Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Prior Engagement

I took a short break from here after post #400, but I return for #401 with a birthday screed about one of the greatest living vocalists.
I discovered her music and her singular voice in a very strange way, when I was just a lad of 15.
When I was that kid, an older cellist friend of mine and I used to listen to WBAI-FM in NYC, for Ed Haber's legendary Folk Music show The Piper In the Meadow, Straying.
The theme music to his program in around 1981 was a song called Sails of Silver. When he'd say the name of the artist, my friend and I would struggle to figure out what it was.
We thought he was saying "Steel Eyes Band," so away we went to the record emporia of the day, only to be met by quizzical looks of puzzlement from the employees behind the counters.
Then, one day, I went to my grandparents' 50th anniversary reception at this big catering hall in Westchester County.
My little brother and I were seated at a table next to a cousin and her husband, whom we had never met.
When I started in to prattling on about how we could not solve the mystery of this beguiling theme song, their eyes simultaneously lit up.
Noooooooo, they told me. It isn't "Steel Eyes Band". You're talking about the British trad-rock group Steeleye Span. How was I to know that the name was a character in an English folk song?
Well, silly teenaged me, I thought. Imagine my fervor when a week or so later, a cassette tape arrived in the mail that had their 2nd and 3rd records, from 1970/71, dubbed from the original vinyl onto it.
Today, you'd just put "Steel Eyes Band" into a search engine and you'd be asked "Did you mean Steeleye Span?" Back in those pre-Internet days, we were on our own, rotary phones and all.
Needless to say that the tape Bob & Carol Kavanaugh sent me began a whole lifelong obsession with Celtic music, to the point where decades hence I can play many of those traditional English tunes Steeleye Span are famous for all by myself, on the guitar.
And in the case of Steeleye Span, almost all of them were, are, and will be sung by their vocalist since their 1969 inception: today's 71st birthday girl -- the chanteuse of the Modern Yet Ancient -- lark-throated songstress Maddy Prior.
To celebrate her big day, I put up into Mega.nz a 1974 BBC-TV concert of Steeleye Span doing what they've done for decades: turning the oldest Celtic ballads into rock-n-roll even the kids can dance to. This 32 minutes even has Morris Dancers!
Steeleye Span
"Electric Folk"
Penshurst Place
Kent, UK

01 Summer Is A-Coming In
02 Sevenhundred Elves
03 Long A-Growing
04 Edwin
05 Little Sir Hugh
06 Peascod Time

Total time: 32:29

Maddy Prior - vocals
Tim Hart - vocals, guitars, dulcimer
Peter Knight - vocals, violin, mandolin
Bob Johnson - vocals, guitars
Rick Kemp - vocals, bass, guitar
Nigel Pegrum - drums & percussion
The Albion Morris Men - dancers

PAL DVD of a digitally captured BBC4 rebroadcast
I meant to commemorate her 70th last year but something diverted me, can't recall what. So I'm here for #71... may she enjoy 71 more birthdays before she departs.
I'll be back soon with more, but for now we must pay utmost homage to Maddy Prior, born this day in 1947 and showing no signs of becoming the subject of one of those Celtic ballads where everyone dies too young.--J.