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                                cover shotWhat We Did in the Seventies
The King of Elfland's Daughter
a folk/blues/rock adaptation of the Lord Dunsany novel by Bob Johnson & Pete Knight
featuring: Mary Hopkin, Christopher Lee, Alexis Korner.
Yes, children, we had superstars in the Seventies.

And then we had quirky projects like this one.

Based on the novel of the same name by Lord Dunsany (q.v.), which also was a major inspiration for the fantasy of Michael Moorcock (note the lines here about Alveric's sword: "Rune singer, doom bringer... Death dealer, soul stealer..."), this was a side project for Johnson & Knight then (and again recently) in Steeleye Span, and a whole lot of other oddly assorted Brit folkie, blues and theatrical types; part of the Seventies fad for elaborate concept albums.

It's a good one, nonetheless.

Narrated by Christopher Lee, the only living actor i know of who can speak in SMALL CAPS (who also portrays the King of Elfland and sort-of sings one song), this is the story of the ill-advised decision by the people of the land of Erl to demand that their Lord's son, Alveric (Frankie Miller), go to Elfland and find and steal and marry the King of Elfland's daughter, Lirazel (Mary Hopkin), in order to bear a magic son to rule Erl. (Why is not specified here, but it sounds like a bad idea to me.)

Pausing only to get himself a sword forged from a thunderbolt by a blues-shouting witch (P. P. Arnold),  Alveric sets out and does just that, and he and Lirazel are happily settled in the mortal world when the King (Christopher Lee) sends a troll (Brit blues legend Alexis Korner) with a rune, and Lirazel is forced to return to Elfland, which means, of course, that Alveric has to go on another quest to find her (aptly summed up in the song "(Just) Another Day of Searching"), while various denizens of Elfland, having sneaked across the border, raise hob in Erl ("Too Much Magic", which features a school choir on backing vocals).

Finally, however, the King relents, and, in a compromise of sorts, annexes Erl into Elfland, which leads to the final song, "Beyond the Fields We Know", beautifully sung by Hopkin.

This outline sounds sillier than Dunsany's original story, or even the album, but the album does suffer a bit from the fact that they have compressed a pretty good-sized novel into one album -- but is pretty good for all that.

Several of the songs (particularly "Witch!", with its bluesy anthem verse and chorus/forging spell ending in the ringing declaration "Thunderbolt iron will win the day!", "The Coming of the Troll", in Korner's whiskey-voiced bark  -- "I'm so free nothing can catch me!" -- and the final song, summing up the lure and grandeur and wonder of all good fantasy. promising that "Someday we shall go where there is neither Right nor Wrong...") are likely to stay with you a while, and the portrayal of Dunsany's twilit, sepia-toned fantasy world is accurate enough that one can almost see the strange woods and twisted castles of Elfland.

I don't know if i'd recommend this for everyone -- but fans of Dunsany or of Michael Moorcock or of that sort of fantasy in general certainly ought consider it, as should fans of Steeleye Span, Mary Hopkin or Christopher Lee.