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Stealing Sheep (UK): Into The Diamond Sun (Heavenly HVNLP95CD, CD, with digipak, 2012)
Folk/Psychedelic
Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley, Lucy Mercer
Thankfully, this isn’t quite the Spires That In The Sunset Rise-style avant-folk weirdness that I expected. Instead, it mixes folk, pop and psychedelic music with a few experimental touches, with the whole thing having a faint early Pink Floyd vibe. The result is an enjoyable LP, but not quite the whacked-out classic the hype surrounding its launch suggested. GRADE: C+.

Stealing Sheep (UK): Not Real (Heavenly HVNLP112, turquoise vinyl plus pink vinyl 7", with inner and download card, 2015)
Pop/New Wave
Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley, Lucy Mercer
Making their slightly underwhelming debut sound like a masterpiece, album number two sees Stealing Sheep turning towards a sort of naïve new wave-tinged electropop sound. The first three tracks are a dead loss, but ‘This Time’ is mildly psychedelic and ‘Greed’ has a slightly trippy edge too, but side two consistently fails to impress. In fairness, this isn’t badly done, but I didn’t particularly like this type of music the first time around. GRADE: C–.

Stealing Sheep (UK): Big Wows (Heavenly HVNLP163CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2019)
Pop
Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley, Lucy Mercer
Here Stealing Sheep become the pure pop group I suspect they always wanted to be. Sure, this is derivative of everyone and everything early eighties – Depêché Mode, Gary Numan, the Human League, maybe even Bananarama – but is’s charming and catchy stuff that easily surpassed my low expectations. If only they’d been born thirty years earlier, they might actually have had some hits. GRADE: C+.

Stealing The Fire (UK): Hot Ice And Wondrous Strange Snow (Burning Chrome BCD 10101, CD, 1999)
Progressive
Saff Edye (lead vocals)
This British band offer some lively neoprogressive, and they’re more ambitious than most, with songs of up to 16½ minutes. That’s not to say this is complex music – don’t expect ostentatious time changes or breathtaking displays of virtuosity, and you shouldn’t expect too much from the melodies or riffs either or the rather thin, brash, low-budget arrangements. If that sounds like damning the album with faint press, it does make some effective use of ethnic elements and sound effects, so the end results are mildly interesting. However, of those two words I’d emphasise the ‘mildly’. GRADE: C+.

Steamin’ Freeman (USA): Greatest Hits (Caramba CR 1001, 1975)
Rock
Dorothy Moskowitz (occasional vocals, keyboards), Ginny Whitaker (drums)
Led by one Freeman Lockwood, this band’s albums are chiefly sought-after because Dorothy Moskowitz (ex-United States Of America) was a member. Recorded live in a pub, it’s a rather patchy barroom rock set with a few rural edges, peaking on the second half of side one, comprising Moskowitz’s bluesy ‘End Of The Line’, Lockwood’s decent rocker ‘Don’t Push Me Away’ and a lively version of the traditional ‘The Cuckoo’. The band cut a rather umimpressive studio album Full Steam Ahead (Caramba CR 1003) in a similar vein the following year; Moskowitz must have left during the sessions as she is credited only with piano on three songs. GRADE: C.
See also Moskowitz & Fregulia, United States Of America

Steele & The Lady (Canada): Lonely Places (Moon Gold M310, with inner, 1976)
Folk/Rock
Selina (joint lead vocals), Lynn Payne (joint lead vocals)
This obscure album – credited on the back cover to ‘the Steele Brothers and the Lady Selina’ – isn’t the product of a proper band, but of a collective of musicians assembled to record the work of a couple of songwriters. Despite its private release, they clearly had a considerable budget as the production is superb and the arrangements highly professional (including some strings). With quite a bit of hazy, almost psychedelic, flute it's nearly enough to win you over, creating a vibe similar to Seventh Dawn; but like that album it's all very middle-of-the-road and there's more than a touch of Broadway in the carefully enunciated vocals. In any case, the best cut by far is the dramatic 'Niikowa', whilst at its worst (notably on 'Jingle John' and 'The Man That's Not') this recalls the naggingly tuneful simplicity of the language tuition albums issued on Longman. GRADE: C.

Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Hark! The Village Wait (RCA SF 8113, UK, with insert) 1970
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals, banjo), Gay Woods (joint lead vocals, percussion, concertina, autoharp)
The first, short-lived Steeleye Span line-up was apparently far from harmonious, which is surprising considering that they made an album of exceptional fragility and beauty. Indeed, I’d go further and say that this magical LP is the best folk/rock album ever made. The magnificent harmony vocals of Maddy Prior and Gay Woods (both world-class singers in their own right) are the obvious attraction, but the shimmering, restrained backing is also consistently stunning, especially on haunting, bittersweet pieces like ‘The Blacksmith’, ‘All Things Are Quite Silent’ and ‘Lowlands Of Holland’. It’s one of the great tragedies of life that this line-up never recorded again, though it’s impossible to imagine how they could have surpassed this. GRADE: A+.
Steeleye Span (UK): Please To See The King (B&C CAS 1029, with hessian-textured sleeve and insert) 1971
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals, percussion)
The second Steeleye Span line-up was quite different from the first, and their second album was unrecognisable as the work of the same outfit that had cut Hark! The Village Wait. Gone were the lush female harmonies and relaxed folk/rock backing, replaced by keening solo vocals and sparse, harsh instrumentation underpinned by a murky recording to create a very eerie atmosphere. As though to emphasise the change, ‘The Blacksmith’ was re-recorded in a completely different, and this time very alienating, version. Another standout track is ‘Boys Of Bedlam’, the weird vocal effect for which was created by Martin Carthy singing into the back of a banjo. For those who imagine Steeleye Span were only capable of easy-listening, mid-tempo folk/rock like their hit ‘All Around My Hat’, this powerful LP should be mandatory listening; it certainly was for a whole generation of underground electric folk bands, with its echoes extending everywhere from Malicorne to Stone Angel. GRADE: B.
Steeleye Span (UK): Ten Man Mop Or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again (Pegasus PEG 9, with book sleeve, 1971)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals, percussion)
This is not dissimilar to its predecessor, although less relentlessly doomy and with higher sound quality. The highpoints are the shimmering, rather psychedelic ‘When I Was On Horseback’ and ‘Captain Coulston’, both beautifully sung by Maddy Prior (who has a surprisingly low profile here). This was even more lavishly packaged than the hessian-sleeved Please To See The King, coming in a gilded gatefold cover with stapled centre booklet; allegedly the band paid for the sleeve out of their own pockets, and lost money with every copy sold. Probably luckily for them, it did not chart. GRADE: B.
Steeleye Span (UK): Below The Salt (Chrysalis CHR 1008, 1972)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals, percussion)
The band’s first album for Chrysalis, and their first with the successful line-up featuring guitarist Bob Johnson and bassist Rick Kemp, is a little brighter and more mainstream than its two predecessors. In fact, some of it is downright mellow, whilst the opening ‘Spotted Cow’ (regularly performed live in a reggae-tinged version) presages the more commercial direction the band would later take. On the plus side, ‘Sheep-Crook And Black Dog’ is darkly atmospheric, ‘Gaudete’ is perhaps the best acapella arrangement ever undertaken by any folk/rock band, and the seven-minute ‘King Henry’ is a wonderful piece of psychedelic folk with some impressive guitar work. GRADE: B–.
Steeleye Span (UK): Parcel Of Rogues (Chrysalis CHR 1046, with booklet, 1973)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
A much heavier and more powerful album than Below The Salt, this sees Bob Johnson cutting loose with some distorted guitar leads and bassist Rick Kemp adding some drums here and there. Consistently inventive from start to finish, the disc probably peaks on the rather psychedelic ‘Alison Gross’ and the relentless ‘Cam Ye O’er Frae France’. An excellent outtake from the sessions ‘Bonny Moorhen’ was included on the Original Masters compilation; this is a delicate piece resembling some of the cuts from Hark! The Village Wait. GRADE: B.
Steeleye Span (UK): Now We Are Six (Chrysalis CHR 1053, with inner, 1974)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
Adding a dedicated drummer for the first time, this ups the rock quotient again and adds a strong progressive edge (probably due to the presence of Ian Anderson as producer). The first side is stunning, with three long and very well-structured cuts (‘Seven Hundred Elves’, ‘Drink Down The Moon’ and the stage favourite ‘Thomas The Rhymer’) plus an amusing diversion by way of a set of mediaeval riddles performed by the male band members in the manner of a primary school choir. Whilst good enough in its own right, side two is not its equal, with a jig and three shorter folk/rock songs. Unfortunately, the band then repeats the ‘primary school choir’ joke, which isn’t funny the second time round, and finishes with a shrill, pointless version of ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ with David Bowie on saxophone. This fondness for whimsy would cost the band dearly, significantly reducing their critical standing. Nonetheless, these foibles aside this is easily their best album since their debut. GRADE: B+.
Steeleye Span (UK): Commoners Crown (Chrysalis CHR 1071, 1975)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
This was the first album where Steeleye Span composed the bulk of their own music, and also the first where their familiar sound (relaxed, mid-paced, melodic folk/rock with chunky guitars) really dominated. As such, this is not a very exciting LP, although it’s certainly well put together. ‘Long Lankin’ is something of a progressive folk classic and ‘Dogs And Ferrets’ is the one relatively experimental cut, although it’s not terribly successful; the album ends with another attempt at a musical joke with a celebrity guest (‘New York Girls’ with Peter Sellers on ukelele and vocal ad-libs). GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK): All Around My Hat (Chrysalis CHR 1091, with insert, 1975)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
This was Steeleye Span’s commercial high water mark, reaching the top ten and spawning a top five single in the title track. With Wombles maestro Mike Batt producing, it’s by far their slickest set to date and very much of its period, with some hard and glam-rock influences creeping in. Overall it’s more consistent than Commoners Crown, with a pleasingly muscular sound and a powerful opening with the impressive double whammy of ‘Black Jack Davy’ and ‘Hard Times Of Old England’; on the other hand, it’s very one-paced and for the most part rather predictable. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK): Rocket Cottage (Chrysalis CHR 1123, with insert, 1976)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
Surprisingly, Steeleye followed their commercial breakthrough by making an album that was not more pop-oriented but more experimental. The standout cut is clearly the eerie ‘Fighting For Strangers’, which fuses two anti-war songs to a background of echoing percussion, but ‘Orfeo/Nathan’s Reel’ and ‘Sligo Maid’ have interesting vocal and drum arrangements respectively, whilst ‘The Drunkard’ is an admirably restrained way to close proceedings. On the downside, a couple of cuts are more plodding pieces in the style of the last couple of albums, whilst an uncredited impromptu version of ‘Camptown Races’ is nowhere near as amusing as the band appears to think. GRADE: B–.
Steeleye Span (UK): Storm Force Ten (Chrysalis CHR 1151, with insert, 1977)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
With Bob Johnson and Peter Knight quitting to pursue their King Of Elfland’s Daughter project and folk stalwarts Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick coming on board (in Carthy’s case, for the second time) this has a slightly different flavour from their last few albums: a bit quieter and more reflective, although still very effective. However, apart from a couple of Berthold Brecht songs there are no real surprises, and what the album gains in subtlety it loses in excitement. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK): Live At Last! (Chrysalis CHR 1199, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
Issued to mark the band’s demise (they broke up five days after this concert was taped, but inevitably quickly reformed when solo projects failed to sell), this live album courageously focuses on new and obscure material. It’s an ambitious set, including a fifteen-minute piece in ‘Montrose’, but like much of the band’s latterday output, rarely very exciting. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK): Sails Of Silver (Chrysalis CHR 1304, 1980)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
Rejecting traditional material in favour of their own compositions, the band turns in its most middle-of-the-road and least interesting album to date. It’s perfectly pleasant throughout, but only ‘Gone To America’ really captures the traditional ambience they were clearly striving for. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK): On Tour (Chrysalis L-37968, Australia, 1983)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
This Australian-only live album offers a fine cross-section of material, and unlike the earlier Live At Last! concentrates on the band’s best-known and most loved songs. The performances are occasionally a little muted, but overall this is a solid overview of the band in concert. As a footnote, this was founder member Tim Hart’s last regular appearance with Steeleye, as health problems forced him to quit the music business. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK): Back In Line (Flutterby FLUT 2, 1986)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
This album has been widely maligned for its heavy drumming, eighties synthesisers and stadium-rock edges. In fact, it sees Steeleye Span revitalised and making their most interesting music since Now We Are Six. Perfecting the knack of writing modern folk/rock songs about historical subjects, they deliver a powerful double whammy with the opening ‘Edward’ and ‘Lanercost’ and demonstrate their continued ability to surprise with ‘A Canon By Telemann’ and a funky reworking of ‘Blackleg Minor’, provocatively recorded live in Nottingham. Not everything here is perfect, but it’s certainly the band’s best studio set outside the seventies. GRADE: B–.
Steeleye Span (UK): Tempted And Tried (Dover ADD 9, with inner, 1989)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
Steeleye’s ‘20th anniversary celebration’ (even though the band proper, with Hart and Prior in the line-up, formed during the first weeks of 1970) is a much more subdued affair than Back In Line. Nonetheless, this is a solid album, with some fine original compositions and sensitive interpretations of traditional material, peaking on the rollicking opener ‘Padstow’, the mournful ‘The Cruel Mother’ and the chilling ‘Betsy Bell And Mary Gray’, which rounds proceedings off in style. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK): A 20th Anniversary Celebration (Dover DVHS 5039, VHS, 1989)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
Recorded live in concert for the ‘Bedrock’ TV programme, this sees the band performing a mixture of Tempted And Tried material and classics from their back catalogue. They’re on fire throughout, with Maddy Prior being on especially fine form; the rather sedate middle-aged audience unsurprisingly appears to be having a great time. The video was later reissued on DVD as Classic Rock Legends (Classic Rock Legends CRL 0814); the soundtrack was later released as the CD Live In Nottingham and there was also a DVD/CD doublepack. GRADE: B–.

