MADDY PRIOR - JULIAN LITTMAN - BENJI KIRKPATRICK - LIAM GENOCKY - JESSIE MAY SMART - ANDREW 'SPUD' SINCLAIR - ROGER CAREY
Ian Anderson - Flute
Sophie Yates - Harpsichord
Produced by Steeleye Span
Broadoak Studios, Hastings; King Edward Studio, Cumbria Hassage Manor, Somerset; Park Media Studio, Oxford; Draycott Studios, London; Stones Barn, Cumbria;
Engineered by Harvey Summers, Julian Littman, Spud Sinclair and Bob Prowse
Steeleye are a seven piece for the first time as Benji Kirkpatrick, son of ex member John Kirpatrick, joins along with Roger Carey who takes over from Rick Kemp on Bass. The album continues the path laid by Dodgy Bastards with a prog folk/rock mix of original and heavily adapted traditional ballads.
Maddy Prior - 'Thanks to all the past members who have put their musical spirit at the disposal of Steeleye Span, and helped to form the vast repertoire that we have today.
Album notes - When harvesting was done by hand, with many labourers, the end of the harvest was a time of note and celebration. In various parts of the country, as a sign that all was gathered, the whole company would stand and let out a loud cry, “The Neck!” whilst clutching the last piece of corn or hay. This haunting sound travelled over the fields and could be heard by their neighbours.
Also in times past, a tenth of the harvest was demanded by the all-powerful church. This song gives some indication of popular attitudes to that.
And at the end of harvest, before the advent of the tractor, there would still be a good amount of corn on the field. It was traditional for the poor to be allowed to collect whatever they could gather, and in times of agricultural depression this might be all that would keep them going through the winter. In some places the church bell was rung to start and finish the gleaning time.
 UK Autumn Tour. Park Records put out a video of Harvest from this tour which did not make it onto the 50th Anniversary DVD. This version therefore has Jessie May Smart whereas the one on the 50th DVD below has Violeta Barrena on fiddle.
 Jan Irish Tour; UK Spring 50th 'Anniversary' Tour; Festivals; Tour of Holland; Features on the '50th Anniversary Tour CD/DVD (2019)
Album notes An Arthurian tale where, whilst in Carlisle (he wasn’t always in Cornwall!), a boy happens along with the means to test the court as to whether they are faithful to their spouses or not. The three tests are for the ladies to don the “Mantle Veritas” with embarrassing results if they’re not constant and true, and the men to try to cut into a boar's head or to drink from a magic horn successfully.
Sometimes the latter two tests were to determine whether a man was a cuckold or not, but Maddy and I decided that all the tests would be for fidelity.
The chorus and the main instrumental theme were written by us and developed in rehearsal but the verse melody is traditional. We were fortunate to have the addition of the eminent harpsichordist Sophie Yates, which puts us beautifully in a ‘court-like’ place even though there weren’t any harpsichords at that time! (Mind you, there weren’t any electric guitars either!)
This is Child Ballad 36, a song which he describes as “mutilated and defaced”, but pure tradition. Much reading of ballads makes you fill in, mentally, missing parts, but here we’ve attempted to make the story clearer, and in our usual way put tunes to it of our own devising.
Worms, serpents and dragons are sometimes interchangeable and there are many stories from around the world where characters are shape shifted into these loathsome creatures. Alison Gross, another ballad we have sung, takes revenge on a lover’s rejection by turning him into a worm, but she also has the ability to change him back again and the similarity will be why Child has placed these ballads next to each other in his collection. But ballads, like fairy tales, are not driven by the need for happy endings and, if they intend to teach about life, then ballad similarities may be suggesting options of different outcomes.
Album notes - There are lots of songs in the tradition about relationships between men and women. Many come from a time where women had little power, and strength in a woman was twisted to the negative image of a harridan. These two songs ale slightly different.
The first has echoes of The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy’s novel which opens with a man selling his wife. This is more of a comedic view of the situation, where the man is more hapless than malicious.
The second song (My Husband's Got No Courage in Him), which I first sang with June Tabor as the Silly Sisters, is the only song I can think of that addresses the possible inadequacies of men.
To use the metaphor chosen by John Masefield in this poem from 1910, we all search for our roadway in life… although it could be said to be less metaphorical, and more literal, for us wandering musicians…
Orphaned at a young age, Masefield spent most of his childhood lost in books before heading off to sea whilst only in his early teenage years. He continued reading and writing throughout his time as a sailor, becoming an award-winning poet and many of his celebrated works relate to his time at sea. Despite his almost utopian view of life at sea expressed in the words here, he had actually deserted ship on his final voyage some 15 years before writing it, which makes Roadways all the more romantic to me.