2016 Park Records


John Spiers - Melodeon
Hattie Webb - Harp

Produced by Steeleye Span 
Recorded at Broadoak Studios, Hastings. Stones Barn, Cumbria. Draycott Studios , London
Engineered by Harvey Summers and Julian Littman
Mixed by Bob Prowse

The departure of Peter Knight was a big change for the band and in came Jessie May Smart. Pete Zorn had also left, and sadly passed away, so Spud Sinclair joined on lead guitar leaving Julian to fulfil more of the multi-instrumentalist role.

Following on from the purely traditional 'Cogs' album and the original concept Wintersmith album, Dodgy Bastards is a return to the 'normal' structure of a mixture of original compositions and heavily adapted traditional songs, often with original melodies/tunes. The album is marked for it's more 'epic' songs with a continuing of some prog rock elements of Wintersmith. 

Album notes: 
"We have trawled Francis James Child's magnificent collection of English and Scottish popular Ballads for this album. An American professor, he created the five volume collection is 1880-90s in an an attempt to gather together all the available versions of the ballads. It stands as an impressive piece of research, followed by Betrand Harris Bronson who strove to find the tunes to the ballads, whereas Child largely only collected the words.
Other have followed in the footsteps of Child and Bronson (and even their work is based on those who went before) and it is thanks to all of these that we are able to rethink and dwell on these powerful stories and themes, and recast them to amplify their meaning for us."

Of the 12 tracks only 'Two Sisters' has not been played to date live but in 2019 most had dropped out of the live set apart from 'Dodgy Bastards' which is now the go-to tune played after All Around My Hat. 

1. Cruel Brother

(7.51 Traditional. Child 11).  Adaptation and music by Rick Kemp and Maddy Prior. 

Heavily adapted from the Child ballad variants, Steeleye seems have added a refrain (The Harp, the lute, the flute...') with the remaining lyrics/refrains ('fine flowers in the valley') from the different variants and created a new tune/melody for the song.  

Album notes -  Child 11. It seems to concern an honour killing. A young man comes to ask for a woman's hand, but fails to ask the permission of the brother, an offence that is fatal for the sister.

See track 9 for another Child variant of this ballad

[2016] UK Autumn 'Dodgy Bastards' Tour
[2017] UK 'Hark! the Village Wait' tour
[2018] Festivals, including 'Shrewsbury Festival' which can be seen online in high quality. 

2. All Things Are Quite Silent

(4.18 Traditional)
A stripped down but faithful version of the song originally recorded on Hark! The Village Wait

Album notes - The press gang was a much feared outfit that came off the ships in search of men to increase their company. They were either illegal or operated with the blessing of the navy, coming ashore and abducting men with impunity. This version comes from the The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs from the singing of Ted Baines, collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

[1970] Lost Mk1 line up 1970 BBC Session.
[2009] 40th Anniv. Tour. Sang by Maddy with Rose Kemp who guested on some concerts.
[2015] Autumn 'Catch Up' Tour. Introduction of the stripped back version that was recorded for Dodgy Bastards.
[2016] Autumn Dodgy Bastards Tour; Cropedy - (watch here which is the only place to hear this song live).
[2017] Hark the Village Wait Tour.  

3. Johnnie Armstrong

(7.13 Traditional. Child 169) Adapted by Julian and Rick using the original tune. 

Album notes - [Johnnie Armstrong] was a reiver on the Scottish borders raiding and plundering ever more frequently on the English side of the Anglo/Scottish border. King James was becoming increasingly vexed by the situation and invited Johnnie Armstrong to meet him. Johnnie was fooled into thinking that the King would grant him a pardon for his activities but on arrival, when Johnnie asked for the pardon, the King refused. A battle ensued and Johnnie and his men were eventually hanged at Caerlanrig. Rick found a book with the traditional tune for this ballad which we developed and we also wrote a new refrain for the King's repost to Armstrong's entreaty for a pardon.

[2016] UK Autumn 'Dodgy Bastards' Tour

4. Boys Of Bedlam

(5.25 Traditional) Adapted by Julian Littman

Album notes - A celebrated Steeleye favourite. It has had many incarnations over the years by many other artists as well. This version has a spoken word interlude actually written as a rap by Maddy and Rick's son, Alex Kemp. The original libretto was full-on rap with the requisite and opposite profanities that are integrated to that genre. However, not being a ‘proper’ rapper, Julian felt that maybe he wouldn't carry off the cussing as well as Alex so he made more of a spoken word piece without it and thanks to Alex's imagery and turn of phrase it feels just as powerful.

The words are traditional but Nic Jones and Dave Moran wrote the tune.

Julian has added a further verse (over the Steeleye original) for this version:

So drink to Tom of Bedlam,
He'll fill the sea with barrels,
I'll drink 'em all, all brewed with gall,
And Mad Maudlin I will travel.

