Steeleye Span – 1975

Just after slagging them off yesterday. Here I am championing them again. A few months before releasing “All Around My Hat”, and before the lure of cashing in was too much, Steeleye Span was hungry to present their viability as artists, that could be at the vanguard of something, first and foremost. By then, the most popular original folk-rock band due to their popular Now We Were Six, but a critical punching bag for what appeared to be a few too many bad tracks residing in it and let alone an image skewing too much towards unknowing camp, they had to shift up into a higher gear or risk getting left behind.

Somehow Maddy Prior, the angelic singer of old Steeleye Span as most people knew it, started to gain an edge/sexyness to her voice. Aided by her husband Tim Hart, they start to build a much heavier glammy, Gothic sound to accompany a lot of these traditionals they wanted to tackle. For once in Commoner’s Crown, they don’t hold back on the darkness or theatricality residing deep in these songs. This quietly works to their advantage. Armed with a lot more bite to their instrumentation than before, they decided to present their most subversive and antagonistic album. The cover itself makes that statement by depicting a crown made up of tiny soldier men.

Commoners Crown album cover.

It just seems that they were presenting a fun version of Old England, and for once not taking such traditionals to seriously loosened up their sound. Its glammy, and a wee bit of campy at time, but man does it stick in your craw. Songs like “Long Lankin”, “Demon Lover”, “Elf Call“, are just dark as all heck lyrically, but are presented with such positively Gothic glee, one can’t help but try to follow along and rock to most unseemly of topics. If you’ve ever heard Amon Duul II’s Made in Germany, released that same year (coincidences of coincidences!) my pick for its bizarro musical twin, you’ll know what you’re in for: a set of surprisingly insanely catching “Pop” songs in a style that normally doesn’t have any, and one that you can put in a party to present as a gateway to a whole slew of other mind-melting folk-rock groups. Ending their album with an unforgettable drinking song such as “New York Girls” with Peter Sellers on ukulele duty(!?), should tell you a bit how far on the ledge this group went here. Like I said before, there is still gold in the hills. Hopefully, we’ll discover a few more neo-folk ones from 1975 tomorrow…

Listen to Commoner’s Crown at Spotify.