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Fairport Convention - Liege & Lief CD (album) cover


Fairport Convention


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3.78 | 131 ratings

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4 stars I had seen Fairport Convention as an opening act for Jethro Tull, back in the early 80s and I certainly retain vivid impressions of what I saw and heard that night. Particularly, Ric Sanders terrific fiddle, which lashed out often and blazed a few memorable sonic trails. I always enjoyed British folk, as opposed to American country music, though it must be said that Fairport Convention is a different kettle of fish as it concentrates on traditional structures. On Liege and Lief, Sandy Denny, who has often been deified for dying young, a popular habit back in the 70s with a slew of superstars expiring (Hendrix, Jones, Joplin, Morrison, Wilson, Bonham & co) was of course a fundamental pioneer in the career of the Strawbs, a band I have a long standing love affair with. It must also be mentioned that the instrumentalists are equally first rate, no one more so than the enigmatic and genial Richard Thompson, but also the terrific Dave Mattacks on drums. The violin is held here by Dave Swarbrick .

This album is considered to be their finest hour, a glowing menu of brilliant melodies that perfectly capture the various styles associated with the nascent electric prog-folk scene, from old school traditional songs such as the instantly recognizable highlight tracks "Matty Groves", "Reynardine", "Sir Patrick Spens" and "Tam Lin" as well as more rollicking pub sing-along fare ("Come All Ye"). There is also an inspiring medley of jig related pieces that highlight the still revered British folk scene today, the fiddle leading the way in a style that spawned such current stalwarts as Iona or Loreena McKinnitt. There is even an epic 10 minute finale, the deliciously titled "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" that stamps strong prog imagery onto the disc's powerful folk leanings. The rock element is conveyed by Thompson's energetic performance, a fluid and innovative guitarist with boundless expression and exuberance. His playing alone is worth owning this in a prog collection.

The focus is also clearly on Denny and her angelic delivery, and she really does not falter or disappoint. Particularly on the extended folk platforms "Matty Groves" and "Tam Lin", she glides dramatically over the dignified melodies with assurance and class. "Crazy Man Michael" is another mesmerizing ditty, full of rolling bass from Ashley Hutchings, some cool Swarbrick violin and Denny howling to the moon. The epic final track has a unique buzz, somewhat experimental in nature, very Iona-like actually, like some mist choked bog in the Highlands churning out some sheep farmer's lament. The hypnotic mood is atmospheric and ethereal, simplicity ruling the melody as it's egged on by the swirly fiddle. Pretty sure Enya and Clannad got their initiation on this incredible track. The only slight negative is the awful artwork, a typically drab pre-Woodstock cover, looking more like an old postage stamp.

4 tankards of ale

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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