Flawed though Shanachie's Steeleye Span catalog is, it's hard to pick fault with Portfolio. A gathering of 16 tracks spanning the band's entire career so far, it features liner notes from former member Tim Hart and culls at least one song apiece from each of the band's studio albums -- the exceptions to this are two each from All Around My Hat and Rocket Cottage and three from what was then the most recent release, 1987's Back in Line.
As such, it offers a very disjointed but generally satisfying overview of the folk-rock giants' core repertoire, with faults generally confined to the realm of pedantry -- the use of the album version of the hit single "Gaudete," when the 45 cried out for its CD debut; the contrary employment of the single edit of "Thomas the Rhymer," when it was the lengthier album take that demanded restoration (the same substitution was made for Shanachie's reissue of the Now We Are Six album); and the cropping of a few seconds of speech from the conclusion of "New York Girls." Little things indeed, and all are readily balanced by the inclusion of the folk-metal "Alison Gross," the haunting "Black Jack Davy," and the avant melancholy of "Fighting for Strangers." In the absence of a comprehensive, multi-disc Steeleye Span anthology, fully illustrating the breathtaking variety of the band's repertoire, Portfolio paints a very adequate portrait indeed.