Steeleye Span (UK): Tonight’s The Night… Live (Shanachie 79080, CD, USA, 1992)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
Like Live At Last! fourteen years previously, this largely consists of unrecorded material. The highpoint is a superb eleven-minute interpretation of ‘Tam Lin’ that bears no resemblance to the more celebrated Fairport Convention version, whilst the half-dozen familiar numbers are handled with aplomb. This isn’t a perfect album – there’s a bit too much of the melodic mid-paced rock for which the band are frequently berated – but it’s nonetheless impressive, and outclasses any of their studio sets since the mid-seventies. GRADE: B.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Time (Park PRKCD34, CD, UK, 1996)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals), Gay Woods (joint lead vocals, bodhrán)
Steeleye Span’s first studio album in seven years and their first in twenty-six with Gay Woods on board should have been a triumph. In reality, the weight of my expectations probably biased me against it, as this certainly isn't another Hark! The Village Wait. Mostly, it offers the kind of mid-paced folky rock that has been the band's stock-in-trade since the mid-seventies, and it delivers nearly half the lead vocals to the male band members – a perverse decision with both Maddy Prior and Gay Woods in the line-up. Nonetheless, both are in magnificent voice and taken on its own terms this is a pleasant enough set, though a remake of 'The Two Corbies' is the only cut with much in the way of energy or drama. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Time (Park Video PRKV34, VHS, 1996)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals), Gay Woods (joint lead vocals, percussion)
This rather interesting video features the band performing the entire album live, in sequence, interspersed with interviews with the various members. I still don’t think the material plays to their strengths, and Prior and Woods still appear underused, but the songs work much better on stage than on record, creating an enjoyable live document. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Horkstow Grange (Park PRKCD 44, CD, UK, 1998)
Folk/Rock
Gay Woods (joint lead vocals, percussion)
With Maddy Prior having jumped ship, Steeleye returned to a more traditional folk/rock sound with (unsurprisingly) strong Irish influences. This is a definite step up from Time, with a more subtle and restrained sound, even if none of the songs is individually outstanding. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Bedlam Born (Park PRKCD 55, CD, UK, 2000)
Folk/Rock
Gay Woods (joint lead vocals, percussion)
This is Steeleye’s first album since Rocket Cottage to contain genuinely challenging music, but it also sees their four creative minds pulling in different directions. Bob Johnson (who quit midway through the recording) and Tim Harries include strong elements of hard rock in some of their material, Peter Knight favours his usual folky soft rock, and Gay Woods goes completely overboard, incorporating ambient and neoclassical influences into her numbers. In particular, her closing interpretation of ‘The White Cliffs Of Dover’ is genuinely creepy, completely subverting the song’s mood and meaning. A planned fifteenth cut, ‘Staring Robin’, was omitted from the album at the label’s insistence, as they considered it too disturbing; it has never been officially released. Overall this is a fine album but also a very schizophrenic one, and it’s hardly surprising that this line-up imploded a few months later. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): The Very Best Of Steeleye Span – Present (Park PRKCD 64, double CD, UK, 2002)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
Not a compilation as the title suggests, this offers re-recordings of mostly seventies material by the band’s new line-up (with Gay Woods and Tim Harries out, and Maddy Prior, Bob Johnson, Rick Kemp and Liam Genockey back in). In most cases, the new versions are not significantly different from the originals, making this a rather pointless exercise suggesting that the band was either short of cash or chronically unable to come up with new material. Musically, it’s pretty good, with a well-chosen cross-section of songs, but conceptually it is deeply flawed and faintly distasteful. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): They Called Her Babylon (Park PRKCD70, CD, UK, 2004)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
With the Albion Band’s Ken Nicol replacing Bob Johnson (which must have been like a promotion from the First Division to the Premier League for him), Steeleye managed a very solid album of new songs. This has little of Bedlam Born’s excitement and experimentation, but makes up for it with sheer craft and consistency. Highlights include the excellent title track, ‘Samain’, ‘Diversus And Lazarus’ and ‘Child Owlet’. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Winter (Park PRKCD74, CD, UK, 2004)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
A Christmas album from Steeleye Span could have been a mixed blessing: I’d hate a whole disc of them rocking up carols à la ‘All Around My Hat’. Thankfully, the material here is mostly pretty obscure and the results are generally tasteful and accomplished if a little lacking in genuine excitement. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Bloody Men (Park PRKCD91, double CD, UK, 2006)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
This isn’t exactly a double album: the sixteen-minute suite ‘Ned Ludd’ gets its own bonus disc even though the album proper is little more than three-quarters of an hour. Why it deserved such elevation is debatable, as it’s not terribly interesting and certainly not the progressive folk epic the phrase ‘sixteen-minute suite’ might imply. On the album proper, ‘Bonny Black Hare’ is outstanding, with an unusually rasping vocal from Maddy Prior and backing combining hard rock and funk, and a remake of ‘Cold, Haily, Windy Night’ works well too. The rest is Steeleye being Steeleye and of about the same quality as their other noughties releases. GRADE: C+.

Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Cogs, Wheels And Lovers (Park PRKCD106, CD, 2009)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
This is certainly the mellowest Steeleye album since Sails Of Silver, and possibly the least varied or experimental thing they’ve done. It’s nicely done and unfailingly pleasant, for sure, but the only thing that really sticks in the mind is the hidden bonus track – a suitably ghostly version of ‘Sule Skerry’ aka ‘The Great Silkie’. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland/USA): Wintersmith (Park PRKCD132, CD, UK, 2013)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
The brash production and loud mastering made me dismiss this on the first few listens, but the mix is certainly absorbing and the tunes are the best the band has written since Back In Line, 27 long years ago. Their more recent couple of albums – both of significant merit but both in the nearly-but-not-quite category – probably help to put this in context as well. Joyous, rocking and surprisingly dynamic, this is latterday Steeleye doing what they do best – if only they could do it more often and more consistently. The ‘deluxe edition’ (Park PRKCD138, double, CD, with digipak and booklet), issued the following year, adds four additional studio songs (featuring new violinist Jessie-May Smart), live versions of eight of the cuts and two demos. Whilst its release suggests that Steeleye have been taking lessons from a number of metal bands, who have succeeded in selling fans the same album twice, the additional material is nice to have and the release is appropriate to mark Steeleye’s best studio set in more than 25 years. GRADE: B–.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland/USA): The Wintersmith Tour (Park PRKDVD139, DVD, 2014)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals, piano, drum)
This live set mixes a fair chunk of the Wintersmith album with old stage favourites, and is mostly pretty good – ‘Thomas The Rhymer’ is strangely subdued, but the closing ‘Bonny Black Hare’ is astonishing in its intensity, almost approaching heavy metal. As usual for Steeleye, it’s not the most spectacular show visually, with little in the way of lighting or theatrics. That said, morris dancers put in an appearance from time to time and Terry Pratchett himself says a few words. For some strange reason, the show is filmed partly in colour and partly in black and white. GRADE: B–.

Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Dodgy Bastards (Park PRKCD148, CD, UK, 2016)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals), Jessie May Smart (occasional vocals, violin)

This is a pleasant enough collection of the band’s usual lush mid-paced folk/rock – a clear notch below Wintersmith, not quite equalling the best moments of Bloody Men, but decidedly more interesting than Cogs, Wheels And Lovers. However, it’s notable that their last truly exceptional album was Now We Are Six, all way back in 1974. GRADE: C+.

Steeleye Span (UK): Est’d 1969 (Park PRKCD154, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2019)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Maddy Prior (principal vocals), Jessie May Smart (violin, backing vocals)
Steeleye Span’s fiftieth anniversary album is slightly more interesting than one might expect. It’s a much subtler set than Dodgy Bastards, with the band concentrating on long, vaguely proggy epics featuring wider instrumentation than usual (including harpsichord, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki and a little flute from Ian Anderson). The album is quite varied too, peaking on its contrasting closing cuts: ‘Domestic’ is powerful and dynamic, ‘Roadways’ is delicate and haunting, and ‘Reclaimed’ is lush and acapella. All that said, Est’d 1969 is stilll a good album rather than a great one: there’s just a little too much of that comfortable mid-paced rock that characterised the All Around My Hat period and not quite enough surprises or innovation. GRADE: C+.

Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): 50th Anniversary Tour (Park PRKCD156, double DVD plus double CD, with gatefold minisleeves, booklet and slipcase, UK, 2020)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (lead vocals), Violeta Vicci (violin, backing vocals), Jessie May Smart (violin, backing vocals)
This sumptuous set combines DVD of two separate concerts (a lengthy affair featuring Violeta Vicci and a shorter ‘bonus’ gig with Jessie May Smart) plus a double CD of the main gig. The most striking thing about the main show is seeing Steeleye perform with seven people on stage – this significantly broadens their sound, delivering an almost studio-like sheen, but it sometimes blunts their rock edges. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable and often intense gig, despite very little audience interaction, with a pleasing blend of new and old material, and with the magnificent “Tam Lin’ (which they sadly never recorded) making a welcome comeback. Whilst I’d rate this set as a very strong B–, the shorter ‘bonus’ gig is a solid B, with a more unusual set of songs and rather more fiery playing. The second DVD is rounded off by a short (about 11 minutes) but rather good documentary about the band’s history. GRADE: B.

Steeleye Span (UK): Hark! The Village Wait Live (Park PRKCD157, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2021)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
It’s not often that I approach an album with trepidation – though I suspect the next one from Presence will have that effect, given the aural torture inflicted by their last – but this made me slightly nervous for quite different reasons. Hark! The Village Wait is my favourite folk/rock album of all time and among my top ten of any genre, so how would this live reinterpretation stand up? On the plus side, the band haven’t attempted note-for-note recreations – then again, given that only Maddy Prior remains from the line-up that recorded it, that would have been virtually impossible. Another plus is that this clearly demonstrates how impeccable song selection contributed mightily to the studio LP’s artistic supremacy. However, the other ingredient that made it a masterpiece was its sheer restraint, which is largely absent here, and I can’t imagine ever wanting to play these rocked-up versions over the originals. GRADE: B.

Steeleye Span (UK): Gone To Australia – On Tour 1975-1984 (Raven RVCD-123, 2001, recorded 1975-1984)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
This is partly an expanded reissue of the On Tour LP, but things aren’t quite as simple as that. Rather than simply include the 1983 disc plus some bonus material, this features nine out of fourteen cuts from the LP, three extra unreleased songs from the same show, five recordings from 1984 and a solitary number from 1975. The resulting album is a bit of a mish-mash, but it has an appealing track listing and some solid performances, even if there’s not much excitement. GRADE: C+.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): The Collection – In Concert (Park PRKCD 27, CD, 1994, recorded 1989 & 1994)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals, spoons)
Featuring five tracks recorded in 1989 and eight recorded in 1994, this is among the best Steeleye live sets. The 1989 material focuses on the first five albums, whilst the 1994 set leans heavily on Tempted And Tried plus the usual ‘greatest hits’ of ‘Gaudete’ and ‘All Around My Hat’. Unsurprisingly, the former gig is slightly better but the 1994 performances are outstanding too. It’s just a shame they didn’t make this a double or triple CD with both sets in their entirety. GRADE: B.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): The Journey (Park PRKCD 52, double CD, with booklet and slipcase, 1999, recorded 1994)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals, spoons), Gay Woods (joint lead vocals, bodhrán)
To celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary, a gala concert was organised featuring every musician who had ever participated (though Terry Woods declined to be involved). With a number of short sets featuring different line-ups and focusing on material from different eras of the band’s history, this is a fascinating album (particularly for the first-ever live performances of some songs from Hark! The Village Wait). Oddly, there are some omissions, with the band’s eighties albums being virtually ignored, and with previews of several cuts from the then-forthcoming Time album. On the downside, there are better live versions of most of this stuff on other live CDs and DVDs, so this is not among the most essential Steeleye albums. GRADE: B–.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): 25 Live (Wienerworld WNR 2052, VHS, UK, 1995)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals), Gay Woods (joint lead vocals, bodhrán)
Whilst the concert is visually unspectacular even by the band’s usual standards, and quite poorly recorded to boot, this is musically very impressive. The highpoints are the unrecorded material: the superb ‘Tam Lin’ and two excellent Peter Knight instrumentals ‘E Flat English’ and ‘Picnic’, but a radical reinterpretation of ‘Lowlands Of Holland’ from Hark! The Village Wait also impresses. In any case, this is a rare historical document of the band’s short-lived line-up with both Maddy Prior and Gay Woods. GRADE: B.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): The Official Bootleg (Park PRKCD75, CD, UK, 2004)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior
Issued as a limited edition of 1000 copies as a freebie for those attending the band’s 2004 tour, this rare live album features three cuts from Salisbury in December 2002, two from Tewkesbury in April 2004 and five from Southampton in May 2004. With material ranging from ‘The King’ to ‘Drink Down The Moon’, ‘Black Jack Davy’ and ‘Cam Ye O’er Frae France’, it’s an excellent live set, proving once again that latterday Steeleye Span are far more effective on stage than in the studio. GRADE: B.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): The 35th Anniversary World Tour (Park PRKDVD76, DVD, UK, 2005)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
Duplicating a few cuts from The Official Bootleg, this is another excellent live set, peaking on superb renditions of ‘Long Lankin’, ‘Tam Lin’ and ‘Drink Down The Moon’. That said, the musical quality is not matched by much in the way of visual spectacle, with the concert being static even by Steeleye’s usual standards. GRADE: B–.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Folk Rock Pioneers Steeleye Span In Concert (Park PRKCD89, double CD, UK, 2006)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
This has a virtually identical tracklisting to the above release, but mostly taken from a different show, so it’s not simply an audio version of the DVD. Again, the tracklisting is well-chosen and the performances are excellent, although this isn’t the very best Steeleye live disc. GRADE: B–.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland): Live At A Distance (Park PRKCD104, double CD plus DVD, UK, 2009)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
This is the most expansive of Steeleye’s many live sets, comprising a 20-track double CD (recorded at four shows between 2002 and 2008) and a 14-track DVD (recorded at a 2006 show also featured on the CD). Pleasingly, the DVD doesn’t simply duplicate tracks on the CDs, but features several exclusive cuts. The idea seems to have been to showcase songs rarely played by the band, so ‘All Around My Hat’, ‘Gaudete’, ‘Let Her Go Down’ et al are absent. Instead, the material spans the band’s career (from ‘The Blacksmith’ through to ‘Ned Ludd’), making for one of their most interesting and unusual live outings. As a final bonus, the DVD is a little livelier than most of their live shows. GRADE: B.
Steeleye Span (UK/Ireland/USA): Now We Are Six Again (Park PRKCD113, double CD, 2011)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
Celebrating the band’s return to a six-piece line-up (including new guitarist Julian Littmann and, more surprisingly, veteran sessionman Pete Zorn) this features a live rendition of the entire Now We Are Six album on the first disc. It’s extremely well done, though they didn’t attempt to reproduce the ‘school choir’ renditions of the children’s numbers, which are conventionally sung by Prior. Disc two mixes a handful of unfamiliar cuts (‘Just As The Tide’, ‘Two Constant Lovers’ and ‘Creeping Jane’) with favourites from across their career; ‘Cold, Haily, Windy Night’ and a searing ‘Bonny Black Hare’ are especially good. GRADE: B.

