Last modified:
Sat, 14 Mar 2015 15:58:27 +1300

Bedlam Born

Album review by Barry Curtis.
Copyright © 2005.
All Rights Reserved.


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Released in 2000, this was the second Steeleye album without Maddy Prior. The first, ‘Horkstow Grange’, I found slightly unimpressive and was therefore skeptical about the continuation of this line-up. However, my fears were unfounded. On the whole, Bedlam Born is an entertaining listen, even if ‘Who Told the Butcher?’ and ‘Poor Old Soldier’ are rather tame.

By far the best song is ‘John of Ditchford’. Written and sung by bassist Tim Harries, the lyrics intelligently relate the tale of a murder and subsequent justice over a heavy rock backdrop. The music here is outstanding and one wonders if drummer Dave Mattacks brought along some inspiration from the rockiest aspects of Fairport Convention. How folk-rock should be, ‘John of Ditchford’ is in my top five Steeleye tracks ever recorded.

The instrumental ‘Black Swan’ has a regal feel and is reminiscent of ‘A Cannon By Telemann’ from the ‘Back in Line’ album.

Gay Woods is in her element in tracks such as ‘I See His Blood upon the Rose’, ‘The Connemara Cradle Song’ (a song about the West Wind!), ‘Beyond the Dreaming Place’, and a Pink Floyd-esque take on Vera Lynn’s ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’. Her general tendency is towards soft vocals in contrast to Maddy’s domineering tones, and in ‘Arbour’ she narrates the lyrics allowing her wondrous Irish accent to shine through.

This was Bob Johnson’s final album of original material (excluding 2002’s ‘Present’) and he does a fine service setting the rocky agenda with ‘Well Done Liar!’, ‘The Beggar’, and a version of ‘We Poor Labouring Men’ that is much enhanced over the live incarnations I heard in the 1990s. ‘There Was a Wealthy Merchant’ and ‘Stephen’ are slightly weaker but still merit a listen.

 

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Overall I rate this album 8/10, a high rating indebted to the clearly large amount of research undertaken by the band and their talent in bringing the project together. Two of these points I owe to ‘John of Ditchford’. Check it out.

Barry Curtis, February 2005, UK.