Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Steeleye Span - Back In Line CD (album) cover

BACK IN LINE

Steeleye Span

Prog Related


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars ... and sent him hameward, tae think again

Following the release in 1980 of the creditable "Sails of silver", Steeleye Span once again went into hibernation. By the time they returned in 1986, founding member Tim Hart had left both the band and the music business. Health issues would increasingly dominate his life, and sadly he is now no longer with us.

The rest of the line up remained unchanged from "Sails of silver", although this would be Rick Kemp's last recording with the band for the time being. Maintaining the path they had chosen on more recent releases, the band remain in pop rock territories, with only occasion nods toward the folk rock for which they are best known. Peter Knight's fiddle provides welcome colours at times, but these are more in line with the synthesiser backing used by other rock bands than the overt soloing of a true folk band.

Also as with the immediate predecessors, the band assume responsibility for composition themselves, rather than adapting folk standards. That said, they do make every effort lyrically to add historical context to the songs.

The opening "Edward" is largely devoid of the distinct vocals of Maddy Prior, the song being a curious mix of light dirge and melodic chorus. The following (depending on the version you have, the track order may be different) "Lanercost" written by husband and wife team Prior and Kemp has a much more traditional Steeleye Span feel. The chanted chorus borrows its lyrics from a traditional prayer, while the verses continue the references to Edward, here reflecting Edward I residency at Lanercost during his futile fight against the Scots (who sent him homeward tae think again!).

While "Lady Diamond" is an adaptation of a traditional Scottish song (which Kemp discovered while producing an album for the Tannahill Weavers), the version here is enjoyable but lightweight. "Isabel" returns us to the Edward I story, Maddy Prior's delicate opening vocal gradually building to a fine crescendo as she describes Robert the Bruce's victory at the Battle of Bannockburn. Here, Knight is allowed the latitude he requires to add a superb fiddle solo. Once again, this song harks back to the glory days of the band, and a such is a highlight of the album. Knight continues alone on the brief "A Canon by Telemann", which has more than a passing resemblance with Fairport's "Bridge over the River Ash".

The live rendition of "Blackleg miner", a reworking of a song from "Hark, the village wait", is more significant for its historical context. The performance of the song in Nottinghamshire, UK in 1986 at the height of the notorious miner's strike caused significant controversy at the time, especially as that area was one of those directly involved the strike.

"Peace on the border" has an anthemic feel, the lyrics being rooted in the 1700's and telling a tale of deportation from England for untold transgressions. "Scarecrow" is the least distinguished song on the album, the prosaic guitar riff and pop rock feel of the song being rescued by a decent arrangement and some good production. "Take my heart" is the final song to deal with the war between Scotland and England, the arrangement once again making good of a lightweight song.

"White man" drifts into world music territories, here the ethnic themes complement the lyrics, which deal with the expanding foreign empires of the UK and other European nations.

The CD version includes three further tracks. "Somewhere in London" was released as a single A side (backed with "Lanercost") but did not originally appear on the album. The song has a convivial feel, clearly seeking the same market as "All around my hat" and "Gaudete". The most interesting thing about the song is Maddy's apparent attempt to sound like Kate Bush! The final two songs are live renditions of "Spotted Cow" (from "Below the Salt") and "One Misty Moisty Morning" (from "Parcel of Rogues").

In all, a decent addition to the Steeleye Span catalogue. The band's admirable efforts to write new traditional songs and the fine production combine to minimise the distraction of the occasional dip in the quality of the songs themselves. Those with a bent for all things Steeleye Span should not overlook this largely forgotten album.

Report this review (#275062)
Posted Sunday, March 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars Peace on the border (between Folk Rock and "plain" Rock)

Steeleye Span are best known for electrifying traditional Folk songs and bringing traditional Folk music into a Rock context. This happened mainly in the 70's, but the evolution of Steeleye Span did not stop there. What makes the present album somewhat unique in the Steeleye Span catalogue is the fact that they write much of their own material here instead of relying on traditional music as they usually do. Back In Line was not, however, the first time the band wrote new material of their own, they had done so also for the previous Sails Of Silver album from 1980 (an album I have yet to hear). It is impressive that the material here still sounds very much as if it was traditional and it is clearly in line with what the band had done before (and since). Only Blackleg Minor is a traditional Folk song and, surprisingly perhaps, this is one of the most "progressive" songs of the album. I think it was recorded live. Another piece that is not original is the short Classical violin performance of A Canon By Telemann which is exactly what its title implies. The inclusion of such a piece shows the diversity of the band even though it's not the first time they included a Classical piece. White Man is another song that stands out. This one has an African sound and a quite complex vocal arrangement.

The sound of Back In Line reflects the spirit of the age i.e. the 80's. The drums and production in particular have a typical 80's sound. But don't let this stop you from enjoying the mostly good songs presented here. The trademark features of the band are all present including Maddy Prior's very distinctive vocals alternating with male lead vocals. Personally, I even enjoy this album as much as some of their albums from the 70's, but it is by no means among Steeleye Span's best albums. The songs are generally rather short and there is not much progression in most of them. There are certainly many better places to start investigating this band, but coming to the present album eventually is worthwhile if you enjoy Steeleye Span and British Folk Rock in general (as I do). But for the general Prog fan, digging this deep into the discography of Steeleye Span may not be a priority.

I can therefore recommend this album to fans and collectors only, but for us it is certainly not without its merits

Report this review (#275632)
Posted Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | Review Permalink

STEELEYE SPAN Back In Line ratings only


chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of STEELEYE SPAN Back In Line


You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives