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Parcel of Rogues is an album by the Electric folk 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 a lot 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 a 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. This might be related to the fact that it was recorded in "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."
If you are out and about one misty mosity morning when cloudy was the weather, you'll be needing this mug with you in case you meet an old man a-clothed all in leather!