LIVE/RELEASES: (This 2016 version only)
[2014] UK Autumn 45th Anniversary Tour. Introduction of this Julian sung new adaptation. 
[2015] UK Winter Tour; Festivals; N. American Tour; UK Autumn 'Catch Up' Tour
[2016] Festivals

5. Brown Robyn's Confession

(5.49 Traditional. Child 57) Adapted and sung by Jessie May Smart
As far as I am aware the tune/melody is newly written by Jessie May/Steeleye

Album notes -  In this song there is an admission of guilt, followed by human punishment and then heavenly reward for the confession. Once Brown Robyn's ship gets lost in the darkness, his men draw lots to establish blame, and it falls to Brown Robyn. He confesses to incest and is thrown out to sea by his men, tied to a plank of wood. The Virgin Mary appears to him and offers him the choice of going back to his men and facing them, or going to heaven. He chooses to go to heaven, but she makes it clear that he's only able to go because he has confessed his sins.

[2016] UK Autumn 'Dodgy Bastards' Tour

6. The Two Sisters

(5.56 Traditional Child 10). Adapted by Julian Littman
A revisiting of Child 10 which Ken Nicol had adapted for the 'Three Sisters' on 'Bloody Men' album. Also well known as the Bows Of London

Album notes -  There are many versions of this tale. In this one the elder sister, witnessing a suitor's preference for her younger sister, pushes her into the water and the younger drowns. On finding her body, the King's harpist, who happens to be passing, decides (in true ballad style!) to make her corpse into a harp. He takes his instrument to court to play for the assembled royalty but the harp starts to play of its own. We realise that the two sisters are the daughters of the King and Queen and the younger's dead, but now the harp incarnation proceeds to reveal the elder's foul deed.

Not played live

7. Cronwell's Skull

(8.33 Written by Rick Kemp) 

Album notes - Following the English restoration of the monarchy, attitudes towards the regicides changed. The new Parliament of Charles the 2nd executed or imprisoned many of them . The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Freton (his son in law) and John Bradshaw were exhumed, decapitated and hanged at Tyburn. Cromwell's skull was set upon an oak pole outside Westminster Hall, where it remained for over 20 years. Believed to have been blown down in a storm, it was taken away by one of the guards and sold by his daughter to the first of many owners. The skull found its final resting place near the chapel of Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, Cromwell's own College, on the 25th March 1960. Its exact whereabouts remain a secret. In the song the skull makes these observations on his former life...

[2015] Autumn 'Catch Up' Tour.
[2016] Festivals; UK Autumn 'Dodgy Bastards' Tour

8. Dodgy Bastards

(3.06 Written by Spud Sinclair) 

Album notes - Like all truly Dodgy Bastards, this appears on the surface to be light hearted and straight forward...

Since being recorded it has featured at every Steeleye gig as the closing tune after 'Hat'

[2016] UK Autumn 'Dodgy Bastards' Tour
[2017] UK 'Hark! the Village Wait' tour
[2018] Festivals, including 'Shrewsbury Festival' which can be seen online in high quality. UK Autumn Tour - Video posted online by Park - this version is not on the 50th Anniversary CD/DVD set.
[2019] Jan Irish Tour; UK Spring 50th 'Anniversary' Tour; Festivals; UK Autumn '50th Anniversary' Tour. Features on the '50th Anniversary Tour CD/DVD (2019)
[2021] UK Autumn Tour
[2023] UK 'Green Man' Tour
[2024] UK Spring Tour

9. Gulliver Gentle and Rosemary

(4.46 Traditional. Child 11)  Adapted by Rick Kemp and Maddy Prior.
Another variant of Child 11. Once again seemingly with the music written by Steeleye

Album notes -  Child Ballad 11. Sometime versions of the same ballad, in Child and Bronson, are almost unrecognisable as the same story. This is such a light hearted lyric that it feels unconnected to the Cruel Brother, which it is grouped with.

[2018] UK Autumn Tour. Features on '50th Anniversary Tour DVD' (2019)
[2019] Jan Irish Tour

10. The Gardener

(5.09 Traditional. Child 219). Adapted by Maddy Prior.

Album notes -  This elegant ballad was first given to Tim Hart and Maddy by Bert Lloyd, back in the 1960s. Its use of natural images to convey emotions is unusually poetic. In this version we have played with the tune, omitting the refrain.

[2015] Autumn 'Catch Up' Tour.
[2016] Festivals - including Cropedy which can be seen in high quality here.  UK Autumn 'Dodgy Bastards' Tour. 
[2017] UK 'Hark! The Village Wait' Tour
[2018] Festivals, including 'Shrewsbury Festival' which can be seen online in high quality.
[2023] UK 'Green Man' Tour

11. Bad Bones

(4.13 Written by Jullian Littman)

Album notes - When it was mooted to call this album 'Dodgy Bastards', Julian was moved to write a song depicting a right dodgy bastard with no redeeming features whatsoever. As it happens the character turns out to be quite humorous in his own despicable way! 

[2016] UK Autumn 'Dodgy Bastards' Tour

12. The Lofty Tall Ship / Shallow Brown 

(10.01 Traditional) Arranged by Maddy Prior. 
'from the singing of Sam Larner'
Album notes - The Lofty Tall Ship is from the singing of Sam Larner, from Winterton in Norfolk. A grim story of piracy, we have followed it with an adapted version of the lovely Shallow Brown, turning it from a sea shanty into a lament.  Maddy first heard this from Tony Hall on the Silly Sisters tour, in the 1970s, and was reminded of it while looking through Stan Hugill's brilliant book of shanties.

[2022] UK Spring Tour

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