Monday, 5 May 2014

"Live At Last! / Sails On Silver" by STEELEYE SPAN – A Review Of Their 1978 and 1980 Albums – Now Reissued And Remastered By Beat Goes On of The UK Onto a 2014 2CD Set…

Here is a link to AMAZON UK to get this 2CD remaster at the best price:

"…Set My Sails For The Sun…" – Live At Last! and Sails Of Silver by STEELEYE SPAN on CD

Steeleye Span fans are going to enjoy BGO’s remasters of these forgotten English Folk Rock albums from 1978 and 1980 – both CDs sporting top quality audio and classy presentation. Here are the bonnie wee details…

UK released June 2014 – Beat Goes On BGOCD 1147 (Barcode 5017261211477) breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (49:39 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 7 are the album “Live At Last!” – originally released November 1978 in the UK on Chrysalis Records CHR 1199. It was their 11th album and first live set (recorded 8 March 1978 in Bournemouth) - issued shortly after the band had disbanded.

Disc 2 (37:32 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album “Sails On Silver” – originally released November 1980 in the UK on Chrysalis CHR 1304. It was their 12th album and the first studio LP with the re-formed band.

Housed in a pretty card slipcase – the 16-page booklet is extensive and features new liner notes by noted writer John O’Regan. But the big news is the Andrew Thompson remasters which are superbly done – clarity and muscle – even if the cluttering instruments of “Sails” threaten to drown everything.

For an onstage album – the sound quality is incredible on “Live At Last!” – amazing clarity and presence. In fact at times it sounds like the record was recorded ‘live’ in a studio – every instrument beautifully reproduced and the vocals full of resonance and depth. The prelude chat to the crowd before “Bonnets So Blue” about fertility dances and things that go limp in the night is very witty and greeted with appreciative hoots. But at 14 minutes plus I find “Montrose” just too long for comfort. “Saucy Sailor” combines with the Brecht/Weill song “Black Freighter” and features Maddy Prior in great voice – convincingly switching between Folk Rock one moment and English lullaby the next. 

The first studio album of the new decade moved away from purist Folk and into the Eighties penchant for multi-layered production and slick songs. I remember it was met with praise and derision at the time. “Sails On Silver” opens up with the rocking title track (lyrics above) where the band sounds like Fairport Convention on a Prog Rock bender. The slick Gus Dudgeon production values continue on the sophisticated and lovely melody of “My Love” with its treated acoustic guitars and electric pianos. But neither “Barnet Fair” nor “Senior Service” has dated well – hustling to be singles at the time - but sounding utterly naff now.

Things pick up with the ballad “Gone To America” and Side 2 opens with the excellent “Where Are They Now” where the Rock and Folk traditions meet and work. “Let Her Go Down” is pretty too but “Longbone” has a poorly produced echo vocal that irritates. It ends on the violin melody of “Marigold/Harvest Home” and the acoustic builder “Tell Me Why” which is probably the best song on what I think is a patchy album.

Steeleye Span divide British Folk fans – they were neither here nor there – and on the evidence of what’s presented here – it’s easy to see why. When they were good – they were superb. But like so many acts in the Eighties – they seemed to lose track of everything that mattered – tunes and musical roots got replaced by technicality and polish and over-production.

Having said that – this is a quality reissue - superb presentation and great audio remasters…

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