Steeleye Span

Gone to Australia: On Tour 1975-1984

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Anglo-American ears might not credit it, but Steeleye Span was at least as popular in Australia as they were elsewhere around the world, and tours of that continent during the 1970s and 1980s always brought out some of their best ever live performances. Certainly, compared to the lackluster "official" live album that the band recorded in the U.K., the tapes culled for Gone to Australia: On Tour 1975-1984, largely drawn from FM radio broadcasts (but also absorbing the nine-track Australian On Tour live promo LP), recapture a power and effervescence that most people thought had been lost forever. Even more surprisingly, the vast bulk of the album dates from the early '80s, by which time posterity insists Steeleye Span had shed much of the magic that was originally theirs to command. A magnificent 12-song set from Adelaide in 1982 and five tracks more from Perth in 1984 prove that posterity is an ass. Versions of "Alison Gross" ("about the Margaret Thatcher of the folk world," according to the introduction), "Cam Ye O'er Frae France," and "Thomas The Rhymer" are all the equals of their sainted studio counterparts, while "All Around My Hat," so long the ugly sister of Steeleye's dalliance with mainstream success, is almost unrecognizably stately. Indeed, by the time you reach the sole representative of the band's 1975 tour, the "Sum Waves"/"Devil's Dream" instrumental medley, what you thought would be the highlight is simply a coda.

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