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ALBION COUNTRY BAND "Battle of the Field" BGOCD354

The smell of dust burning off overheating valves can just about be sensed while listening to the collection of Strats and Telecasters on these two CDs. But, there is something else in the air as well. A notion of musical competency and even hints of genius. There is also a rather unbalancing feeling on realising that these recordings are some twenty-odd years old, taking us way back to the middle seventies.

"Live at Last", was a "last" album from Steeleye Span, recorded live in concert at the Winter Gardens in Bournemouth on the 7th of March 1978. Five days after this recording, Steeleye Span "amicably disbanded". As it happened, the band, through several evolutions, lived to play on other days. Much more detail on these stories can be found in John Tobler's comprehensive sleeve notes as he relates the histories and backgrounds of the many Span-ers.

As a "final" album this may not have been the end befitting such a successful band. However, as a live recording capturing that slice of time, it's just about as good as it gets. Sure, the levels aren't always spot on but the vocals of Messrs Prior, Kirkpatrick and Carthy are well to the fore and in good form. The recording of the instruments might lean more toward weight and volume than sublety and shading but a good time is enjoyed by all - particularly on "Montrose". This is a fifteen-minute mini epic that highlights the band's collective skills.

The Albion Country Band's "Battle of the Field" is another recording with a pre-history leading up to its recording and eventual belated release, as well as its own collection of what-happened-next stories. John Tobler's sleeve notes again provide the background, which takes some following and could well be the basis for a Folk Rock soap opera.

One of THE all time classic "electric folk" albums was "Morris On", released in 1972. "Battle of the Field", was recorded the following year and the Ashley Hutchings and John Kirkpatrick combination in many ways makes this a truer continuance on that theme than "Son of Morris On", recorded several years latter. "Battle of the Field" has the combined talents of Martin Carthy, Sue Harris, Ashley Hutchings, John Kirkpatrick, Simon Nicol and Rodger Swallow and can be regarded as a classic album in its own right. Their versions of "I Was A Young Man", "Gallant Poacher" and "Hanged I Shall Be" show true inspiration as does the combinations of hammered dulcimer, accordion, concertina, oboe and lap dulcimer.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 29 of The Living Tradition magazine.