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VARIOUS ARTISTS 'Step Into The Park' Park Records PRKCD68

Fifteen years is a slightly unusual anniversary to celebrate; it gives the impression that the institution concerned is relieved to have survived beyond that difficult first decade (a cause for celebration indeed) but that it may not be completely confident about being around to pop the champagne corks at the twenty-year milestone. A little like marriage, I suppose.

It may be one reason that this sixteen-track compilation is not in any sense a retrospective but a snapshot of Park's best and brightest in 2004. Present stars like Maddy Prior and Kathryn Tickell are juxtaposed with those in the ascendant like Rock Salt & Nails, Prior's daughter Rose Kemp and Abbie Lathe. Also represented are Lindisfarne, Pentangle (the Jacqui McShee incarnation) and The Carnival Band, seemingly all revitalized by their new record deals. Steeleye's Bob Johnson and Lathe offer brief but informative notes about their chosen songs and I would have welcomed similar contributions from the other featured artists (although Prior does put an interesting and distinctly unromantic slant on When I Was On Horseback).

Prior, of course, was in on Park's launch in 1989 but it was not until almost ten years later that she was joined by her old band, Steeleye Span, with whom in 2002 she released Present; by this time, Rick Kemp and Liam Genockey had rejoined Peter Knight. She constitutes the thread of continuity, which runs through this pleasing mid-price showcase album; in addition to Steeleye Span, Prior features with 'The Girls' (Rose and Abbie) and her old mates The Carnival Band. I almost expected her to pop up on a collaboration with RS&N. Almost.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 55 of The Living Tradition magazine.