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Although Steeleye Span never quite achieved the same status or cult following as fellow-travellers Fairport Convention, they ploughed their own traditional furrow and were extremely successful in their seventies heyday. A Parcel of Steeleye Span gathers together the first five albums the band released on the Chrysalis label, albums four to eight in release order; the first three albums (the Mooncrest reissues) have been previously released as The Lark in the Morning compilation on Sanctuary Records.

There is very little to criticise about a Parcel of Steeleye Span - for around the price of one of the previously released CDs of each single album you now get five complete albums and a sprinkling of bonus tracks. The tracks on this collection have been remastered for this release and sound better than ever. The set is presented in a double CD jewel case with disc one and the booklet in the first half, and discs two and three in the second half. The albums and bonus material run in chronological order, but because of CD time constraints the album a Parcel of Rogues ends up split across CD1 and CD2.

Tim Chacksfield compiled and co-ordinated - always a good credit on any CD reissue, and David Suff, of Fledg'ling Records, provided the cover illustration. The booklet is rather thin and only provides basic information on each album's original release. My only small niggle is Rocket Cottage not being included - one of my favourites and now hard to find on CD. Still, maybe a Steeleye volume two will follow with the Live one and Storm Force Ten as well? And more bonus material!

A Parcel of Steeleye Span is a good value, no frills package that will enable fans of the band to extend their CD collections without breaking the bank; as would the purchase of the earlier release on Sanctuary Records. The first eight albums for less than twenty quid - bargain! Let's hope this set sells well enough for a volume two to be considered by EMI.

12/01/10 - Sadly I have just learnt that Tim Hart passed away on Christmas Eve at his home in the Canary Isles of lung cancer. One of British folk's finest in his heyday, this set is now all the more important and timely.
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on 12 January 2010
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.
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VINE VOICEon 4 November 2009
These early Steeleye Span albums are absolute gems, full of brilliantly conceived arrangements and really involving performances. Until now they have never received the CD releases that they thoroughly deserve, so good on EMI for having them remastered so beautifully. The whole package works extremely well and its much better value than having to buy each album individually.

There isn't a weak album here - even the more commercial Mike Batt produced 'All Around My Hat' is a collection of hugely enjoyable and well performed songs - but my personal favourites are 'Below The Salt' and 'Commoners Crown'. The latter includes Steeleye's take on 'Long Lankin' which is about as perfect an example of folk-rock as you could possibly find. Peter Knight's fiddle playing is wonderful here, as it is throughout the entire set.

Whether you are a long term fan or new to the band, this set is an essential purchase.
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on 16 October 2009
This cd box set is a must for all Steeleye fans, it caputures their most prolific period of recording 72-75. I did buy all the albums on vinyl when they first came out, but I must say with the 2009 re-mastering you can hear instruments and vocals previously not so prominent in the mix. My only criticism is that there could have been a little more information and pages in the booklet, plus take out the picture from the 1980 'Sails of Silver' period which is not relevant to the period covered. Other that that I am extremely pleased with the quality of the music. Maybe in the future the same will be achieved with 'Rocket Cottage', 'Storm Force Ten', Live At Last' and 'Sails of Silver'
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on 21 October 2009
This takes me back to listening to the tape of Original Masters on the schoolrun. Nearly all the tracks from that tape are here plus many more from the five albums. I can only agree with the other reviewers that if you love this stuff then this is the moment to upgrade. I also agree with the others that compared with the Fairport reissues, and for example No Roses, the booklet is disappointing. There is so much which could be written about where these songs came from and how the group electrified so many songs so well in four years (the naff ratio is pretty small), also who really did what. Is there a history out there?
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on 17 September 2010
I bought this CD recently - partly because it was cheap - and partly because I remember borrowing a steeleye complilation from a folky friend way back 30 yrs ago. The amazon bargain page allowed me to click on each track to sample it, and it sounded good. So now I have it - I have to say it's pretty darned good. It includes the hits - 'All Around My Hat' & 'Gaudete' - but there's a lot more besides. Haunting songs like : Parcel of Rogues; Misty Moisty Morning; Batchelor's Hall & The Hard Times of Old England, to name a few. I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool folky type - and I dont like every song on this equally - but there's plenty to entertain here. I love the combination of Maddy Prior's pure voice; the vocal harmonies that the other guys create; and the rock-style electric guitaring. It makes for an ageless, exciting sound. The Hard Times of Old England is a great example - it's a beaty, foot-tapping classic with an infectious tune. For me at least, Maddy Prior's soaring vocals and the simple lyrics somehow pluck a patriotic chord in my soul - this song about simple tradesmen suffering, as England suffers hard times - it's quite moving. It's almost like an anthem for today - for Britain in recession, but maybe I am just getting too poetic! - but I love that song - it's excellent - it stirs me.
There is a cracking version of The Holly and The Ivy - it's beautiful ! - a great song to have ready for Christmas Eve ! I guess that many of the songs on here are traditional - songs about : peasants, farmers, poachers, Kings, elves & witches - that sort of thing - so if u like your folk music to be English, traditional and rural u wont be disappointed. Priced at about a fiver, I think this is a bargain - I'm glad I bought it. John.
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on 10 January 2016
A few weeks ago, I saw Steeleye Span again in concert in London. I already have all their early albums on vinyl and occasionally got them out for a listen. But I just had to rip these CDs to FLAC and I now listen to them with fond memories. Maddy Prior has a quite wonderful voice.

