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2 stars This albums sounds like Jefferson Airplane!!!! Fairport newcomers will not find the band's classic sound here. This is a blend of San Francisco psychedelia, late Sixties Brittish rock with a very few touches of folk. Judy Dyble is a good singer, but Sandy Denny, who replaced her shortly after this album, is far better. "Time Will Show the Wiser", "It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft" (a joke on Dylan? Who knows?) and "Chelsea Morning" are the highlights, and Richard Thompson's fans will probably love his crazy soloing at "Reno Nevada" (which is far better than "Heyday"'s version), but this album do not shows how wonderful Fairport Convention was.
Report this review (#60556)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the kind of flat rhythmic folkier music that one would not necessarily enjoy 100% after an inattentive listen. However, a better listen reveals very good vocals and surprisingly refined guitar arrangements for 1968. The electric guitar is sometimes almost country. Due to the presence of varied string instruments, the acoustic sound is rich, but the compositions remain not very complex. The tracks are often catchy and they are rather short & not progressive. The strong point is really the female lead vocals, reminding a bit Annie Haslam: they also both have the same English accent. I can surprisingly associate some discrete electric guitars with Rush's Caress of Steel, especially on "I Don' t Know Where I Stand". The Beatles is the overall main influence.
Report this review (#123031)
Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The inaugural convention

A word of warning up-front here. Do not come to this album expecting to hear the folk roots of Fairport Convention, or to discover some long lost predecessor to "Liege and lief". For a start, while Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol are present in the line up, there's no Sandy Denny, Dave Swarbrick, or Dave Mattacks.

It is not though just the line up which differentiates this album from what was to follow. The music itself is not rooted in the folk of the British Isles, but crosses the Atlantic to indulge in the pioneering work of artists such us Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. As a result, this album does have a folk flavour, but it is that of North American folk.

Original singer Judy Dyble has a pleasant voice with passing similarities to that of the great Denny. At the same time, it sounds very much at home in songs such as Mitchell's "I don't know where I stand" and "Chelsea morning".

Some of the band members do turn their hand to song-writing, with Richard Thompson and Ian MacDonald (who soon became Iain Matthews, and should not be confused with other similarly named people) but the results are naïve and prosaic. And therein lies the problem with this album as a whole. It simply fails to distinguish itself, and thus the band, from the many other artists of the period (especially in the US) who were creating a similar style of music. The songs are adequate and competently performed, but the band do not impose their own character upon them. While their confidence would develop rapidly, at this stage of their career Fairport were first and foremost a straight covers band.

Occasionally, we will get glimpses of the magic which would follow, such as the echoed flute section on "Jack O'Diamonds", and the brief instrumental "Portfolio" which follows, but such occasions are all too rare.

In view of the tragic events which would follow resulting in the death of founder member Martin Lamble, the title of the final track "M1 breakdown" is hauntingly prophetic. The track itself is actually as close as we get to a jig, being a Cajun style romp.

The remastered CD version of the album includes four bonus tracks. These include a tasteful cover of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" where MacDonald (Matthews) presents a fine solo vocal performance. Also included is the band's first single from 1967, "If I had a ribbon bow". This beautiful melody dating from the 1930's suits Dyble's voice perfectly, this rendition being a hidden gem from the late 60's. The final track, "Reno Nevada" may be poorly recorded, but it is an exciting piece of early indulgence by the band, with a great guitar jam.

In all, an album which is primarily of historical interest, and even then in the context of the band rather than the genre they later defined.

Incidentally, the band's name comes from the name Simon Nicol's parent's house, where the band would rehearse.

Report this review (#163640)
Posted Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars This debut album is not folky and much more conventional rock/pop than latter albums by this band. It is not as interesting to listen to as Lige & Lief or any of the latter albums and it is certainly not prog. Not the best place to start if you want to know what Fairport Convention is about.

This is merely an average pop/rock album with too many cover versions of other peoples songs. Should appeal to fans of 60's pop.

Only for fans this one and only for historical reasons.

