Please To See The King is the second album by Steeleye Span, released in 1971. A substantial personnel change following their previous effort, Hark! The Village Wait, brought about a substantial change in their overall sound, including a lack of drums and the replacement of one female vocalist with a male vocalist. The band even reprised a song from their debut, "The Blacksmith", with a strikingly different arrangement making extensive use of syncopation. Re-recording songs would be a minor theme in Steeleye's output over the years, with the band eventually releasing an entire album of reprises, Present--The Very Best of Steeleye Span.
The title of the album is derived from the "Cutty Wren" ceremony. A winter wren in a cage is paraded as if it were a king. This rite was carried out on December 26, Saint Stephen's Day, and is connected to early Christmas celebrations. The song "The King", appearing on the album, addresses this, and is often performed as a Christmas carol. Steeleye returned to this subject on Live at Last with "Hunting the Wren" and on Time with the song "The Cutty Wren". The custom of Wrenboys is mostly associated with Ireland, but it has been recently revived in England.
All songs appearing on the original album are traditional. "The False Knight on the Road" is one of the Child Ballads (#3), and concerns a boy's battle of with the devil in a game of riddles. Hart and Prior had already recorded a version of the song on their album 'Summer Solstice'. "The Lark in the Morning", one of their more popular songs, has the same title as a different song about a lusty ploughboy, though there are strong similarities. This version was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams. "Boys of Bedlam", a variant of Tom o' Bedlam", is told from the perspective of a member of a lunatic asylum. Carthy and Prior open the song by singing into the back of banjos, producing a muffled effect. The band uses the earliest printed version of the song, from Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy by Thomas d'Urfey.
Melody Maker made this their folk album of the year. Music journalist Colin Irwin in his book "In Search of Albion" describes it as one of his favourite folk-rock albums. It reached number 45 in the UK album charts, originally on B & C Records but before the year was out the rights were acquired by Mooncrest Records who re-released it the same year, with different cover art. It was issued in the US at the same time on Big Tree, when the small label was distributed by Ampex. It sold poorly and was deleted quite soon after release. Remaining copies were bought up by a couple of the 'cut-out' distributors and by that time, the band had signed with Chrysalis and the cut out original sold very well. When stock ran out, poor quality bootleg copies started to turn up in huge quantities.
Musically, this was their most electric, dense recording, with loud guitars and strong looping bass lines and no drums.
02. Cold, Haily, Windy Night
03. Bryan O'LynnThe Hag with the Money [Jigs]
04. Prince Charlie Stuart
05. Boys of Bedlam
06. False Knight on the Road
07. Lark in the Morning
08. Female Drummer
10. Lovely on the Water
11. Rave On
Maddy Prior / vocals, spoons, tabor, tambourine
Tim Hart / vocals, guitar, dulcimer
Peter Knight / violin, mandolin, vocals, organ, bass
Ashley Hutchings / bass, vocals)
Martin Carthy / vocals, guitar, banjo, organ