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STEELEYE SPAN Cogs Wheels And Lovers

Cogs Wheels And Lovers
Park Records PRKCD106

A new Steeleye CD is always an event and this one is a MAJOR event.   The ole’ folk-rock dinosaurs have hit vintage form in a big way.  This is a collection of 11 traditional songs (plus a hidden track) sung and played by a Steeleye at the top of its game.  Maddy, Peter Knight and Rick Kemp represent Steeleye’s Mark 1, 2 and 3.  Liam Genockey (drums) joined in 1989 and Ken Nicol (guitar) in 2002 – so this Steeleye is a bit like Johnny Cash’s One Piece at a Time Cadillac! Joking aside – this CD has some really well-known songs (Locks and Bolts, Creeping Jane, Our Captain Cried all Hands) and some lesser-known (The Machiner’s Song and an unusual version of Ranzo).

As you’d expect, Maddy Prior sounds like she has always done … and several decades younger than she obviously is.  One semiquaver into a song and you know that you’re listening to that magnificent voice.  This CD is a crunchy, buoyant, melodic joy from start to finish.  If you want my stand-out track, however, it’s the one I was most nervous about … Creeping Jane.  I’ve known and loved this from the singing of Martin Carthy and then Martin Simpson as a beautifully irregular song about a dead racehorse!  How would it survive Steeleyfying?  It’s very odd, but they’ve given it the full All Around My Hat treatment, complete with a rumpy-tumpy Womblebeat and it simply works.  The rollicking rhythm conjures up a horse race and brings a smile to the face.  I love it, especially the bit at the end when Ken Nicol cuts loose and has some fun on his guitar (sounds like a Telecaster, but I think it’s a Strat … what a geek I am!)

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this is the best studio Steeleye CD since Storm Force Ten.  That is a real compliment, as the Steeleye albums up to and including that one are all in my “Desert Island Discs” list.

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.