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Fairport Convention - Rising For The Moon CD (album) cover


Fairport Convention


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3.27 | 43 ratings

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3 stars A Mixed Bag

I must have bought Rising For The Moon soon after it was released in 1975 on LP, so for 30 years I have a) loved it and b) believed it to be an underrated classic until finally obtaining it on CD last year. I have to declare from the outset that, aside from this album, I find much of Fairport Convention's music somewhat uninspiring, this despite owning several of their albums at one time or another. I appreciate the part they played in creating English folk-rock in the late 60s, but they soon lapsed into a cosy middle-aged-spread blandness which continues to this day. For me, Rising For The Moon was a little oasis in these sands of mediocrity. And of course, the jewel in the crown is the glorious voice of Sandy Denny.

Viewed from the perspective of the noughties I can see that my memory was only partially correct. Some of this is fantastic - worthy inhabitants of any adult-compiled CDR. Sadly, it is equally true that the good is accompanied by the not-so-good, the originality-challenged seriously-deficient-in-ideas department of slow meaningless generic 'love' ballads. Let's get these out of the way first. White Dress is a pleasant slow love song. What Is True is a pleasant slow love song. After Halloween is a ..... non-descript parlour-band Denny ballad with a short Swarbric viola solo. So much for the dregs. A fourth Denny song is borderline OK - Stranger To Himself is saved by a hypnotic drum pattern and a far more original arrangement based on a one-note synth bass.

Next we find a group of 4 country-folk-rock songs, two from Swarbrick and 2 from Trevor Lucas [one of 3 ex-Fotheringay members, and Denny's husband]. Let It Go is a stripped-down laid-back chugger with a strong Swarbrick vocal [though his singing voice is an acquired taste!], on which he exhorts us to "let it breathe, let it live, let it go". Night-Time Girl is an up-tempo gently rocking song, very driven by Swarbrick's fiddle and some lush harmonies supporting his vocal. Lucas's pair are both about 'the railroad', lolloping country-rockers defined by his deep resonant voice and some astonishingly wonderful harmonising from Denny. I adore Restless, a song brilliantly evoking a mid-western hobo "born between a river and a railroad" hopping on and off trains because "there's something in the wind seems to call me like a friend / so I guess that I'll be on my way, on my way again". In Iron Lion he is an engine driver, a similar song with a rock-and-rolling accompaniment but a little less memorable.

Finally to the crème de la crème, the main reason why anyone would want to buy this album - 3 big Sandy Denny numbers with full-band arrangements. First up is the title track - Rising For The Moon - an up-tempo song with brilliant jogging rhythm, fantastic melody and an even better chorus, terrific fluid guitar and fiddle solos and some lovely meaty male harmonies. This is very much an 'up' song, a make-you-feel-better type of thing and one of my all-time favourites. It seems to be about her role as a musician in a band. Dawn is a melancholic ode to lost love where tears fall, hearts bleed and clouds storm on a barren land. It too gets the big band treatment, especially the chorus of massed-Dennys wanting to "sleep .... oh to sleep in peace once again". One More Chance has Denny "calling all olive branches and laid off doves" to piano accompaniment on a lilting song with gentle band support. But then she asks "is it too late?" and invokes a darker mood altogether in a 'middle-8' section. So far so alright-ish, and the song fades ..... but very quietly, a rhythm guitar can be heard. Gradually the band return for a rousing rock coda mostly featuring electric guitar, before building to a climax with the "is it too late?" refrain.

Rising For The Moon is unloved by many Fairport Convention fans - probably because it has 3 distinct styles and very little folk. Neither do the band themselves hold it in high regard - much of it has the air of a Sandy Denny solo album, and the band weren't gelling as a unit [Denny and Lucas left in December 1975]. I saw them in concert that year and I have to say it was not amongst the most memorable.

A couple of good country-folk-rock tracks [geddit?], a couple of good soft rock songs and one absolute stomper, but a very low Prog quotient. The verdict - a) I still love it, but FFW over at least three songs b) no way a classic but OK. Three stars I think.

Joolz | 3/5 |


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