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Steeleye Span & Maddy Prior

Maddy Prior has established herself, by dint of both talent and time, as one of the leading female singers in British folk (and folk-rock). Born in St. Albans, outside London, she developed an interest in traditional English music as a teenager and through friends, found her way to the treasure trove of material at Cecil Sharpe House and also to Ewan MacColl, the de facto leader of the folk revival. In the late '60s, she met Tim Hart, an accomplished singer and instrumentalist, and together they recorded three albums which made little impact at the time, not even setting the folk clubs buzzing. However, they had played some folk festivals, including Keele, where they met Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings, who was about to form a new band. Prior and Hart became part of the ensemble known as Steeleye Span, who would become an ongoing institution of British folk-rock, with Prior as one of its constants -- she even married Rick Kemp, the bass player who replaced Hutchings.

In 1976, she teamed with another young folk singer, June Tabor, under the Silly Sisters moniker, to record the first of what would be two albums, also remaining with Steeleye until the group officially disbanded in 1978. After that, she embarked on her solo career, her debut, Woman in the Wings, being produced by Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson. She also began another career, as the mother of two children, but still joined a reunited Steeleye in 1980, continuing to juggle band and solo work and evening forming her own group, the Carnival Band, who've supported her on record and tour since 1987. When Prior experienced some voice problems in 1993, Gay Woods, who also been an original Steeleye vocalist, rejoined the band. Prior continued to record more frequently alone, including the albums Year, Flesh and Blood, and Ravenchild and Arthur the King, many of which were concept records. She continued to tour and record with Steeleye Span throughout the early part of the 21st century. Her longtime friend and original collaborator Tim Hart passed away in 2009. ~ Chris Nickson, Rovi
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Comments

@hclausen1 - I was there, too, 8 July 1973, my very first concert ever. Amazed is appropriate!
Dan Robbins...I know exactly what you are saying!! but it took me about a week to close my jaw after their version of Gaudete. Was just as amazed when they added instruments.
cmyers3402
Clearly, not everyone's cup of tea, but I love a lot of their songs.
clear, joyful harmonies. Definitely awakens a feeling that I must have lived in those days, and if so, music was an enormous part of what made life wonderful.
My introduction to Steeleye Span was a 1972 Jethro Tull concert, where they began the concert with a completely dark concert hall. Each stood before a microphone, with their fingers covering both ears (so each could hear only their voice). The lights went on, and they launched into an a capella Gaudete in 5 part harmony. After their song, I finally closed my mouth in awe and I was hooked.
I. too saw Steeleye in Syracuse N.Y in a theater on Salina Street! They opened for Procol Harum. I'll put my SS with Procol up with anyone for best show - ever. Roses were flying for M. Prior that night! Must have been 1970. Then, in San Diego in '72-73 at Jabberwocky on SD State campus! First time I ever saw a bass player levitate while playing! I was 10 feet from the stage. Wow! Rick Kemp and Maddy Prior.
I saw Steeleye Span with Jethro Tull in Syracuse, NY probably in 1973. I loved both bands. It remains my all-time favorite concert.
I saw Steeleye Span in about 1973 in Albuquerque, N.M. with Jethro Tull. We were amazed.
Love 'em. I enjoyed performances in England, and one of the best reunion performances ever in Pittsburgh a few years ago.
Two Magicians - enough said!
I feel like the oscillation between the sublime and the 'ridiculous, ' as you put it, is what makes them so unique and fascinating to me. They are like the best Gothic novels -- the moments of burlesque grotesquerie have a magical beauty that commingles with the ethereally sublime touches, creating a truly unique work of art.
I've always been strangely ambivalent about Steelye Span. It seemed like they were unable to tell the difference between hauntingly beautiful and disgustingly trite veering between the two not only in most of their albums but sometimes in the same damn song. For every Gaudete, or Cam ye o'er Frae France, or The Weaver and the Factory Maid - fantastic songs all - you'd get a Wee Wee Man or a Hares on a Mountain. From the sublime to the ridiculous. Their best songs were truly awesome. Their worst
Saw SS in Houston 12 years ago. After an 8 hr setup, rain threatened. The crew struck the set and moved it inside w/in 4 hours. The Scottish Rogues assuaged the ruffled feathers of the audience, now crammed into 1/2 the area they'd had - & no seats - by playing until the roadies were done. "Amplifiers? We don't need no stinkin' amplifiers!" With No sound check, some folkes left - we got the extra room and the loyal followers were rewarded with a really fine show!
calvin000
Geoffry Chaucer is rockin' out!!! Or is it roccen aught?
calvin000
A magnificent band. Their rendition of "Royal Forester" is particularly excellent.
S.S. is my favorite group ever. There's something about music that can pull off, say, electrifying an 17th-century ballad - and they OWN that music.
ackerbex3
I have loved this group since a friend from Oxford introduced me to their albums in the mid-eighties . The blend of traditional & electric is very tasty. I like your analogy of Rivendell's house band - this is EXACTLY what I think elves on electric guitars would sound like!
ackerbex3
I love their blend of traditional songs & modern instrumentat i o n . This is what the house band in Rivendell would sound like today!
bweber4
A benchmark rendition.

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