STEELEYE SPAN A Stack Of Steeleye Span (Emporio)

"A Stack Of Steeleye Span" is a 16-track compilation of material drawn from the band's first three albums, "Hark! The Village Wait", "Please To See The King" and "Ten Man Mop (Or Mr. Reservoir Strikes Again)" (and not, as the cover erroneously suggests, "Their Finest Folk Recordings 1973 - 1975"). There seem to be plentiful compilations drawn from this era of the band's existence, and what this one lacks in useful booklet notes (i.e. everything!) it compensates for with a sub-3 price tag. A present from my parents, acting under the misapprehension that I'd recently seen the band when in fact I'd been to a Fairport Convention gig, a first listen to Steeleye Span suggests the confusion might be apposite. Playing traditional material with a folk-rock backing in the early 70s practically guaranteed the Fairport comparisons, although it seems the early Steeleye Span sound was a little darker and smokier. This makes for an enjoyable canter through those early albums: I'm unqualified to comment as to whether the track selection is representative of their excellence, but to a newcomer there's nothing less than enjoyable here, with extra points awarded for the creeping sense of unease that soaks through "Lowlands Of Holland", the good-natured, rambling "False Knight On The Road" and the comic infidelity of "Four Nights Drunk". If you only buy one Steeleye Span CD there are almost certainly others more deserving of your attention, but as an invigorating listen on its own terms "A Stack Of Steeleye Span" is fine stuff.