Steeleye Span (UK): Live At De Montfort Hall Leicester England 1978 (Angel Air, CD, 2019, recorded 1978)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (principal vocals)
This radio broadcast recording of the short-lived Martin Carthy/John Kirkpatrick (originally billed as a 1977 recording, but actually taped on 11th February 1978) is quite different from other Steeleye live outings. None of the familiar favourites are present – no ‘All Around My Hat’ or ‘Gaudete’ or ‘Thomas The Rhymer’. Instead, they concentrate on material from the recent Storm Force Ten and more obscure older cuts (all the way back to ‘Rave On’), with ‘Cam Ye O’er Frae France’ being the only ‘usual suspect’ on display. The result is a double-edged sword: this is more interesting and worthwhile than most such ventures, but it doesn't really showcase their best songs. GRADE: C+.

Steeleye Span (UK): A Rare Collection 1972-1996 (Raven RVCD-90, CD, 1999, recorded 1971-1996)
Folk/Rock
Maddy Prior (joint lead vocals)
This fascinating collection gathers 20 Steeleye obscurities: non-LP singles and B-sides, Australian-only edits, cuts from the On Tour album, a couple of unreleased live numbers and solo Prior stuff (including her contribution to the Mandalaband album, the theme to the TV show ‘Stookey’ and her 1996 remake of ‘All Around My Hat’ with Status Quo). Despite the subtitle, this stretches back to 1971, with ‘Rave On’, and despite the lack of a chronological running order, it’s surprisingly cohesive – and contains some great (and hard to find) music. GRADE: B–.
See also Albion Band, Auto Da Fé, Tim Hart & Maddy Prior, Ashley Hutchings, Mike Oldfield, Maddy Prior, Various ‘Flash Fearless Vs The Zorg Women, Parts 5 & 6!’, Woods Band, Gay & Terry Woods

Steeple Of Fyre (USA): Steeple Of Fyre (Ventricle CD6, CD, with insert, 1997)
Ambient
Stacy Snowleopard (lead vocals), Kelly Thistle (effects)
Another day, another band name and another Mellotron-led ambient excursion from the Ventricle label, with a new vocalist in Stacy Snowleopard but stalwarts Lee Blair and Kelly Thistle providing the backing. It’s one of their better outings: eerie, drifting and haunting, with the emphasis firmly on texture and atmosphere rather than melody or rhythm. GRADE: C+.
See also Angel Provocateur, Corpse You Luv, Dream Radiation, Konkrete Kantikle, Thistle

Stella (France): Stella (RCA Victor 730 000, 1967)
Beat
Stella Zelcer (later Vander)’s only album of the sixties compiles previously released material from several EPs. Musically, it ranges from hip mid-sixties pop to baroque pop/folk to ragtime and jazz to one cut with a mildly avant-garde edge (the copiously titled ‘Si Vous Connaissez Quelque Chose De Pire Qu’un Vampire, Parlez M’en Toujours, Ça Pourra Peut-Être Me Faire Sourire’). The end result is all over the place, but it’s a pleasant enough collection of eclectic beat. Perhaps surprisingly, the disc was also released in the States (RCA Victor SP 169) with completely different artwork. GRADE: C+.
Stella Vander (France): D’Épreuves D’Amour (Seventh AVIII, CD, 1991)
Avant-Garde
Stella Vander (lead vocals, flute)
Vander’s first solo album since the sixties often recalls Nico’s The Marble Index and Desertshore, with the same austere neoclassical feel; on most songs, keyboards are the only backing instrument. However, the very different style of singing and composition gives this album its own distinctive, slightly jazzy, flavour. The lengthy ‘Ronde De Nuit’ later reappeared on husband Christian’s À Tous Les Enfants, whilst ‘J’ai Vu Le Roi’ was Stella’s only recorded composition since joining Magma in the early seventies. Another noteworthy cut is a truly strange acapella cover of ‘Nature Boy’, which sounds as though it was recorded in a wind tunnel. GRADE: B–.
Stella Vander (France): Le Coeur Allant Vers (Ex-Tension EX03, with digipak and booklet, 2004)
Jazz/Folk
Stella Vander (lead vocals, percussion)
Radically different from its predecessor, this is a gentle, mainstream set of jazzy, folky songs that wouldn’t sound of place being performed in an upmarket restaurant. It’s beautifully done, with Stella in fine voice throughout, but it’s also odd to hear her operating so far from the musical cutting edge. GRADE: C+.
Stella Vander (France): Passage Du Nord Ouest (AKT XVII, double CD, with digipak, 2011, recorded 1991)
Avant-Garde
Stella Vander (principal vocals, keyboards), Isabelle Feuillebois (occasional vocals), Lydia Domancich (keyboards)
This fascinating archive release showcases a solo concert by Stella Vander just after Christmas 1991. Unsurprisingly, she performs almost everything from D’Épreuves D’Amour as well as several cuts destined for À Tous Les Enfants, plus an instrumental by guest keyboardist Lydia Domancich. With fine sound quality throughout, this is an important and very worthwhile set. GRADE: B–.
See also >>singles and EPs, Lydia Domancich, Magma, Prince, Utopic Sporadic Orchestra, Christian Vander

