They Called Her Babylon



Park Records

Produced by Steeleye Span
Recorded at Warehouse Studio Oxford
Engineered and mixed by Steve Watkins

Maddy Prior is back whilst Peter Knight is the only survivor from the last studio album, Bedlam Born. Ken Nicol is new to the band with Rick Kemp and Liam Genockey both returning.

The title of the album, from the song of the same name written by Ken Nicol, refers to the Siege of Latham House which took place in the English Civil War. The Countess of Derby ('Babylon') held off a Parliamentarian siege.
Once again a mixture of traditional and adapted ballads and original songs.  

With this line up staying together for the next 8 years it results in live outings for a good number of the tracks. Interestingly, none have survived Ken leaving the band in 2010. 

1. Van Diemen's Land

(4.52 Traditional. Arranged by Ken Nicol with chorus added - I think with a new melody)
Album notes - 

An adaption of the song also known as The Gallant Poachers.

What was once Van Diemen's Land is now known as Tasmania. It was founded in 1803, and from 1804 to 1853 thousands of convicts were transported to the island. It was originally named “Anthoonij van Diemenslandt” in honour of Anthony van Diemen, Governor-General of India for the Dutch East India Company, who sent Abel Tasman out on his voyage of discovery in 1642. It was changed in 1856 to honour Tasman himself, the first European to discover the island, and possibly also to remove the association with the severe penal colony that the original name evoked.

[2004] UK Spring and Winter 35th Anniversary Tours. Appears on '35th Anniversary World Tour Live DVD (2004) &  'Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert' Live CD (2005
[2005] Sung live on BBC Folk Awards when picking up the 'Good Tradition' award.
[2006] UK Spring Tour; Festivals
[2007] Spanfest
[2008] UK Spring Tour; Spanfest
[2009] US & UK '40th Anniversary' Tour

2. Samain

(5.59 written by Rick Kemp)

Album notes -  A poetic view of the pre-Christian festival which became Halloween. This is my favourite time of the year, but I wonder if Pagans had the same rosy view of winter as me, without the benefit of supermarkets, and if the chestnut tree was introduced by then?

[2004] Spring Australasian Tour; UK Spring and Winter 35th Anniversary Tours. Appears on '35th Anniversary World Tour Live DVD (2004) &  'Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert' Live CD (2005)

3. Heir Of Linne

(6.49 Traditional. Child 267. Music and Arrangement by Maddy Prior)

Album notes -  I have the mighty Martin Carthy to thank for directing me to this song. I spent a wonderful weekend last summer listening to him play and talk about ballads and he was waxing lyrical about this one, and in his generous way was enthusiastic for me to develop a version of it. For me, it encapsulates the image of the Dark Night of the Soul, when all is gone and despair drowns any hope. Only then is there a change in fortune. It would take a wisdom and ruthlessness that most of us don't possess to carry through the plan of the father.

Not played live

4. Bride's Farewell

(4.18  Traditional lyrics. Music by Peter Knight)

Album notes -  I composed this 5/4 melody and then researched a variety of traditional song books to find a set of lyrics that I felt were sympathetic to the tune. I adapted the lyrics from the original version.

Not played live

5. They Called Her Babylon 

(6.19  Written by Ken Nicol)

Album notes - 
Lathom House is situated in Lancashire, and in the year of 1643 was the one Royalist stronghold left in the country that hadn't been seized by Cromwell's Parliamentarians.

In June of that year, James Stanley, the seventh Earl of Derby, heeded the King's command and left Lathom House, taking with him an army of fighting men. They headed for the Isle of Man with the intention of stopping Scottish forces en route for England in their support for Cromwell. He left his house in charge of his intrepid wife, Charlotte de la Tremoville.

The enemy now looked upon this house as their own, and it was decided that Lathom House must be surrendered. One Puritan minister at Wigan preached the following sermon against Lady Derby upon a text from Jeremiah:

"Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about; all ye that bend the bow shoot at her; spare no arrows; for she has sinned against the Lord." (Jeremiah 50.14)

When a commission was obtained by the Parliamentarians to seize Latham House, and this was made known to Lady Derby, in great secrecy she proceeded to furnish herself with men, arms and ammunition. With considerable determination and unflinching loyalty to her husband and to the king, against all odds, she successfully resisted and held back the aggressors until their shameful retreat in the month of May 1644.

[2004] Spring Australasian Tour; UK Spring and Winter 35th Anniversary Tours. Appears on '35th Anniversary World Tour Live DVD (2004) &  'Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert' Live CD (2005)
[2007] Spanfest
[2008] UK Spring Tour; Spanfest
[2009] UK Spring '40th Anniversary' Tour; US Summer Tour; UK Autumn 40th Anniversary tour

6. Mantle of Green

( 5.23 Traditional. Arranged by Ken Nicol. )
I can't trace the melody so it may have been written by Ken.

Album notes -  A “broken token ballad”. These are songs that typically contain the theme of two lovers dividing a “token”, normally in the form of a ring, then parting as he goes off to fight in some foreign land. When eventually he returns, by sheer coincidence their paths cross again, but she does not recognise him.  

[2004] UK Spring 35th Anniversary Tour. Appears on 'The Official Bootleg Live CD (2004)'35th Anniversary World Tour Live DVD (2004) &  'Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert' Live CD (2005)

7. Bede's Death Song

(0.41 Medieval Poem. arrangement and music by Rick Kemp)  

Album notes - 'Allegedly written at the deathbed of that venerable man'

Not played live

8. Diversus and Lazarus

(6.43 Based on traditional lyrics (Child 56). Music and arrangement by Rick Kemp )

Album notes -  A perennial tale of haves and have nots, the dire consequences of greed and selfishness, the rewards of humility and frugality. This is assembled from several versions, and then wildly cut to make space for the riffs, but I think that the essence of the story remains.

Not played live

9. Si Begh Si Mohr

( 4.13 written by Turlough O'Carolan. Arranged by Peter Knight )

Album notes - 

This beautiful tune was composed by the blind Irish harpist, poet and composer O'Carolan. His compositions for the harp borrowed a great deal from the Irish tradition, but also included elements from continental classic music—he was said to be influenced by Vivaldi and Corelli.

I didn't want to get too precious with the recording of this tune so we recorded it as a band in one take and with no overdubs

[2004] Spring Australasian Tour; UK Spring 35th Anniversary Tour. Appears on 'The Official Bootleg Live CD (2004); '35th Anniversary World Tour Live DVD (2004) &  'Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert' Live CD (2005)
[2009] UK Autumn 40th Anniversary Tour

10. Child Owlet

(5.07. Traditional. Child 291. Introduced by Maddy)

Album notes -  This extremely rare ballad is fairly horrific even by ballad standards. The failed seduction and the revenge of the spurned temptress provides another theme for the high drama of ballads, but it is the way his body is spread over the landscape which takes it one step beyond the more usual ballad disposal methods of poisoning, stabbing, drowning, burning and beheading.

[2004] Nettlebed Folk Club. Warm up concert for World Tour but the only time the song was sung live. 

11. What's The Life of a Man? 

(5.30 Traditional. Introduced by Peter Knight)

Album notes - I have always loved this song because the sentiments conveyed reflect my own feelings.

Not played live

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