Our Top 10 Steeleye Span Songs list takes a look at a band that has made a very successful career out of recording modern versions of traditional English Folk Songs. The band was first formed in 1969 when Fairport Convention founding member Ashley Hutchings left Fairport Convention to form a new group. Hutchings formed his new band with Maddy Prior on lead vocals along with Time Hart and the married couple Terry and Gay Woods. The band released their first album in 1970 entitled Hark! The Village Wait. The group would go through many personal changes over the years. From 1970 up until 2019, the band has released twenty three studio albums. There has always been a large number of live releases along with traditional compilations.
Our top 10 Steelyeye Span songs list takes a look at some of the highlights of the band’s career in which they recorded spectacular versions of old traditional Celtic folk songs and attracted a massive cult following in England and other parts around the world.
Top 10 Steeleye Span Songs
# 10 – Rave On
We open up our top 10 Steeleye Span Songs list with this great cover of the Buddy Holly classic “Rave On.” The song was written by Sonny West, Bill Tilghman and Norman Petty. Buddy Holly recorded the song in 1958 and had a huge hit with the song. Steelyeye Span recorded their brilliant A cappella version of the song for their second album entitled Please To See The King. The album was released in 1971.
# 9 – London
The great Steeleye Span recording of the song “London,” was released in 1976. The song was issued on the album Rocket Cottage. The song London was the album’s opening track. “London,” was written by all the members of the band on the recording including Maddy Prior, Tim Hart, Bob Johnson, Rick Kemp, Peter Knight and Nigel Pegrum.
# 8 – The Blacksmith
Continuing our top 10 Steeleye Span Songs list we turn to the great songs “The Blacksmith.” The song was released on the band’s debut album entitled Hark! The Village Wait. The album was released in 1970. The version here was released on their second album Please to See the King. Since Steeleye Span mostly recorded songs that were traditional folk ballads, they also released many songs multiple times in different variations on different albums. We love this version of “The Blacksmith.” Like always, Maddy’s vocal is both haunting and beautiful at the same time. She has the incredible ability to carry the listener to another place and time.
# 7 – Lowlands of Holland
Steelyeye Span’s version of the Scottish folk song “The Lowlands of Holland,” was released on their first album Hark! The Village Wait. This was one of our favorite songs on the band’s first album. The instrumentation on this one is splendid. It has a driving force that powerfully surrounds Maddy’s heartfelt and heartbroken vocals which tells the tale of her love who was forcefully recruited by his country to fight in the war and who died in the conflict. Since this is a traditional folk song, the specific war is unknown. but seems to have been sung about multiple wars dating all the way back to the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the mid seventeenth century.
# 6 – Hard Times Of Old England
While Steeleye Span was certainly popular and still are in many countries around the world, they were by far the most popular in the United Kingdom. Songs like this one define their popularity in the UK. Songs like this traditional Newfoundland folk song were just not popular in the United States. These are old songs that go back centuries. The United States is still a young county. It’s less than 250 years old. On a recent trip to Cologne, Germany, I sat in a restaurant and asked the owner when they first opened and he responded “about seven hundred years ago.” Put that into perspective and you will understand the impact songs like “Hard Times Of Old England,” had in Europe and why these Steeleye Span songs were so loved.
(You can actually check out the story of that 700 year old restaurant that I wrote for one of our sister sites, BigCityReview.com. It’s a pretty cool article with tons of pics. Just click on this link Cologne)
# 5 – Gaudete
The song’s acapella vocals lines may take some classic rock fans by surprise who are not familiar with the band. However, I promise you with each repeated listen, the song becomes more addicting as you are submersed into a Celtic folk music paradise that transcends the rock and roll world into a different plane of existence. The voice of Maddy Prior will cast her spell upon you until you can no longer escape.
# 4 – Cam Ye O’er Frae France
As we continue our exploration of these great Steeleye Span songs we take a look at one of their most successful commercial albums. The great song “Cam Ye O’er Frae France” was released on the 1973 album Parcel of Rogues. The song “Cam Ye O’er Frae France” is an old Scottish folk song that goes back to the time period of Jacobitism in the 18th century.
# 3 – Thomas the Rhymer
The Steeleye Span song “Thomas The Rhymer,” was released on the album Now We Are Six. The album was released in 1974. It was produced by Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. One can very easily hear Ian Anderson’s influences on the album, especially on this great track. Listen to the song’s groove that is laid out in the bass and guitar lines. That’s vintage Jethro Tull. It’s very interesting to hear how big of an impact a producer can have on a record, especially a legendary rock star turned producer. The album also featured a guest appearance by David Bowie playing a little saxophone on the track “To Know Him Is To Love Him”
# 2 – Saucy Sailor
As we close in on our number one spot on our top 10 Steeleye Span songs list we present a great track from the band’s fourth album entitled Below the Salt. The record was released in 1972. The album’s closing track “Saucy Sailor,” has always been one of our favorite Steeleye Span songs. The album featured Maddy Prior on vocals, Peter Knight on vocals, strings, piano mandolin and banjo, piano, vocals, Tim Hart on vocals and various guitars, Rick Kemp on bass and drums and Bob Johnson on vocals and guitar.
# 1 – All Around My Hat
I could listen to this one all day. If you surveyed most Steeleye Span fans over what their favorite Steeleye Span song was, we would argue that nine out of ten would name “All Around My Hat.” The song was originally released on the album All Around My Hat. The record was released in 1975. Both the album and the title track became the band’s most successful commercial efforts as far as chart success. The album All Around My Hat broke the top 10 in the UK Album Charts in 1972 peaking at number seven. The single featured here was also a top 10 hit peaking at number five on the UK Pop Charts.
Updated April 20, 2023
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