Parcel of Rogues is an album by British folk rock band Steeleye Span. It was their most successful album thus far, breaking into the Top 30.
The album grew out of a theatrical project the band undertook, a version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, staged in Edinburgh. The book and play were set against the backdrop of the Scottish Jacobite movement, and in the course of developing the play, the band came across a considerable amount of 18th century Scottish poetry that they mined for the album.
If the album has a theme, it is change and the tension between old and new. “The Weaver and the Factory Maid” is about the tension of early industrialization, with a young man celebrating the factory because there are plenty of women for him to pursue, while an old man denounces the factory because of its economic effects. The song illustrates this tension nicely by contrasting a more traditional fiddle with a more rock-style guitar. There is a very sharp contrast between the sweet acoustically-driven “The Ups and Downs” followed immediately by the funky distorted loud guitar in “Robbery with Violins”. “Cam Ye O’er Frae France” explores this tension in a different way, both in its lyric denouncement of political changes and the contrast between the poem’s traditional Scots language and its sharp electronic guitars. And “Alison Gross” is about a literal change, as an evil witch transforms a man who rejects her into a worm.
“Robbery with Violins” is better known as “The Bank of Ireland” (in O’Neill’s book). A version of this tune was played in the film Titanic. “The Ups and Downs” is also known as “The Maid of Tottenham”. The satirical “Cam Ye O’er Frae France” has suffered the same fate as Shakespeare’s work: the biting references to King George and his mistresses (“riding on a Goosie”) that everyone understood at the time can now sound nonsensical to anyone who doesn’t know the history. Maddy sings the rolled “r”s for all they are worth.
Two of the songs on this album originate in Hogg’s Jacobite Reliques, while “Rogues in a Nation” is an adaptation of Robert Burns’ poem denouncing the Act of Union in 1707 that united England and Scotland. The title of the album derives from a line in the song “Rogues in a Nation”, here sung a cappella.
The sleeve shows a milkmaid on decorated tiles, possibly alluding to the recording venue: “Sound Techniques” studio, a former dairy, which still has a statue of a cow on the wall.
The album uses more overdubbing than any previous album by Steeleye Span. On “Hares on the Mountain” there are two channels for Peter Knight’s mandolins, two for recorders and one for him playing harmonium. On “The Weaver and the Factory Maid” Maddy Prior is heard on three channels, counterpointing herself at the top of her voice.
The album saw the band re-introduce the use of drums, driven in part by Rick Kemp’s background in rock. After the album was released, the band undertook a US tour, opening for Jethro Tull. Because of this, the band decided to add a full-time drummer in the person of Nigel Pegrum. The drums took the band further in the direction of rock, as demonstrated by “The Wee Wee Man” and “Cam Ye O’er Frae France.” (by wikipedia)
Parcel of Rogues is the group’s first real rock album, featuring a sound clearly rooted in modern sensibilities, with the guitars turned up very loud for the first time. The singing is still modeled on traditional patterns, and is quite beautiful (especially “One Misty Moisty Morning” and “Allison Gross”), but the resonances and undertones of electric guitars are everywhere — the result is a record that, in some ways, recalls Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief (the record that led indirectly to the spawning of Steeleye Span in the first place), with some very flashy playing by Bob Johnson on some of the breaks. The rousing “The Ups and Downs” is played on acoustic instruments, and the atmospheric “The Weaver and the Factory Maid” could have come off of any of the earlier albums, while “The Bold Poachers” is more traditional sounding, starting out on acoustic instruments before the amplified guitars chime in. It sets the tone for the album, as wah-wah pedals punch up instrumentals such as “Robbery with Violins” and “The Wee Wee Man” (which includes drums). A lot of the time it works — the ominous and dazzling “Cam Ye O’er Frae France” would not have succeeded half as well without amplification, and every fan of the group should hear this track at least once. (by Bruce Eder)
“Parcel of Rogues” is an excellent revisiting of some traditional ballads and folk songs in key of rock. You can find some awesome covers, like “One Misty Moisty Morning”, “Alison Gross”, “The Bold Poachers” and especially “Rogues in A Nation” and “Cam Ye O’er Frae France”, the two Steeleye Span’s shining diamonds that are the main reason to buy the album. The only flaw is that sometimes the arrangements are too baroques so some songs, like “Robbery With Violins” and “The Wee Wee Man” are too heavy to listen. (by Tommaso Guarducci)
Without any doubts, this is one of the best album from the British Folkscene !!!
Tim Hart (vocals, guitar, appalachian dulcimer)
Bob Johnson (vocals, guitar)
Rick Kemp (bass, drums)
Peter Knight (violin, viola, mandolin, piano, recorder, harmonium)
Maddy Prior (vocals)
01. One Misty Moisty Morning (Traditional) 3.32
02. Alison Gross (Traditional) 5.29
03. The Bold Poachers (Traditional) 4.18
04. The Ups And Downs (Traditional) 2.46
05. Robbery With Violins (Traditional) 1.50
06. The Wee Wee Man (Traditional) 4.01
07. The Weaver And The Factory Maid (Traditional) 5.24
08. Rogues In A Nation (Burns) 4.35
09. Cam Ye O’er Frae France (Traditional) 2.50
10. Hares On The Mountain (Traditional) 4.31
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