Monday, 9 March 2015

Steeleye Span - Please To See The King (Classic Folk UK 1971)


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Source: Japan 24-Bit Remaster

Please To See The King is the second album by Steeleye Span, released in 1971. A substantial personnel change following their previous effort, Hark! The Village Wait, brought about a substantial change in their overall sound, including a lack of drums and the replacement of one female vocalist with a male vocalist. The band even reprised a song from their debut, "The Blacksmith", with a strikingly different arrangement making extensive use of syncopation. Re-recording songs would be a minor theme in Steeleye's output over the years, with the band eventually releasing an entire album of reprises, Present--The Very Best of Steeleye Span.

The title of the album is derived from the "Cutty Wren" ceremony. A winter wren in a cage is paraded as if it were a king. This rite was carried out on December 26, Saint Stephen's Day, and is connected to early Christmas celebrations. The song "The King", appearing on the album, addresses this, and is often performed as a Christmas carol. Steeleye returned to this subject on Live at Last with "Hunting the Wren" and on Time with the song "The Cutty Wren". The custom of Wrenboys is mostly associated with Ireland, but it has been recently revived in England.

All songs appearing on the original album are traditional. "The False Knight on the Road" is one of the Child Ballads (#3), and concerns a boy's battle of with the devil in a game of riddles. Hart and Prior had already recorded a version of the song on their album 'Summer Solstice'. "The Lark in the Morning", one of their more popular songs, has the same title as a different song about a lusty ploughboy, though there are strong similarities. This version was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams. "Boys of Bedlam", a variant of Tom o' Bedlam", is told from the perspective of a member of a lunatic asylum. Carthy and Prior open the song by singing into the back of banjos, producing a muffled effect. The band uses the earliest printed version of the song, from Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy by Thomas d'Urfey.

Melody Maker made this their folk album of the year. Music journalist Colin Irwin in his book "In Search of Albion" describes it as one of his favourite folk-rock albums. It reached number 45 in the UK album charts, originally on B & C Records but before the year was out the rights were acquired by Mooncrest Records who re-released it the same year, with different cover art. It was issued in the US at the same time on Big Tree, when the small label was distributed by Ampex. It sold poorly and was deleted quite soon after release. Remaining copies were bought up by a couple of the 'cut-out' distributors and by that time, the band had signed with Chrysalis and the cut out original sold very well. When stock ran out, poor quality bootleg copies started to turn up in huge quantities.

Musically, this was their most electric, dense recording, with loud guitars and strong looping bass lines and no drums. In 2006, Castle Music re-issued the album as a double-CD with numerous additional tracks taken from radio and TV appearances.


The debut of Steeleye Span (Mark II), with Peter Knight on fiddle and Martin Carthy on guitar, is more solid in almost every area from repertory to production. The group still had its feet in both modern and traditional sounds simultaneously, so Please to See the King mixes very beautiful, distinctly archaic sounding songs such as "Boys of Bedlam" with amplified, electric numbers like the rousing, ironic "Female Drummer" (which was a highlight of their concerts). Although a second female voice would've been nice, the singing and harmonizing (with help from some careful overdubbing) is still impressive and the performances are tighter, the group's overall sound reflecting the quintet's status as a working band and their experience performing these songs on-stage. The use of electric guitars was also unique, and quite different from rivals such as Fairport Convention, occasionally mimicking the sound of bagpipes here. 

Songs including the haunting "The Blacksmith," the fine guitar workout on "Cold, Haily, Windy Night," the dour "Prince Charlie Stuart," the bittersweet "Lovely on the Water," and the playful, cautionary "False Knight on the Road." They would get better on later albums -- especially in their approach to the jigs and reels represented here -- but this represents a solid second beginning for the band.

Bonus tracks
Rave On! (Buddy Holly / Hardin) is an a cappella version of a Buddy Holly song. It was meant as a prank to mock Ashley's solemnity, but he ended up liking it. In 2006, Castle Music re-issued the album with the 10 original tracks and 25 bonus tracks, on 2 CDs. The bonus tracks were all poorly-recorded tapes of live BBC radio broadcasts (3 from TV). Only six of these were tracks not already available in good studio versions although the arrangements are different on some. 

