Maddy Prior has established herself, by dint of both talent and time, as one of the leading female singers in British folk (and folk-rock). Born in St. Albans, outside London, she developed an interest in traditional English music as a teenager and through friends, found her way to the treasure trove of material at Cecil Sharpe House and also to Ewan MacColl, the de facto leader of the folk revival. In the late '60s, she met Tim Hart, an accomplished singer and instrumentalist, and together they recorded three albums which made little impact at the time, not even setting the folk clubs buzzing. However, they had played some folk festivals, including Keele, where they met Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings, who was about to form a new band. Prior and Hart became part of the ensemble known as Steeleye Span, who would become an ongoing institution of British folk-rock, with Prior as one of its constants -- she even married Rick Kemp, the bass player who replaced Hutchings.
In 1976, she teamed with another young folk singer, June Tabor, under the Silly Sisters moniker, to record the first of what would be two albums, also remaining with Steeleye until the group officially disbanded in 1978. After that, she embarked on her solo career, her debut, Woman in the Wings, being produced by Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson. She also began another career, as the mother of two children, but still joined a reunited Steeleye in 1980, continuing to juggle band and solo work and evening forming her own group, the Carnival Band, who've supported her on record and tour since 1987. When Prior experienced some voice problems in 1993, Gay Woods, who also been an original Steeleye vocalist, rejoined the band. Prior continued to record more frequently alone, including the albums Year, Flesh and Blood, and Ravenchild, many of which were concept records, before finally leaving Steeleye Span in 2000 to concentrate purely on solo work.
"Subtitled "A Cure for all Melancholy", this CD might just as easily be titled "Seventeenth Century Golden Party Greats"! Andy Watts leads the Carnival band on another musical adventure, mixing period and modern, even electric, instruments, but the Carnival Band still maintains an authentic spirit. Maddy Prior meets the challenge of singing in differing styles with her usual ability and grace.
The band bursts into The Prodigal's Resolution with the abandon of an Elizabethan whoopee band. It continues with a set of Playford Dances, starting with pipes alone, and building up to a folk-rock band. The Jovial Begger - yes, spelt "er" the insert insists - sounds like early jug band music!
There are pieces which are more simple. Maddy Prior has a showcase in Never Weatherbeaten Saile, with a plain lute backing, and period instruments accompany The World is Turned Upside Down throughout. Maddy shares in the two unaccompanied songs, "A Northern Catch" and "A Round of Three Country Dances in One".
There are also some more modern tempos - The Leathern Bottel has a hypnotic rhythm with electric bass and rich Hammond organ. Now O Now I Needs Must Part has the charm of a gentle Country and Western waltz, introducing strains of Somewhere Along the Road. Finally, Old Simon the King starts off sedately, but suddenly electric guitar and saxophone transform the beat into ska. This fusion of styles is truly a Cure for all Melancholy!"
01. Prodigal's Resolution (Anon 18th century)
02. 5 Playford Tunes (from Playford's "English Dancing Master")
03. The World is Turned Upside Down (Anon 17th cent)
04. Jovial Beggar (Anon 17th cent)
05. Leathern Bottle (Anon 17th cent)
06. Iantha (Anon English 18th cent)
07. An Thou were my ain Thing (Anon Scottish 18th cent)
08. Oh that I had but a Fine Man (Pelham Humphry)
09. Now O Now I needs must part (John Dowland)
10. Man is for the Woman made (Henry Purcell)
11. A Northern Catche/The Little Barleycorne (John Hilton/Trad)
12. Granny's Delight/My Lady Foster's Delight (Anon 18th cent)
13. A Round of Three Country Dances in One (Thomas Ravenscroft)
14. Youth's the Season Made for Joys (Words: John Gay/Tune: anon)
15. In The Days of my Youth (Words: John Gay/Tune: anon)
16. Never weatherbeaten sail (Thomas Campion)
17. Old Simon the King (Anon)
Maddy Prior: vocals
William Badley: baroque guitar, lute, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo mandolin, vocals
Andrew Davis: double bass
Giles Lewin: violin, recorders, hoboy, mandolin, vocals
Andrew Watts: Flemish bagpipes, shalmes, curtals, recorders, melodica, kazoo, vocals
Rafaello Mizraki: drums, percussion, cello, Hammond organ, vocals