Monday, 12 October 2015

Steeleye Span - The Weaver and the Factory Maid

From Steeleye Span - electric folk music of the early 1970s at its wonderful best.

The first part is a composite Luddite social history/ protest ballad about the impact of factories on the lives of handloom weavers, and of love among the weavers - and remarkable for its fiddle 'obbligato' and top-notch singing (and word-pointing), also an astonishing and irregular time signature and syncopation using electric guitars, bass and dulcimer.

(There was a vogue for unconventional time signatures in early 70s rock - the most famous is perhaps the 5/4 rhythm used in Jethro Tull's Living in the Past.)

The second part (starting at 4:25) is a lament for the old days, done by Maddy Prior as a multi-track unaccompanied harmonization - And if you can concentrate and listen to this in stereo, without your eyes welling and neck hairs prickling... well, you must have a heart of stone or a tin ear, or both!


drizzz said...

Beautiful, haven't heard it in years. Thank you!

Mercurius Aulicus said...

I see your Steeleye Span and raise you a Fairport Convention

Bruce Charlton said...

@MA - The electric folk world was, in my experience, divided between the Steeleye and the Fairport factions - fandoms which were, of course, united by the Godfather figure of Ashely Hutchings- I probably loved best the third of Hutching's strands, that led to Morris On, Compleat Dancng Master, and the early seventies incarnations of the Etchingham and Albion bands.

But nowadays the quality of Steeleye's singing and arrangements - not just Maddy - they could all sing well, except the drummer. Compare the deliberately hypnotic monotony of the this Fairport arrangement, with the virtuoso variety of the Weaver and the Factory Maid.

This extra level of Steeleye musicality - plus the fairy ballads - was associated with the arrival of Robert Johnson in the band for Below the Salt, which was added to Peter Knight's trained compositional technique. This combination of vocals and musicality makes Steeleye the peak.