Please to See the King – Steeleye Span (1971)

Please to See the King is the second album by Steeleye Span, released in 1971. A major personnel change following their previous effort, Hark! The Village Wait, brought about a substantial change in their overall sound, including a lack of drums and the replacement of one female vocalist with a male vocalist. The band even reprised a song from their debut, “The Blacksmith”, with a strikingly different arrangement making extensive use of syncopation. Re-recording songs would be a minor theme in Steeleye’s output over the years, with the band eventually releasing an entire album of reprises, Present – The Very Best of Steeleye Span. The title of the album is derived from the ‘Cutty Wren’ ceremony. A wren in a cage is paraded as if it were a king. This rite was carried out on 26 December, Saint Stephen‘s Day, and is connected to early Christmas celebrations. The song ‘The King’, appearing on the album, addresses this, and is often performed as a Christmas carol. Steeleye Span returned to this subject on Live at Last with ‘Hunting the Wren’ and on Time with the song ‘The Cutty Wren’. The custom of Wrenboys is mostly associated with Ireland, but it has been recently revived in England. All songs appearing on the original album are traditional. ‘The False Knight on the Road’ is one of the Child Ballads (#3), and concerns a boy’s contest with the devil in a game of riddles. Tim Hart and Maddy Prior had already recorded a version of the song on their album Summer Solstice. ‘The Lark in the Morning’, one of their more popular songs, has the same title as a different song about a lusty ploughboy, though there are strong similarities. This version was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams. ‘Boys of Bedlam’, a variant of ‘Tom o’ Bedlam‘, is told from the perspective of a member of a lunatic asylum. Carthy and Prior open the song by singing into the back of banjos, producing a muffled effect. The band uses the earliest printed version of the song, from Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy by Thomas d’Urfey. Melody Maker made this its folk album of the year. Music journalist Colin Irwin describes it in his book In Search of Albion as one of his favourite folk-rock albums. … Remaining copies were bought up by a couple of the ‘cut-out’ distributors and by that time, the band had signed with Chrysalis and the cut-out original sold very well. When stock ran out, poor-quality bootleg copies started to turn up in huge quantities. …”
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: Please To See The King – Steel Eye Span 10 videos

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