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Fairport Convention - Fairport Convention CD (album) cover

FAIRPORT CONVENTION

Fairport Convention

 

Prog Related

3.27 | 39 ratings

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Alitare
3 stars Unnecessary British folk rock, straight out of the post-summer of love syndrome

Fairport Convention - Fairport Convention (1968)

Overall Rating: 9

Best Song: THE LOBSTER

It was 1968, the musical landscape was drastically changing, and being forced into miraculous revolutions, spurred by the violent power strokes of the summer of love (1967, NOT 1980, my dears). Sgt. Pepper, Disraeli Gears, and Are You Experienced? had unequivocally altered how popular music was to be created, and then-modern listeners took notice. That being said, let's move onto this, the 1968 debut album by Fairport Convention, eponymous in title, no less. Why was that original statement necessary? Why, it's essential in fully understanding where a band like this came from, and why? Why, you ask? Well, probably to make some money, maybe even make an artistic statement or three. Where, you ask? Right from the frothy loins of the summer of psychedelic love, baby.

Right form the gate, these suckers take their foot and plant it firmly in your door with the hardy-har-hard pop rock energy of "Time Will Tell The Wiser", and you'll notice a couple things right off. Firstly, it's a grand ol' tune, and secondly, Richard Thompson's guitars rule all over the place, ten ways from Sunday. It's just a product of the times, but what a fun product! No, when compared to a first rate Beatles or Stones tune from this epoch, it comes up rather dry and lacking in solid melodies, even if the guy is a competent singer. What sucks so much about this record is that, while being totally a product of the times, it's still top notch. Maybe it was just a top notch time? What usually hallmarked a record from this era was diversity, which usually ended up pleasing everyone a little, and no one too much, unless the band was just a master of all their crafts. Fairport Convention, while lacking in compositional diversity, had a knack for making a record with shifting moods, with Thompson's guitar work often at the forefront. The softly sweet second track is the mildly gorgeous "I don't Know Where I Stand", sung by the pretty-voiced Judy Dyble. It's really great how the vocal melody sort of rides in on the magic guitar carpet, with the notes running up and down in an absolutely untrivial melody. Sadly, for every ounce of originality and vigor, there's a moment of dry pedantry and generical rock gook. Which is exactly what "If (stomp)" is, ladies and gentleman. It's just your average harmless jangly 1960's rock song, without one ounce of innovation or glory. I'm seriously surprise dI could even remember how it goes.

That last paragraph might have seemed jarring. And sure enough, I had a purpose. What was my purpose? to showcase how this album works on the personal level. It intersperses generic little pop ditties in the murky flower power format with instances of of revelatory beauty. For every so-so "Portfolio", there's a stunning "Decameron", with tender female vocals coming in to carry the moderately engaging main melodies. It makes the whole thing a grating listen upon first exposure. It's like these guys WANT to invent a whole new world like their hailed brethren at arms, but just don't have the will to stick to something good and play on their talents. What can I say? Half of these songs do almost nothing for me, the other half really touch me. The whole thing wants to blow my mind, but it's already been blown last year. Sorry guys and gals, you're a little late to the party.

That isn't a fair assessment, though. There are some truly engaging moments on FAIRPORT CONVENTION, it's just a matter of picking them out of the derivative 1960's dreck. Just so you know, the best moments are the subdued ones that coast on your mood, like a pack of rude dudes, lewd and stewed, leaving me thoroughly wooed. Problem is, there just ain't enough of that stuff, and that is why this album in particular, is a grand discourse into unnecessary British folk rock. You'll love it for the female vocals and the powerful guitar licks, you'll hate it for how inconsistent and plumb boring half of it can be. "It's Alright Ma, it's Only A Witch" is just stupid and boring, though. It's just a stupid and boring muddy blues rocker. I don't have any need for that, even if the guitars are loud.

"Sun Shade" is so laid back it screams 'vehicle for drug intake'. That, and the vocal melodies are top of the pole. Or maybe that's middle of the pole. It depends on your pole, really, and in this case, size unquestionably matters. Gee, I can't shake the feeling that this material is too harmless, too genial, and too kind. It doesn't take any prisoners, but that's because it's not even fighting! I guess that's why my favorite song off the entire jumble is the only one where they really fight like -something- might depend on it, and that is in the form of the fluid, almost jazzy jam "The Lobster". It's as viscous and bubbly as the title might suggest, and it's as ornery and rollicking, too. It gets fast and loud, then it gets soft and slow, then it threatens to fade away, completely, until the guitars decide to haphazardly follow a completely different blast of electrified noise, near the end. It's the only real biting moment on the entire record, and that's a shame. I could have used more idiosyncratic songs on here. That could have made this a good album. As it stands, this is some fine, unnecessary folk rock that was the deliberate progeny of the previous year's mentality. Also, what the hell is up with the whacked out bluegrass romp at the end? Maybe THAT's the best moment off the whole album. Nah, it's just goofy.

***

Alitare | 3/5 |

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