Report this review (#177535)
Posted Monday, July 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Some people are a bit hard with FC's debut album, partly because it doesn't feature the classic line-up, but instead of the over-rated Sandy Denny, we have the delicate Judy Dyble (later GG&F and Trader Horne) and Iain McDonald/Matthews on vocals and it's just as good. Where the comparison may hurt a bit with future albums is that a good part of the album is looking at West Coast folk (that US WC, not Wales you wise arses ;o)) and only touches UK folk, but this will always be the case, just in reverse proportionality and the presence of many covers (Mitchell, Cohen, Dylan).

So this very psyched-out folk album with an intriguing lamp artwork is a still a very worthy album, no matter what purists say and is certainly no less challenging than Babacombe Lee or Nine Lives, or dare I say the highly-touted Full House. Part of its charm is that there are a few gutsy psychedelic folk rock tracks, like the opening Time Will Show (where the band shows their electric chops) or the dark It's Only Witchcraft. Other pure North American folk tracks like Mitchell' Where I Stand and Chelsea Morning & Dylan's Jack O Diamonds are electrified and drummed up (the later has a definite acid folk rock sound), and the least we can say is that the very cute Judy holds her own

The few FC originals like Stomp, Decameron, the instrumental Portfolio, the superb jazzy Sun Shade leading in the full-blown psych of The Lobster (maybe my fave on the album with Dyble's small recorder parts) and One Sure Thing are of correct quality, even holding up their own on the prestigious all-too- often-heard covers. On the weaker M1 Breakdown is below par, being a jug band thingie, but even then it's not bad, because it stays short and funny.

The remastered version of the album comes with a quartet of great bonus tracks (and a superb illustrated booklet), all covers (although who needs yet another version of Cohen's Suzanne, even if a bit different), including a version of Buckley's Morning Glory and a fantastic full-blown seven minutes rendition of US folk giant Farina, called Reno Nevada, where FC show they the longer tracks like sailor's life or Matty Groves were in their blood right from the start. All four tracks are of correct sound quality and just add more weight to the original album, which is easily as worthy as its four successors. Don't shy away from thi

Report this review (#177766)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The debut album from british folk rock band Fairport Convention was released in 1968. On this album the folk leanings are not as obvious as they would become on subsequent albums ( at least that´s what I´ve been told). There´s even a bit of psychadelic tendencies on some songs which makes this album a pretty varied and interesting experience IMO.

Sandy Denny had yet to become a member of Fairport Convention and the female vocals were done by Judy Dyble. Most vocals are done by Ian (Matthews) Mc Donald though. Judy Dyble can be heard on songs like the beautiful I Don' t Know Where I Stand, the excellent and psychadelic tinged Chelsea Morning and the sweet One Sure Thing. There are influences from lots of genres on the album from folk and rock to swing jazz ( just hints though in It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft). The psychadelic leanings are strong in songs like Sun Shade and especially in the progressive The Lobster. The Beatles are no strangers to Fairport Convention either. I think it´s great that the album is so musically diverse. It helps to keep my attention all the way through the album.

The musicianship is excellent. It´s great to hear that the band are already capable musicians this early in their career.

The production is really good considering this was 1968. Really enjoyable.

I must say that I was a bit surprised that I enjoyed this album so much. I´ve been putting of listening to Fairport Convention for years because I had the wrong expectations to their sound ( maybe my expectations of traditional folk will be met on later albums?). I always thought they played more traditional folk/ rock but that´s certainly not the case on this really good album. I´m gonna have to give this one 4 stars and a recommendation. This is a really pleasant album with strong melodies and a few ( very few) mildy progressive leanings. I can´t wait to hear more from Fairport Convention.

Report this review (#187470)
Posted Friday, October 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Embarrassingly I had first little cautious feeling towards this album, as instead of the singer from the legendary line-up here is Ms. Judy Dyble singing. Luckily I got over this prejudgment, as her performance is fine and the album good, just different than their recordings with Sandy Denny.

