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Fairport Convention - Angel Delight CD (album) cover

ANGEL DELIGHT

Fairport Convention

 

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2.92 | 39 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "There's a hole in the wall where a lorry came in."

In the early 1970's, the members Fairport Convention decided that it was no longer practical for them to live in various parts of the UK and continue to work together. They therefore bought a disused pub ("The Angel") in the countryside about 30 miles north of London, and moved in together. The story goes that they originally decided against occupying the run down pub, but since Dave Swarbrick had already packed up and was heading for his new communal home, they had a rapid change of heart. By the way, the photograph on the front cover is not of The Angel but was taken nearby.

Along with the band members came their families and sundry crew. This resulted in two albums, "Full house" and "Angel Delight". Prior to the recording of "Angel Delight" Richard Thompson left the band to pursue his solo career, but the fact that he continued to live in the Angel is testimony to the convivial atmosphere enjoyed by all.

For this their fifth album, Fairport had slimmed down to a four piece, all male line up. Dave Swarbrick steered the band back towards a straight folk direction, with shorter traditional songs very much in evidence. The usual Fairport influences were applied to these songs though, in particular their fine vocal harmonies. Indeed, with four highly competent vocalists in their line up, those harmonies are probably the most under appreciated aspect of Fairport's music.

The album opens with Fairport's arrangements of a couple of traditional biographical portraits, one (reasonably) factual, the other fictitious. "Sir William Gower" may not actually have existed, but the murder and incest of which the story relates is disturbing nonetheless. Of similar dubious taste is the deceptively lightweight "Sickness & Diseases", which focuses on STDs. "The bonny black hare" on the other hand precedes the inevitable STD's with a less than subtle romp in the woods.

The title track offers a picture of life in The Angel, with virtually everyone who lived there getting a mention including bassist Dave Pegg, whose face will apparently light up when presented with a "Couple of kippers and a glass of cider".

While Dave Swarbrick tends to regularly assume lead vocal duties, these are shared among the other band members too, with Simon Nicol in particular contributing some strong work.

There are two instrumental pieces on the album. The title of the traditional melody "Bridge over the River Ash", (which flowed through the back garden of the pub) may change depending where the band perform ("Bridge over the River Nile" perhaps), but the tune remains the same. With three of the four band members performing on string section instruments, this is "classical folk" in its purest form. There is a complete absence of drums on this track. The other instrumental is one of Fairport's traditional medleys which features a Swarb recital using mandolin, fiddle and whistle.

The bonus track on the remastered CD is a version of "The journeyman's grace" featuring a guest appearance by co-writer Richard Thompson. The remaster also includes an excellent and highly informative booklet.

The album was the most successful release by the band up to that point, its ascent of the album charts prompting a bizarre appearance in the newly introduced "album slot" on Top of the Pops. For me, this is a masterpiece album, but given that it contains little in the way of prog folk, a solid four stars.

After the release of "Angel Delight" the band moved out of the Angel, prompted in no small part by the fact that a lorry lost control on the adjacent steep hill and crashed straight into Dave Swarbrick's bedroom, (as mentioned in the lyrics of the title track) killing the driver.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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