Saturday, 15 June 2013

Steeleye Span: Now We Are Six, and Seven Hundred Elves

 'Now We Are Six' by Steeleye Span, from 1974, is a favourite one of mine.   I believe this was the first of their records I listened to back many years ago, and thought it was wonderful.  What first put me on to them was reading that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull was the production consultant for the album, and Jethro Tull being my newly favourite band, I had to seek it out.  So over I went to the secondhand record shop and was delighted to find that they had several Steeleye Span records, and I ended up buying them all.   
One thing that immediately strikes one is the beautiful album cover art and design, I think one of the best covers of all time.  It's reminiscent of an exquisite, but rustic medieval wood painting; like a fascinating discovery that was long-lost in a dusty attic in a 15th century half-timbered house.
This album has a much fuller, polished, more rock sound than their previous ones, with the sound quality much improved from the earlier recordings (no doubt due to Ian Anderson's superior supervision and Robin Black's engineering).  The only track I don't like is the final one, 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' with David Bowie on saxophone; it's not up to the standard of the other tracks and doesn't fit in with the tone of the rest of the album.
'Now We Are Six' would be one of the folk albums I would recommend to anyone who isn't too familiar with folk-based music but would like to listen to some and expand their musical horizons.  It's rocky enough to please some, but with traditional ballads as a base and plenty of old-world and eccentric touches to interest anyone like myself who revels in those sort of ingredients.

Here is a video clip of Steeleye Span at the time, performing 'Seven Hundred Elves':

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