Stella & Bambos & Their Guitars (UK): In The Quiet Of The Night (CBS 63234, 1968)
Lounge
Stella (lead vocals, guitar)
This duo cut several albums, but this is the only one I’ve heard. It’s a pleasant and very well executed bossa nova/lounge set that could have provided a perfect soundtrack to the nightclub scene in any late sixties spy thriller. GRADE: C.

Stella Lee Jones (Japan): A Floating Place (No label SLJ-001, CD, 2011)
Jazz/Rock/Avant-Garde
Emi Sasaki (accordion), Tei Sena (violin)
This rather interesting band, including Tei Sena from Asturias and Emi Sasaki from Quikion, offers a complex instrumental mixture of chamber music and jazz/rock. Always intricate, sometimes delicate and occasionally cacophonous, with a few well-judged moments of experimentation, it’s an enjoyable and accomplished set. GRADE: C+.

Stella Lee Jones (Japan): Escape From Reality (Dizziness SLJ-002, CD, with obi, 2016)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Emi Sasaki (accordion), Hitomi Iriyama (violin)
Much more dynamic and rocking than its predecessor, this is an effortless blend of energetic jazz/rock and the weird folky and cabaret edges of Quikion. The resulting blend is joyous, fascinating and uplifting. GRADE: B–.
See also Acoustic Asturias, Quikion

Stenblomma (Sweden/UK/Finland): Alla Träd Har Samma Rot (Silence SRS 4620, Sweden, 1973)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Hélène Bohman (lead vocals, guitar)
This is lovely hippie folk with acoustic guitar, flute and lots of hand percussion, plus strong electric leads to a number of tracks. Occasionally the disc resembles a folkier Catherine Ribeiro, but mostly it’s firmly in an acid-folk vein with some dreamy, trippy passages and gentle, haunting songs. Hélène Bohman wrote all but one of the excellent numbers. GRADE: B–.

Step Ahead (France/Ireland): Step Ahead (RCA PL 37604, France, 1982)
Progressive
Claudie Truchi (keyboards)
This is widely regarded as one of the best prog albums of the early eighties, but I can’t say it does much for me. The band succeeds in writing some good melodies and creating some suitably wistful moods, but the tempo changes are clumsy and ostentatious and the songs neither original nor particularly well structured. Nor do I like their Irish singer Danny Brown’s high-pitched vocals, though in fairness to him the vocal lines were apparently in completely the wrong register for his voice, causing him considerable problems. GRADE: C.

Stephanie & Leonie (UK): Channel Folk (Eron 010, cassette, 1977)
Folk
Stephanie Clarke, Leonie Clarke
The teenage Clarke sisters’ contributions to various multi-artist compilations on Eron Records were delightful, so I had high hopes for their own album. Oddly, it turned out to be as good as I expected and yet a slight disappointment. Their harmonies remain as stunning as ever, and the haunting atmosphere recalls the very best school project albums; I just wish they’d picked more obscure material rather than warhorses like ‘Streets Of London’, ‘Bye Bye Love’, ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’ and ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’. The album was reissued on vinyl the following year, minus three songs, as Friendly Folk by the Clarke Sisters (Stereo Gold Award MER 429). GRADE: C+.

Steppenblüte (Switzerland): Blütenstaub (No label AE01, with booklet or insert, 1977)
Folk/Rock
This eleven-piece Christian group use a wide range of instrumentation, which is listed on the back cover: there’s violin, bassoon, clarinet, recorder, ocarina, kantele, marimba, glockenspiel and more. They also keep the massed vocals to a minimum and add a little rock strength to most cuts, so whilst this is breezy and melodic it has a definite hippie ambience rather than feeling churchy. As a footnote, some copies were issued with a lyric sheet whilst others came with a full-colour booklet. A second pressing also exists from the early eighties, with slightly different colours for the front cover image and a completely different rear. GRADE: C+.
Steppenblüte (Switzerland): Chum Ine! (No label, 1981)
Folk/Rock
Album number two is eclectic indeed, from gentle folk to polished hard rock, but they maintain a distinctive identity throughout thanks to their unusual vocal style and the consistently spacy mood. The arrangements borrow heavily from progressive rock, often doing the last thing one would expect, and electric leads are used to good effect on several tracks. These touches, combined with more traditional Christian folk elements, make for an interesting listen. GRADE: C+.
Steppenblüte (Switzerland): Gebete (No label SBM-183, with booklet, 1983)
Folk
Radically different from their first two, this drops all the rock elements as well as their distinctive harmonies, offering a straightforward acoustic folk sound. Most tracks simply feature acoustic guitar plus flute and occasional glockenspiel, and the music is of exceptional beauty and fragility. In many ways this is their best album, although also their least distinctive; a couple of rock songs would have raised it to another level. GRADE: C+.
Steppenblüte (Switzerland): Gegenwind (No label 76.27001, with inner, 1987?)
Pop/Rock
Kathrin Aebischer, Maya Waegeli
Their fourth and final album is an even bigger surprise: the rather underwhelming opener ‘Jour De Fête’ is catchy and rather inane electronic pop. Most of the rest is more palatable, but this sees them abandoning folk music altogether for a symphonic pop style with a few AOR edges and some decent guitar and keyboard work. Whilst not a bad LP, this is hardly essential listening and must have confused their fan base (if they had one) at the time. According to the back cover, an original CD exists, but I’ve never encountered it. GRADE: C+.