If you have never heard Steeleye Span - buy this collection - you will not regret it.
If you grew up listening to Steeleye Span - buy this collection - you will not regret it.

ps - I would also recommend Fairport Convention's 5 CD box set.
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on 25 November 2009
EMI - what a paradox you are. I'm still reeling from the brutal marketing decisions you made with Apple concerning the 2009 remastered Beatles (like spending 130 quid to hear Sgt Pepper in Mono), and then I discover this gem of a bargain. Five well-remastered Steeleye Span albums for twelve quid! Yiha!

Below The Salt was the unknown one for me and I am well impressed. Sufficiently impressed that I may now buy "Lark In The Morning" - another great deal, this time with the band's first three albums for a fiver!

Then the glorious run of albums from the muscular powerhouse of Parcel Of Rogues (the mix still veering over the edge of screechy in this remaster but I love it just the same) through the semi-collapse of Mike Batt's anaesthetic "All Around My Hat" which nonetheless has the brilliant Black Jack Davy and - if I'm in the right mood - Hard Times Of Old England.

In between, well there's the truncated pleasure of Now We Are Six (which prompted one waggish reviewer to speculate on what type of distractions were afoot in the studio when they decided to include Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the appalling To Know Him Is To Love Him).... which nonetheless contains one of my deepest favourite tracks: The Two Magicians. Splendid!

Then, my overall favourite. And unusually, not the first one I owned, that was Parcel of Rogues. But Commoner's Crown was the album which I adored back in my first year at University and I still do. It's worth the twelve quid all on it's own. Hear the smoothness of Long Lankin, Demon Lover, and Weary Cutters. Maddy Prior, you're an angel.

This, by the way, is clearly a shot of heaven for Steeleye fans who like to make their own compilations...like what I do. (Sorry, Ernie). I have been distracted for days now....ending up with one collection, but now beginning to start on these discs again which may lead to a second volume.

So; for those of you seeking quality sound, the news is a surprise to me: EMI have delivered on this occasion. (They are notoriously unreliable imho).

For those of you wondering if you will still like Steelye Span so many years after their folk-rock heyday - fear not! You'll love this organic music more than ever....it will remind you of how dismal is the new music you may be listening to. (They just don't make music this way anymore - see Tony Parsons/Ian MacDonald).

And if anyone out there is reading these reviews thinking "Well, it's a good deal, and they sound like an interesting band...naybe I should take a chance..." TAKE IT! You will not regret purchasing this fantastic triple-CD five-album Bargain of the Year. (Should be Re-Issue of the Year in the mags, but will any of them notice?).

And a gruding Thanks to someone at EMI who may be a little less mercenary and cynical than the...people?....involved with the Beatles marketing.
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on 16 October 2012
This is the second 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)
Time (1996)
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)
Winter (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)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 October 2012
I mentioned the price in the title of this review, because at the time of writing, a month or so after my purchase in August 2012, the price for the mp3 collection is £12.49 and the price for the CD box set is, surprisingly, lower at £10.27. There is clearly something wrong with Amazon's pricing policy and you should think twice before shelling out for the mp3 collection when you can get the CD set cheaper, or you could wait and see if the mp3 collection drops back down in price! Perhaps someone from Amazon could add a comment to this review.

Having said all that, this is a great collection Steeleye Span's early work. It is not a "best of" collection, but instead their first five Chrysalis Albums, remastered to a high standard. This is an important point, as one of the problems with well known folk bands such as Steeleye Span is that a lot of their tracks are repeated time and time again on various "best of" folk collections. I was pleased to discover that I did not have too many of the 51 tracks on this collection duplicated elsewhere. Of course there are quite a few classic tracks, but a number of lesser known offerings. Overall this is an excellent collection and highly recommended, especially at the bargain basement price of £3.99!
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