Original Masters is an excellent compilation of the first nine albums from one of the most respected and revered British folk-rock bands ever. Despite numerous personnel changes, Steeleye Span retained a readily identifiable sound built around folk-based instrumentation and the distinctive vocals of Maddy Prior. Beginning with amplified traditional songs, the group later adopted a more rock-oriented approach that attempted, often successfully, to stretch the boundaries of British folk music while still respecting and holding onto its roots. One of the best songs from the early years is "Lovely on the Water," which beautifully showcases the spirit and dignity of Prior's voice. Among the band's first successful experiments was "Gaudete," an a cappella Latin chant that somehow made the British charts. "Alison Gross" used loud power chords to give the impression of an all-out rock approach, and "Fighting for Strangers" used percussion to give an almost abstract atmosphere to the recording, something not expected from a band that started out as very traditional. Whether singing songs about romance, elves, violent upheavals, or witches, Steeleye Span successfully expanded the boundaries of British folk. Though longtime fans may prefer the individual albums, this is a fine introduction to the most creative period in the group's history.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Ofjord
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2