Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home
 

Steeleye Span

All Things Are Quite Silent: Complete Recordings 1970-1971

Review by Gary Hill

This new box set features three full albums from Steeleye Span. It comes in a nice clamshell box, and includes an impressive booklet. Each CD is ensconced in its own cardboard sleeve with the original album cover. I have put this under progressive rock, because generally you find this band listed under that heading along with similar act Fairport Convention. It should be noted that Ashley Hutchings had been a founding member of Fairport before having the same role in this band. Clearly SS were a big part of the sort of Celtic folk rock edge that made up a lot of the proto prog sound. I have done individual reviews on each album, which will be included separately, but also reprinted here. You'll find them as the first track review for each disc.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc One
                
Hark! The Village Wait
The first album from Steeleye Span, this was released in 1970. It's perhaps more acoustic and traditionally driven than the discs that followed it.
A Calling-On Song
A rich chorale vocal arrangement, sans instrumentation, bring this in with a real old-world sound. This is a purely acapella tune.
The Blacksmith
Folk rock with both psychedelia and proto prog in the mix bring this into being. The vocals create more of a folk sound. This is a classy tune that works very well. It has some intriguing musical passages. The chorus vocal arrangements with the multiple layers of non-lyrical vocals really make it stand out, though.
Fisherman's Wife
I dig the roots music concept at play on this number. It has a lot of old school folk sound to it.
Blackleg Miner
Coming in acapella with a great balance of male and female vocals, this is very old-world, Celtic sounding piece. Instrumentation rises up from there bringing plenty of roots music along with folk prog textures. The male vocals dominate this tune, standing out in contrast to the numbers that preceded it.
Dark-Eyed Sailor
The balance between rock and old-world music on this is quite good. This is a classy cut, but not a huge change.
Copshawholme Fair
I'd say that this is perhaps more prog oriented than a lot of the rest here. It has plenty of that folk rock vibe, along with some definite psychedelia, too.
All Things Are Quite Silent
Very much an old-school folk based number, this is quite potent.
The Hills of Greenmore
Now, this is a change. It's more electrified. While it still has plenty of the Celtic and folk elements at play, this is distinctly prog rock based.
My Johnny Was a Shoemaker
With multiple female voices, this is an acapella piece. It is old-world based and quite Celtic in feel.
Lowlands of Holland

Folk rock based, there are both proggy and psychedelic leanings built into this cut.

Twa Corbies
I like the interplay of male and female vocals on this cut. It has plenty of folk music and old-time texture built into it.
One Night As I Lay in My Bed
Now, here we have more of a full folk prog rocker. This is the most dynamic and complex number on this first disc. It's also one of the highlights. This has some great movements and musical textures. I love the instrumental interplay on the track.
Disc Two

             

Please to See the King
This is Steeleye Span's second disc, released in 1971. As much as I enjoy the first album, I'd say that this one elevates things a bit. It's also more proggy than that first one, while still maintaining the traditional elements.
The Blacksmith
I love the proggy vibe that the electric guitar sound brings to this cut. The vocals ground it in on the old-world textures. There is an acapella break further down the road. Then we get more of a rock approach before it shifts back to the earlier modes of the number.
Cold, Haily, Windy Night
The opening modes here do a great job of combining Celtic rock with psychedelia. This is a solid number, and quite an interesting one.
Jigs: Bryan O'Lynn/The Hag with the Money
An instrumental, the prog, psychedelia and Celtic textures blend well.
Prince Charlie Stuart
The rock and Celtic textures are mixed properly here. There is a definite proto-prog element at play, too.
Boys of Bedlam
Opening nearly acapella, the male and female vocals blend well. After the minute-and-ten-seconds mark the cut shifts to a new movement that has plenty of instrumentation. It's still quite traditional in sound and delivery. The more rocking section later definitely makes me think of something Tempest (the Celtic prog band from California) would do.
False Knight on the Road
I really like some of the electric guitar fills on this thing a lot. The cut has a bouncing kind of Celtic rock meets folk vibe to it. The vocals are male on this one.
The Lark in the Morning
Deftly merging the more folk prog stylings with the traditional Celtic sounds, this is another classy cut.
Female Drummer
More traditional in nature, somehow this feels not far removed from the kind of thing that Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night do these days in Blackmore's Night.
The King
A rich acapella arrangement brings this into being. It's about a minute-and-a-half long and purely without instrumentation.
Lovely on the Water
They saved the proggiest piece for last. There is plenty of psychedelia built into this thing, too. I love the intricate instrumentation. The vocals layer the icing over the top. I dig the cool echoey psychedelic jam mid-track. It almost seems to predict shoegaze music in some ways. They take that movement through some cool changes before returning to the song proper.
Disc Three
                
Ten Man Mop Or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again
Steeleye Span's third album, this was released in 1971 (and was their second release that year). I think this is proggier than the first two. I'd also consider it stronger and more compelling in a lot of ways. The version here has several bonus tracks not on the original album.
Gower Wassail
I love the complex and intriguing vocal arrangement on this cut. The music has an electric folk prog sound, but it's also understated and rather sparse.
Jigs: Paddy Clancey's Jig/Willie Clancy's Fancy
This instrumental is both traditional and proggy. It's energized and fun.
Four Nights Drunk

Based essentially on fiddle and vocals, this is an entertaining and old-school based Celtic tune. The fiddle gets some cool soloing in later. Then they fire out into a jam that's part Celtic and part bluegrass as other instruments join in the instrumental section.

When I Was on Horseback
While there is definitely psychedelia and folk rock at play here, there is still plenty of traditional Celtic music at the heart of this number. This is dramatic and powerful. It's one of my favorites of the set. There is so much emotion packed into it. The instrumental section later gets into some rather droning prog territory that is very cool.
Marrowbones
A bouncy kind of Celtic arrangement opens this number. It moves outward from there in fine fashion.
Captain Coulston
I like the folk turned vaguely psychedelic vibe of this number. It's a mellower one, but also a very cool song. As the arrangement fills out later the prog tendencies rise upward. I love the violin on this piece.
Reels: Dowd's Favourite/£10 Float/The Morning Dew
This instrumental is energized and a lot of fun. As you might guess, it's packed full of Celtic textures, but it manages to rock, too.
Wee Weaver
A fiddle and vocal based number, this is classy stuff.
Skewball
Energetic Celtic elements create the opening movement. After the one-minute mark electric guitar joins welding the prog elements to the arrangement. The cut continues with a great merging of those two sounds.
Bonus Tracks
             
General Taylor

Multiple layers of vocals create the acapella modes of this number. I like this number, but it seems to go on a bit long.

Rave on ('Fake Scratch' Single)
This has almost a soulful vibe in this acapella arrangement. It's fun, but the "fake scratch" is a bit silly. There is a bit of studio banter at the end of this.
Rave on (Alternative Version #1)
Not a huge change, this somehow seems to lose that soulful element.
Rave on (Alternative Version #2)
This version feels like it lands between the first two somehow.
 
Return

Ultimate Indie Bundle Banner
 
Google

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2019 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./Beetcafe.com