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STEELEYE SPAN "The Collection" Park Records PRKCD27

Isn't it strange how quickly you get out of the habit of playing vinyl, and how quickly you can forget what really good stuff is lurking in the pile of albums gathering dust in the corner? This CD refreshes the memory with live concert recordings of some of the best of Steeleye Span's repertoire, and played by two incarnations of the band - with, and without, the superb bass of Rick Kemp.

The opening track is "The Blacksmith" with Span's characteristic dark overtones of ritual and the supernatural, plus the extraordinary electric guitar riffs from Bob Johnson underpinned by Kemp's bass work on an essentially sparse arrangement. It is simply stunning. Just over six minutes which encapsulates all that the folk-rock idiom was about - brilliant! My only concern was that the rest of the album couldn't possible live up to this start. Well it does, and in very fine style. "One Misty Moisty Morning" with energy and joyfulness; the classical violin break from Peter Knight on "Canon"; the almost obligatory dance element of "Shaking the Sheets" - this CD captures all the verve and exuberance of a live Steeleye gig. What should be now be a rather cliched "All Around My Hat" is still fresh and exciting, and the band (as was their wont) left the audience to take a chorus on their own. "Gaudete" transcends even the Kipper Family's parody "Awayday", with Maddy Prior's beautifully clear and pure vocals soaring on the lyrics of what is still the only Latin chant to make the top ten!

Forget the LPs, leave them in the dusty covers, buy this CD and play it - very loud. It refreshes the parts that vinyl can't reach!

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 22 of The Living Tradition magazine.