For the first time in over two decades, Steeleye Span sounds like a bona fide band again. While their string of sporadic comeback albums from the past 20 years were generally decent (although not spectacular), they seemed to lack the intangibles that distinguish a true and cohesive group effort from a reformed assemblage that only half-heartedly recaptures their past glory. While only fiddler Peter Knight and guitarist Bob Johnson remain from that period, Bedlam Born is the closest Steeleye Span has come to recreating their '70s heyday. Bassist Tim Harries, who has been with them since 1989's Tempted and Tried, provides the most out-and-out rock & roll moment on this album with his electric guitar debut on "John Ditchford." At least three other tracks ("Well Done Liar," "The Beggar," and "We Poor Labouring Men") also display a noticeable rock angle that hearkens back to albums like Rocket Cottage and Parcel of Rogues. But this album is equally divided between the raucous and the reflective, the traditional and the contemporary; "Who Told the Butcher" and "Poor Old Soldier" with their electric piano accompaniment and Peter Knight lead vocals sounds like Sails of Silver-period Steeleye. Lead singer Gay Woods adds a maturity and firmness of voice not necessarily found in Maddy Prior, the legendary vocalist whom she eventually replaced. They are different types of singers but both are equally suited for Steeleye Span. Woods provides captivating vocals on "Beyond the Dreaming Place," "The Connemara Cradle Song," and the chilling "The White Cliffs of Dover." After appearing on just three tracks on Horkstow Grange, longtime Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks returns to make a full-time contribution on Bedlam Born, thus significantly solidifying the foundation of this band.
AllMusic Review by Dave Sleger