...OLD BANDS FROM OLD
THE DOOM, BRIGHTON
Reviewed by Mark Ellen
© New Musical Express
11 March 1978
It seems like only yesterday that I was legging it downtown to buy Steeleye's second LP, 'Please To See The King'. And a very impressive album it was too.
Now, on their last tour, after eight years, 700 gigs, and several personnel changes, their music seems to have completed a full circle.
Not only has Martin Carthy rejoined their ranks, but the set (thankfully) has bypassed their little sortie into jukebox jive that spawned such 'strictly roots' pop tunes as 'All Around My Hat'.
Among, the usual rustic ditties about plum pudding and wanton women were a few outstandingly good songs. 'Montrose' for example achieved the balance of an electric sound that gave it more projection, without seeming the least bit obtrusive. Also, they used an off beat backing perfectly to produce the distinctive lilting quality in the vocals.
The Brecht/Kurt Weill song 'The Black Freighter' made the most impact on the crowd but very little on me. Such enormously powerful lyrics from Germanic cabaret, and Maddy Prior's almost virginal tones, seemed totally incompatible. I felt that if she'd slipped in a couple of 'Wack-Fol-Der-Riddle-Oh's', no-one would have noticed the difference.
The band are far more impressive within the format of much simpler songs like "False Knight On The Road". Not only does Maddy's excellent sense of rhythm come across clearer, but their arrangements have a much greater impact when less involved in attempting complex mood changes.
John Kirkpatrick did a little deft shuffling in a display of Morris dancing, and they finished up with a few rousing jigs and a five-part harmony gospel number, 'Down In The Valley'.
I'm not sold on Nigel Pegrum's drumming, Kept simple, it was great, But his over-exuberant fills successfully stomped on any remotely medieval feel, (What market for power-folk, I wonder?)
Steeleye's overall sound in general, now minus Peter Knight's violin and plus Kirkpatrick's superb accordion playing, seems a little more staid. As did much of Maddy's performance, She was so laid-back, she was practically horizontal, Her leap into the stalls for a spree of reckless cavorting made things look somewhat contrived.
I was disappointed - but not really for any technical reason. My initial enthusiasm for Steeleye Span back in the beginning was simply for their innovation of electric folk. Over their eight years they have explored its every possibility, and I, for one, would now welcome a return to the acoustic.