Steeleye Span

Tempted and Tried

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Steeleye Span's 13th studio album is a welcome departure from its limp predecessor, 1986's forgettable Back in Line. Gone is the murky production and abject delivery that marred the group's early-'80s output, replaced here on Tempted and Tried by a bright, confident set of original and traditional material. Opening with the jaunty yet gory execution tale "Jack Hall," the band proves itself to be peerless pop alchemists, ably turning a bloody dirge into an upbeat rocker. Maddy Prior delivers her best vocal in years on the galloping May Day piece "Padstow" -- which features a breathtaking six-part harmony breakdown -- and the band, especially violinist Peter Night, contributes a perfect blend of folk and rock to the instrumental throwdown "Reels: The First House in Connaught." Night delivers the album's best track, the harmony-drenched "Seagull," a sun-kissed ode to a marble game that features a gloriously skewed fiddle break. There are a few cuts that fall flat, most notably the torrid "Following Me," but the soul of the record is pure, making Tempted and Tried quite possibly the last great Steeleye Span record.

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