A Calling-On Song / The Blacksmith - Steeleye Span
In 1970 bassist Ashley Hutchins left Fairport Convention to form a new band, Steeleye Span, and their debut album "Hark the Village Wait" came out the same year. Someone leant me the record and I can still remember the shock of recognition when I heard the first two tracks. The first - "A Calling-On Song" - was an invitation to the world to join them on a pure folk, rock journey which is still continuing unabated some 50 years and 23 albums later:
"Good people pray heed our petition
your attention we beg and we crave
and if you are inclined for to listen
an abundance of pastimes we'll have......
now that you've heard our intention
we'll play on to the beat of the drum."
This was pure folk, but immediately there follows the promised drums in a short rock intro, and the prototype for British folk rock was up and away. Maddy Prior's vocal is sexy, sensual even -
..."with his hammer in his hand
he looked so clever...
....I'm afraid the shining sun
might burn and scorch his beauty
and if I was with my love
I would do my duty....."
as they take a traditional song collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams (no less) in 1909, scribbled down as a Mrs Ellen Powell of Westhope, near Weobley, Herefordshire sang it to him, and bring it bang to to date while still retaining the sense of an age-old English singing tradition. The shock of recognition? It's still there every time you listen to it, the freshness of youth and love echoing down the years in the heart of the English countryside. Ageless.