A trio of wonderful albums from this enigmatic group – boxed up in a single set, with bonus tracks too! First up is Hark The Village Wait – the fantastic debut of Steeleye Span
– a legendary British group formed by bassist Ashley Hutchings after his departure from Fairport Convention! The style here is a great continuation of that mode that the earlier group worked out on their Liege & Lief album – a reworking of older British folk modes, but with the compelling addition of electric bass at the bottom – an instrument that gives this subtle pulse to the music amidst the more acoustic instrumentation, in ways that are indescribably haunting, and really keep the whole thing from sounding like any sort of standard folk! Maddy Prior sings most lead vocals, and the instrumentation includes plenty of guitars, fiddle, harmonium, concertina, and mandolin – and titles include "A Calling-On Song", "My Johnny Was A Shoemaker", "All Things Are Quite Silent", "Copshawholme Fair", "Dark Eyed Sailor", "Blackleg Miner", and "Twa Corbies". On Please To See The King, there's a slight shift from the first album by Steeleye Span
– a bit of a shift to just a touch of electric guitar and organ next to the bass guitar lines of Ashley Hutchings – which makes for an even more sinister sound than before! In keeping with their approach, most songs are from older British sources – but they really get transformed by the presentation, which creates an acid folk vibe that really sets the stage for the Wicker Man scene – including some of the strange folk experiments of Current 93 many years later! Most of the rest of the instrumentation is acoustic, used in a way that creates this time-tripping approach that's really amazing – on titles that include "Boys Of Bedlam", "Cold Haily Windy Night", "The Blacksmith", "Female Drummer", "The King", "Lovely On The Water", and "The Lark In The Morning". The long-titled Ten Man Mop Or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again is the last in the classic run of Steeleye Span
albums to feature the mighty Ashley Hutchings on bass – and a set that also has the group adding in a bit of Irish repertoire to their exploration of ancient English modes – but all in their fantastic blend of ancient and modern elements. If anything, the harmonies are even better than before – they've really found a way to combine along with the lead of Maddy Prior, in a style that has this real edge, almost evil quality at times – on titles that include "Four Nights Drunk", "Gower Wassail", "Captain Coulston", "When I Was On Horseback", and "Wee Weaver". CD set features bonus tracks "General Taylor", and three versions of "Rave On".