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4.6 out of 5 stars163
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 20 February 2014
First of all I'm not a fan of fantasy novels, films, etc. so the name Terry Pratchett made no impression on me whatsoever. I have been a fan of Steeleye Span, though, for roughly 35 years and have seen them through many personnel changes. WINTERSMITH might possibly illustrate the furthest shift away from the 'folk' aspect of their signature folk-rock sound which is peculiar since the subject matter here seems to be compatible with their brand of folklore and tradition. I like the heavier guitar (Julian Littman) emphasis scattered throughout this new record but my first impression is that Peter Knight's glorious violin is not as prominent as in the past. If I am mistaken I'll listen closer from this point on. I've always enjoyed Kathryn Tickell's smallpipes playing and am glad it wasn't just a one-track appearance. The smallpipes possess such a warm, earthy sound (as opposed to their noisy, close relatives from the north) and compliments Steeleye's revamped sound to a tee. So, is this record ushering in a new more rock-centric sound for Span? With the recent addition of Peter Zorn and Littman and Knight's imminent departure it seems so. Also after 40-some-odd years of singing professionally Maddy Prior's voice has now settled firmly into her mid and lower range. I've always felt that Rick Kemp is a damn fine rock bassist and his playing is magnified on this album but he's now 73 so it's an uncertain scenario when considering this band's future. In the meantime it's gratifying to know that at this late stage they can tweak their style and still deliver a winner. And even though Pratchett's name would've elicited nothing but a blank stare from me a mere 1/2 year ago if Span can draw this much inspiration from his work, count me in! Just don't expect me to read his novels.
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on 4 November 2013
Steeleye Span branch out on this album, which sets to music episodes from Terry Pratchett's series of Tiffany Aching books. You do not have to be familiar with the source novels to enjoy this, the songs all stand on their own merits. I know that other reviewers have made this point, but I think it is important and just wanted to reiterate it.

Wintersmith finds Steeleye in fine form. Maddy Prior sings as well as ever, Peter Knight's playing is superb, and the bass'n'drums of Rick Kemp and Liam Genocky sound even better than before. Julian Littman shows himself to be not only an excellent guitarist, but also a fine songwriter. He contributes three of my favourite tracks on the album. "The Dark Morris" really rocks, "You" is a lovely bittersweet love song, and "The Summer Lady" has a classic traditional theme, the celebration of the arrival of Summer. Pete Zorn adds to the breadth of Steeleye's sound with his acoustic guitar and sax playing. Hopefully on any future recordings he will also add his flute as well.

The feel of Wintersmith is also augmented by guests John Boden on melodeon and Kathryn Tickell, whose Northumbrian pipes add to the atmosphere on several tracks. The icing on the cake though, is the inclusion of two fine songs by the band's former guitarist Bob Johnson, "The Wee Free Men" and "Ancient Eyes". It's good to see him contributing to Steeleye again. Lyrically, Peter Knight's "We Shall Wear Midnight" is the strongest track on the album. In this, Tiffany Aching asks Terry Pratchett to write her a happy ending, and contemplates her own, and his, mortality. It's a song that is both poignant and powerful.

Steeleye sound great on this album. There are some powerful rockers, and even the gentler ballads have an edge to them that hasn't always been there before. To sum up, Wintersmith is everything a Steeleye Span album should be.
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on 3 November 2013
When first listening to this album I was a little underwhelmed by it. Not being a Steeleye Span fan I bought this solely for the Terry Pratchett/Discworld connection. However, curiosity led me to read the lyrics and the final song's lyrics leapt out at me and I had to hear that song, and as such I persisted with the album. The songs are, for me, a mixed bunch. The first half of the album is, for a non-Steeleye fan, ok but not great. But the album gets better as it goes along and 'Crown & Ice' is a wondrous song and with 'Making of a Man' marks the album's upswing on quality. The final track 'We Shall Wear Midnight' is a truly haunting take on mortality of both a fictional character and its author. The 'Tiffany Aching' books are a superb addition to the Discworld canon and aimed at a younger audience, and as such, Tiffany is shown growing up as the books progress and the target audience mature themselves. With Terry Pratchett's well documented illness though, Tiffany may well never reach maturity in the books and the song makes you realise that one day Terry will write his last words of fiction and with his death die all of his wondrous characters. That one song alone makes the album worth buying, one song of utter brilliance and beauty.

