ever made. The line-up changed to bring in Peter Knight and Martin Carthy; the imaginative scoring, tight, unusual rhythms, beautiful playing - and Maddy Prior's crystal voice soaring above everything. If this doesn't leave you misty-eyed, get the doc to sign your death certificate, because you have no heart. The third album seeks to recapture the freshness and artistry of the second. It fails, but nobly.
After this, the line-up changed again, still great sounds for a couple of albums. Then they got a drummer. So this compilation gives you the original and best - all good stuff, but the Please to see the King stuff is all sheer perfection. Forever England, forever young.
The Lark in the Morning now makes a fine companion to the more recent release from EMI, a Parcel of Steeleye Span. This collection gathers together the band's first three albums which were issued on various labels in the very early seventies, RCA, B&C and Pegasus, and then reissued on the Mooncrest label a few years later. Most of the material has been available on various other Steeleye Span CD compilations for a number of years and because I already owned most of the tracks I rather overlooked this collection when first released.
Having recently purchased a Parcel of Steeleye Span, which features the band's first five albums for the Chrysalis label, I revisited this earlier collection and decided it would make a perfect partner. The Lark compiles the first three albums in chronological order and the tracks run in their original sequence, unlike the other compilations I have, and the tracks have been mastered for this release. There is one bonus track included, but the sleeve notes apologise for the single version of Rave On being absent as the master tape is lost!
This is the era when Ashley (Tyger) Hutchings was the driving force behind the band, and his distinctive bass playing is prominent throughout. The sound quality is not quite as good as the EMI collection, but this may be because of the original recordings rather than the reissues - but it still sounds pretty good! I had forgotten quite how good these three albums were, and it is a pleasure to now hear them in the correct sequence once more.
There is a reasonable booklet with album details and comments from band members, but no illustrations of the original album artwork are provided. Now very reasonably price the Lark in the Morning is well worth considering - even if you do already have most of the material elsewhere - more so if you also own a Parcel of Steeleye Span.
20/01/10 - This collection is now all the more poignant with the passing of Tim Hart on Christmas Eve 2009. Tim died aged 61 of lung cancer at home in the Canary Isles.
on 5 March 2010
Yes, they did it again. Besides pushing every frequency range to the limits, they managed to actually cripple the songs with over 200 clipped samples on disc 1 and over 900 on disc 2. This happens when the sound levels go beyond the limits of the audio CD specifications and parts of the sound wave are "cut off" - or, in other words, the waveform literally flatlines and any sound at those points is simply lost. Even in the parts where clipping does not occur, the absurd raising of the sound levels results in some very uncomfortable listening. All instruments and vocals have had their volumes raised to the same high levels, resulting in a complete loss of the dynamics of the songs, with instruments that were originally very quiet now sounding as loud as everything else. Why can't these audio "engineers" go work in some other field more adequate to their abilities like dog walking or whatever, thus avoiding criminally maiming classic, essential music like this?
on 16 October 2012
This is the first of three box-sets containing their earlier albums. Good value if you like Steeleye!
The three boxed sets containing Steeleye Spans earlier 13 albums are:
The Lark In the Morning - The Early Years (2009). containing:
Hark! The Village Wait - 1970
Please To See the King - 1971
Ten Man Mop, Or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again (including General Taylor) - 1971
A Parcel of Steeleye Span: Their First Five Chrysalis Albums 1972-1975 (2009). containing:
Below the Salt - 1973
Parcel of Rogues - 1973
Now We Are Six -1974
Commoner's Crown - 1975
All Around My Hat - 1975
Another Parcel of Steeleye Span, Their Second Five Chrysalis Albums 1976-1989 (2010). containing:
Rocket Cottage - 1976
Storm Force Ten - 1977
Sails of Silver - 1980
Live At Last - 1978
Tempted And Tried - 1989
Later Albuns (all still available) are:
Back in Line (1986)
Tonight's the Night...Live (1992)
The Collection: Steeleye Span In Concert (1994)
Horkstow Grange (1998)
The Journey (1999)
Bedlam Born (2000)
Present--The Very Best of Steeleye Span (2002)
Live In Nottingham (2003)
They Called Her Babylon (2004)
Bloody Men (2006)
Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert (2006)
Cogs, Wheels and Lovers (2009)
Live At A Distance (2009)
Now We Are Six Again (2011)
on 4 July 2009
As usual, there is very little information to be found on this page about the sound quality on this 2CD, apart from one customer who is somewhat critical. So I looked at the US Amazon site and found that there were several highly enthusiastic comments, after which I place my order. I was not to be disappointed.
In fact, the sound IS astonishingly good, and altogether the value-for-money aspect is so overwhelming there is no way this release could be granted less than five stars. However, judged strictly for it's virtues as a re-release it really is a very strange one indeed.
First, while there are many so-called two-on-one releases around (i.e. CDs with two original LPs transferred on to a single disc), this is often impossible with Steeleye Span, since their records were generously long. Hence, what we have here is three albums put on to two discs. That means the second album is cut into two pieces, so that it starts on the second half of Disc 1 and continues from the beginning of Disc 2, making for a listening experience quite different from what the group originally intended (to put it diplomatically). This problem is further emphasized by the fact that the style and sound on the debut LP were very different from that of the two subsequent albums. There is a very logical reason for this. Initially, Steeleye Span was a group consisting of one bass player plus two male-female folk duos, i.e. Maddy Prior/Tim Hart and Gay & Terry Woods. In other words, it was not at this stage purely an English or even a British group, since two fifths of its members were Irish. Furthermore, this quintet was augmented in the studio by two highly accomplished drummers, namely Dave Mattacks and Gerry Conway. After the release of the debut LP, the Woods couple left and were replaced by violinist Peter Knight (just back from fighting with Che Guevara and his Merry Men, or so his ubiquitous headgear seems to suggest) and Martin Carthy (mercifully during a phase of his career where he didn't sound as if he had just had his nose broken). This second line-up had no drummer, so all in all we are talking about two distinctively differently sounding groups, represented here in a manner so that the material of the first runs straight into that of the second, whose first album is then cut of by disc one running out of space: not a good idea at all. Of course, you can correct that yourself with a bit of editing etc.
Second, there are no pictures of the original album sleeves. In fact, looking at the front and back of the CD won't really tell you what this is other than some tracks from 'the early years' of the group's career. (Bizarrely, the few notes on the back only mention the groups' attempt to murder the classic rock song Rave On - they almost succeed. In the name of Buddy Holly, skip this track.) You practically have to know the original albums beforehand - by heart - and check the track listing, or read the sleeve notes pretty much all the way through, before it dawns on you what this is. Another possibility, of course, it to read the customer reviews on this page - which is how I found out what was going on. So they did come in handy after all.
This somewhat ambivalent presentation of the material looks like the label's attempt to avoid killing sales of the three albums separately. So financially it may make some kind of sense, but from an artistic point of view this is altogether a pretty ridiculous way to re-release what is simply three of the finest albums ever made by any group. Luckily, the music itself and the sound quality are strong enough to make all these critical notes on record company policy a secondary matter.
on 30 September 2012
This 2 CD set covers the first few years of Steeleye Span, including the first 4 albums they produced.
I believe this to be some of their best music they produced. The instrumental jigs such as Bryan O'lynn/The hag with the money are stunning pieces of folk music at its most exciting and intensity.
Lovely On The Water is another favourite of mine.
The sheer volume of great songs on this 2 CD set is where the value lies.
One thing I was annoyed with is how tiny the words are in the booklet. You need a magnifying glass to read it, especially the track lists.
Overall this is a great 2 disc set of some classic English folk / rock music.