Album starts with "Time Will Show The Wiser", which is a nice beat rock tune sounding very much The Byrds, with similar ringing guitar and male vocal melodies. There's also a nice film of this song existing. There are two Joni Mitchell's songs in this album, second track "I don't Know Where I Stand" is a really fine interpretation, full of pretty euphoric waving. Maybe the version from the upcoming BBC sessions "Hey Day" is little better, but this is very good too. The other Joni's song coming later is "Chelsea Morning", a fast rhythm section in behind brings much motion to the song fronted by Judy in fine manner. "If (Stomp)" is The Beatles styled light and little boring rocker in my opinion, but "Decameron" is then a quiet and slow, beautiful acoustic tune for both male and lady singers. Minor chord progressions with effect treated guitar introduce then "Jack O'Diamonds", a decent rocker. "Portfolio" is a piano driven hypnotic short tune gathering support from violins and other instruments. Middle section's slow jazzy rhythm and distant vocals create a funny surreal feeling to this very fine performance. "Sun Shade" is a relaxed and calm slow jazzy song for both singers and nice guitar solo. "The Lobster" runs through some changes in slightly experimental way. It starts with instrumental jazzy piece, morphing then to more mystical and oppressing tune, leading to trashy sequence, finally ending to fine shadowy ambience. "It's Allright Ma, It's only Witchcraft" stars as quite pure easy jazz, and rock drive punching in heavily as the song opens. "One Sure Thing" delivers minor traditional sounding ballad for Judy, with bluesy end sequence. The album closes with "M.1 Breakdown", a weird short end for the album, maybe some kind of "Going to the country" joke? I did not have the bonus tracks on my version, so can't say much about them.

Though the next incarnation of the band is my favorite, there are no reasons to neglect this record either, especially if you like 1960's American oriented folk rock music. As an anecdote, you can hear Judy sing with King Crimson on the compilation double-LP "Young Person's Guide to King Crimson", the song is "I Talk to The wind". As an album the record contains many kind of songs, not focusing totally to one style, but having many kind of ideas by the group. That is not every time a bad approach... Some songs here are quite of my favorites, "I don't Know Where I stand", "Decameron", "Sun Shade" and "One Sure Thing" are easy moody choices for a romantic, and tracks like "The Lobster" brings in interesting slightly avant-gardist sides of this fine group. I found later Judy's vocal art from the Trader Horne album, which is also quite nice to verify for the proggy folk tones.

Report this review (#231527)
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Unnecessary British folk rock, straight out of the post-summer of love syndrome

Fairport Convention - Fairport Convention (1968)

Overall Rating: 9


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.


Report this review (#293073)
Posted Monday, August 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Fairport Convention's debut is a pretty decent one. I agree it is not essential from the band. Sure they were strongly influenced by early Jefferson Airplane and other American folk and this album is made up of half group compositions, half covers. But throughout the songs are played well. It doesn't sound as well produced as the band's later albums, although as other reviews said, you can hear a lot of tasteful qualities and classy musicianship. Judy Dyble's presence is the most noticeable on the Joni Mitchell songs "I Don't Know Where I Stand" and "Chelsea Morning". Her voice may not be as strong as Sandy Denny's who would replace her by the next album, however Dyble still sounds very good, tuneful and pleasant. The two Richard Thompson ballads here are actually very good as well. "Sun Shade" and the melancholic "Decameron" are some examples of the band bringing their own personal touches into the mix, such as some very fine jazzy guitar work. 'The Lobster' is another band composition and a psychedelic mini-epic, standing out as the most progressive piece, as well as hinting the mature guitar style Thompson would display after the album "Full House". Some other covers on the album that are brilliant include "Jack 'O Diamonds" and another with Dyble on vocals named "One Sure Thing". So the verdict for this vintage folk-rock album? It is very good and shouldn't be judged too harshly because in retrospect many know that the more superior 'What We Did On Our Holidays' followed less than a year later. It still has a lot to offer and is just different from the later stuff. 3 solid stars.
Report this review (#797434)
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Fairport Convention's first album is a far cry from the electrified traditional folk that they made their name with, though there are some hints of it here and there on tracks like Decameron. Instead, it's a band very much beholden to the American folk rock tradition - especially the West Coast scene like the Byrds before they went country, Buffalo Springfield, and Jefferson Airplane - and who haven't yet worked out how to perform a similar transformation that those artists had performed on contemporary US folk in the context of traditional British folk.

As a result, it's a very interesting artifact, but like many debut albums from significant 1960s British folk pioneers - think Donovan, think The Incredible String Band - it doesn't really reflect the rest of their work and is interesting perhaps more for that contrast than it is in its own right.

Report this review (#2487602)
Posted Friday, December 25, 2020 | Review Permalink

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