Steeleye fans will love this album no doubt, but Discworld fans may take time to warm to it, but give it a few listens and keep an open mind.
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on 18 January 2014
This is an album that is CRYING out to be made into a stage show a la "Riverdance"!
I heard "Dark Morris" one dark and stormy night at 2am coming back from Southampton.... It fitted perfectly!
I then dropped a (not so) subtle hint that I would love this for Xmas. The wait was exquisite torture!
I have now almost worn out the CD from listening to it. On my "Big System" it is AWESOME! Turn up to a comfortable level and listen from the start to the end for your first hearing. Don't be tempted to drop in and out of the tracks, just sit down and LISTEN to it from "needle drop" (that dates me...!) to "run out".
Some tracks will bring a huge lump into your throat with their lyrics, "You" being a case in point, it's a fabulous love song and you can imagine The Wintersmith courting Tiffany with this song.
My personal favourites are "Dark Morris" "Crown Of Ice" "You" and "The Summer Lady", if I had to pick just one track, it would be "The Summer Lady" as I'm a Summer person of the highest order. But that is not to say the others are rubbish... Far from it! The whole album is utterly superb.
Now as to Steeleye... I can remember seeing them live at Cambridge Folk Festival back in the '70's and being blown away by them as a "Folk Virgin" as I was at that time. It's lovely to hear Maddie is still in top form and her voice has, if anything, got better... The range is still there, but richer. The band is tighter than I can recall at any time since the late '80's, long may they continue!
So, as to my recommendations... This is going to be a "Must Have" album like "Rumours", "Dark Side Of The Moon", "American Pie" and a few others that I've got...

Buy it!

BTW. It's lovely to hear young (!) Mr. Pratchett telling us how to be a "... Good Witch..." More power to his imagination!

Respect to all involved in this project, let's have another!
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on 8 December 2013
Have been a fan of both Steeleye Span and Terry Pratchett for many years now so when I heard the two were working together I just had to get the album. I wasn't disappointed, in fact some of the tracks blew me away "You" being a particular favourite.
A great album that I've played so much that my husband brought us tickets to the Wintersmith tour. Can't wait.
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on 28 October 2013
I'm a massive Terry Pratchett fan, and I've grown up with the music of Steeleye span so I was very excited about the prospect of this album.
This is a review after just one listen, all in all I really like the Album. I think it captures the essence of the Wintersmith book really well, Some of the early tracks (excluding 'the dark morris' which is probably my favourite of the whole album) feel a bit jarring somehow, but once those are out of the way, it just feels like Steeleye Span should be. The energy is there, the toe tapping is there, the dark menace is there, and so is the light and the playful. Really well balanced, my second favourite song on the album is probably 'The summer lady'.

In conclusion, first listen is very enjoyable, and I'm pretty sure a lot of those tracks are probably growers, brilliant to hear Steeleye Span back doing what they are really good at!
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on 3 November 2013
This is the best Steeleye album for many many years. A truly refreshing approach to the very much 70's genre of Folk Rock. Musically the album is very much new century with a driving rhythm section and great production. Peter Knight shines again as a brilliant writer of left field songs. The Making of a Man and We Shall Wear Midnight are his truly great contributions to this album. His fiddle as always soars throughout the album.
The songs are a collection of themes around the trilogy of Pratchets books but this is not a concept album as such, it does not, and does not intend to, to tell the story of the books. As such the songs stand alone and can be viewed in that way. The themes do lend themselves to prog rock though so there is something for every one!
Lets hope this approach leads to an album of mainly trad interpretations in the same vain, now that would be something to behold.
Great album and a must buy for fans of the genre.
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on 28 October 2013
OK, so I've only listened to this once so far but first impressions are ... absolutely brilliant! From the opening song with haunting pipes, through to the close, there's not a duff track on this album. Good to hear a band that's been around a long time, still exploring and doing something different.
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on 22 November 2013
Excellent musicianship once again, much more rock than folk with self penned songs based on the Terry Pratchett book, Wintersmith. Only two quibbles preventing this album being a 5 star rating - one very weak song, The Good Witch, and the other being a very over-produced and messy instrumental called The Dark Morris Tune. Sadly, just to inform Span fans, it's just been announced that violinist Peter Knight will be quitting the band at the end of the year (2013). Peter is really the leader of the band now so I can't in all honesty see Steeleye bouncing back this time. Very sad.
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on 12 December 2013
I have long been a fan of Steeleye Span and this collection, all created around Sir Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series, Wintersmith does not disappoint. Steeleye Span have worked their magic in the music and bring the feel and spirit of the story "Wintersmith" to life. It speaks for itself that Sir Terry himself has a small piece on the disc.

Now I really want to see a Morris club dance to "the Dark Morris" Steeleye Span have created here. But I'll invest in some clothing suitable for the coming of an Ice Age if someone does ...
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