Steps (Malaysia): The Steps In Hong Kong – Non-Stop Soul 1969/2 (PP Sound PSY 112 237, 1969)
Beat
Despite the title, this isn’t really soul, and despite the trippy lettering on the front cover it’s not psychedelic either. Instead the disc offers nice sixties Far Eastern pop, including enjoyably lightweight covers of ‘Crimson And Clover’, ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, ‘Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’ and ‘Everyday People’ among other numbers. GRADE: C+.

Jerry & Nancy Stevens (USA): A Little Resolution (Troll TR 12372, with insert, 1976)
Folk/Rock
Nancy Stevens (bass, backing vocals)
This is lovely, summery folk/rock with jazzy edges that sounds distinctly Californian but was in fact recorded and released in Texas. The lyrics are full of hippie optimism and the music never gets even moderately heavy; whilst there’s nothing particularly distinctive or original here, this is winsome and well assembled throughout. The one cut that really breaks the mould is ‘Mushroom Flowers Jig’, which belies its psychedelic title by being an English-style mandolin-led instrumental. Jerry Stevens was very much the driving force of the partnership, writing everything (with Nancy helping on two numbers), singing all the lead vocals, playing guitar and a variety of other instruments, and producing. GRADE: C+.

John Stevens & Spontaneous Music Ensemble (UK): John Stevens And Spontaneous Music Ensemble (Marmalade 608 008, 1969)
Jazz/Avant-Garde
Maggie Nicols (joint lead vocals), Carolann Nicholls (joint lead vocals), Pepe Lemer (joint lead vocals)
Also known as Oliv, this album of scuttling, saxophone-led free jazz (featuring Trevor Watts, Derek Bailey and Kenny Wheeler) wouldn’t ordinarily be my sort of thing, but it’s vastly above average for the genre. Side one in particular is excellent, with massed female vocals providing an eerie, Ligeti-like counterpoint to the complex instrumental workouts. GRADE: C+.
See also Canaille, Centipede, Lask, Loverley, Méchantes!, Maggie Nicols, Turning Point, Voice

Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin (UK): Broken Records – The Singles (Midi 35MD1026, CD, Japan, 1987)
Pop
Barbara Gaskin (lead vocals, percussion, effects)
Compiling the duo’s first six singles and their B-sides (originally issued between 1981 and 1984), this album showcases the former Hatfield & The North and Spirogyra musicians’ attempts at novelty electropop. It’s pleasant enough in a dated, kitsch kind of way, but given their track records it’s also a shameful waste of their talents. GRADE: D+.
Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin (UK): As Far As Dreams Can Go (Midi 35MD1035, CD, Japan, 1988)
Pop
Barbara Gaskin (lead vocals, keyboards)
This second volume of electropop is a good deal better than its predecessor, as the duo sensibly concentrate on ballads and more symphonic material. It’s still not my kind of music, and like a lot of eighties pop it has dated badly, but there is some solid material here – I just wish they had recorded it with a real band. As a footnote, a different permutation of tracks from these two releases had earlier been issued in the States on Rykodisc – that long-deleted album would probably be a C–. GRADE: C.
Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin (UK): The Big Idea (Midi 28MD 1065, CD, with obi, Japan, 1990)
Pop
Barbara Gaskin (lead vocals)
The duo’s first album proper focuses mainly on originals by Dave Stewart, although there are four cover versions (including a loathsome take on ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’). The original compositions are decidedly better, but their adherence to a dated (even at the time) electropop sound did them few favours. GRADE: C.
Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin (UK): Spin (Rykodisc RCD 20213, CD, USA, 1991)
Pop
Barbara Gaskin (lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this mixes originals and covers (this time including ‘Eight Miles High’, which fares surprisingly well, and ‘Walking The Dog’ and ‘Louie Louie’, which are predictably atrocious). It’s mostly listenable enough, but leaves one wondering why musicians the calibre of Stewart and Gaskin bothered making music like this. GRADE: C.
See also Hatfield & The North, National Health, Spirogyra

Lora Lee & Jana Lyn Stewart (Canada): Have You Heard The News? (Wonderland Studio QCS 1033, 1972)
Folk/Rock
Lora Lee Stewart (joint lead vocals), Jana Lyn Stewart (joint lead vocals)
This obscure Christian album sounds like a school project LP, with the girls’ beautiful, hesitant harmonies and the rather staid backing. The end result is very much a game of two halves: the original songs (mostly written by Lora Lee, though Jana Lyn contributes one) are delightful, with an otherworldly atmosphere and well-judged rock elements including fuzz guitar, organ and a rhythm section. In contrast, most of the cover versions have a hymnal, churchy feel and simple bass and piano backing, sounding as though they belong on a different LP entirely. Nonetheless there’s enough good stuff here to make the disc a sought-after collectible. GRADE: C+.