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Steeleye Span - All Around My Hat CD (album) cover


Steeleye Span


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3.16 | 30 ratings

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4 stars Steeleye Span hit commercial paydirt with "All Around my Hat". which was produced by Mike Batt. He managed to nurture the natural dancability of the group's sound with the right rock beat, while also allowing for pleasing variation in the material. One can see why it succeeded on that basis alone, but when you add that the subject matter tends to the more palatable, it's a no-brainer.

"Black Jack Davey" is an oft interpreted traditional song, and was my first exposure to Steeleye Span. Its fine melody and decisive phrasing of the title are appealing, as is the theme of a woman foregoing all the creature comforts to run off with her roguish paramour. "Hard Times of Olde England" and the title cut, the latter a huge British hit, have many similarities, especially in the rollicking underlying rhythm. It's one case where I really don't mind a formula being repeated. The sentimental "Wife of Usher's Well" is highlighted by an engaging story and soaring vocal harmonies, and "Gamble Gold/Robin Hood" really demonstrates Batt's production prowess to good effect. The closer "Batchelor's Hall" extols the wisdom of remaining single, and, while it is this album's version of a novelty song, it also speaks to the group's love of other styles such as swing, and integrates it with their more conventional approaches far better than, say, their old rock'n roll adaptations.

While "All Around my Hat" may not quite measure up to the group's best work, it is certainly an album that could be a starting point to not only the group's discography, but the overtly Englishe version of folk rock. I should know, since it was my first Steeleye Span purchase, as a teenager first tipping my baseball cap to the whole genre.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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