The song "I Was a Young Man" is very different from the version on "Battle of the Field" by The Albion Country Band. The song "Gallant Poacher" was also on that album. Steeleye Span's bonus track version is very similar. "College Grove/Silver Spear" is a pair of jigs by Peter Knight. "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" is a Dylan song, sung a cappella. "Farther Along" is a traditional gospel-blues song, also sung a cappella. "Let's Dance" is obviously a companion-piece to "Rave On". It is the well-known hit by Chris Montez. "Bring 'Em Down/A Hundred Years Ago" is a pair of sea shanties. Incidentally, "Hitler's Downfall" is actually the instrumental "Bryan O'Lynn", already available in a studio recording.

Recorded Late 1970, Sound Techniques, Chelsea, London

Personnel:
Maddy Prior - vocals, spoons, tabor, tambourine
 Tim Hart - vocals, guitar, dulcimer
 Peter Knight - violin, mandolin, vocals, organ, bass
 Ashley Hutchings - bass, vocals
 Martin Carthy - vocals, guitar, banjo, organ

Disc 1:
01."The Blacksmith"
02."Cold Haily, Windy Night"
03."Jigs: Bryan O'Lynn / The Hag With The Money"
04."Prince Charlie Stuart"
05."Boys of Bedlam"
06."False Knight On The Road"
07."The Lark In The Morning"
08."Female Drummer"
09."The King"
10."Lovely on the Water"

Bonus:
11. Rave On!

BBC "Top Gear" session rec. June 23 1970
11. The Blacksmith
12. Female Drummer
13. Rave On!
14. I Was a Young Man
15. The Lark in the Morning

BBC "Stuart Henry Show" session July 23 1970
16. The King
17. Prince Charlie Stuart
18. The Bold Poachers

Disc 2:
"Folk on 1” BBC radio session, October 17, 1970"
01. College Grove / Silver Spear (2.51)
02. Lay Down Your Weary Tune [Bob Dylan] (4.20)
03. False Knight on the Road (Roud 20; Child 3) (3.22)
04. Jigs: Hitler's Downfall / The Hag with the Money (1.58)
05. Female Drummer (Mk I) (Roud 226; G/D 1:104) (3.50)
06. Wee Weaver (Roud 3378) (4.23)
07. Reel (2.36)

“Stuart Henry Show” BBC radio session, February 4, 1971"
08. Female Drummer (Mk II) (Roud 226; G/D 1:104) (4.12)
09. General Taylor (Roud 216) (3.36)
10. Farther Along (Roud 18084) (3.10)
11. Two Reels (2.32)

“Top Gear” BBC radio session, March 27, 1971"
12. Let's Dance [Jim Lee] (1.45)
13. Bring 'em Down / A Hundred Years Ago (Roud 926) (2.40)
14. The Lark in the Morning (Roud 151) (3.52)

BBC TV performance (date unknown)
15. The King (Roud 19109) (1.24)
16. Jigs: Bryan O'Lynn / The Hag with the Money (2.13)
17. The Blacksmith (Roud 816) (3.49)

Part 1: Link
Part 2: Link
or
Part 1: Link
Part 2: Link
.

5 comments:

Psychedelic-Rocknroll said...

Hello Chris!
my feedburner account is dead, and
i 've changed my feed url.
please change in your blogroll my old url feed in this:

http://psychedelic-rocknroll.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

thank you!
best regards, alessandro

Timmy said...

Real fine... THANX alot!

Keith Rh said...

many thanks,only got interested in this music after reading a couple of great books on this topic eg electric eden and really enjoying it all

Daniel said...

This album is wonderful. Thanks a lot !!

moodyxadi said...

Wow! Would love to hear all these bonus tracks. Could you upload it please? Thanks!