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THE HISTORY OF FAIRPORT CONVENTION

Fairport Convention

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Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you want a good introduction to the original incarnation of Fairport Convention, this compilation gives a pretty good overview of their fist seven albums and the celebrated line ups featuring Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson et al. It's of particular interest to prog fans because it also includes three extended tracks that justify defining them as prog folk.

Like the Byrds, Fairport were constantly evolving and mutating. They started off with lots of covers of Dylan songs and the like plus a smattering of their own material, but only really found their feet with their excellent third album Unhalfbricking. This included the lengthy A Sailor's Life, a traditional folk song plugged into the mains and played as a semi psychedelic jam - Richard Thompson's lead guitar is remarkable. Liege and Lief saw them plunge headlong into folk rock, and the addition of violinist Dave Swarbrick added another dimension to their sound. Matty Groves was the stand out track, a Merrie England tale of lust, deceit, betrayal and murder in roughly that order. Their fifth album was recorded after the departure of vocalist Sandy Denny and featured another lengthy, proggy excursion in Sloth. Soon after that Richard Thompson also departed and the band recorded another two albums including the conceptual Babbacombe Lee, following which this compilation was released. The prog folk material aside, there's plenty to enjoy here, including the eccentric Dylan cover Si Tu Dois Partir (if You Gotta Go, Go Now in French) and Sandy Denny's beautiful ballad Who Knows Where The Time Goes.

There is only one track from the masterful Liege and Lief, and the first three songs are a bit forgettable, but this CD is excellent value and gives a good overview of Fairport's early career. Recommended.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#61258)
Posted Thursday, December 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a good introduction to Fairport's early years, covering all albums from "What We Did On Our Holidays" to "Babbacombe Lee" - why the first album was skipped for this anthology? Is this a history or not? This problem apart, "History of FC" provides an overview for all Fairport's line-ups from the arriving of Sandy Denny to the quartet of Simon Nicol and the Three Daves (Mattacks, Pegg, Swarbrick), covering musical styles that range from blues ("Mr. Lacey") to traditional folk that made this band famous (like the medley). Three great epics are included: "A Sailor's Life", "Matty Groves" and "Sloth" ("Tam Lin" should have been included too!). The family tree printed at the inner sleeve is great, but a written history would be welcome, helping to understand why there were so many line-up changes. In short, if you are a casual listener, "History..." is a great place to start and probably will lead you to further explorations into Fairport's catalogue, but if you're already a fan, you won't need it. Maybe Island should re-release this album as a double CD, with an extended booklet.

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Send comments to M. B. Zapelini (BETA) | Report this review (#66635)
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Who knows where the time goes

For many people, including myself, this double LP was an excellent introduction to the music of Fairport Convention. It has clearly been put together with a great deal of thought and passion, and the fact that it was originally sold at a discounted price made it irresistible.

Beginning with the sleeve, which originally bore a now long lost rosette, the family tree which adorns the outside shows the numerous line ups of the band over the period covered from 1969 to 1973. (Although this album was released in 1972, it includes a track from the then forthcoming album "Rosie".) This period was the most inventive and productive in the entire history of the band, resulting in legendary albums such as "Liege and life" and "Unhalfbricking".

As this compilation is an Island records release, the brief Judy Dibble period is omitted, the story starting here with "Meet on the ledge" from "What we did on out holidays". Thus we are immediately presented with the wonderful voice of the late Sandy Denny, ironically singing a eulogy to another band member tragically killed in a motorway crash. The reflective mood continues with the stunning "Fotheringay", a song about the castle where Mary Queen of Scots was executed, and which later became the name of Denny's short lived band.

From a prog perspective, there are three tracks of particular significance here. "A sailor's life" is a loose, meandering piece which runs to over 11 minutes, allowing Richard Thomson considerable space to demonstrate his unique skills. "Matty Groves" sets out as a traditional folk tale, before Dave Swarbrick sets off on a wonderful violin outing. "Sloth" returns to the more maudlin sound for a haunting nine minute piece.

The many remaining tracks cover an amazingly diverse range of sounds, moods, and indeed genres. We have Sandy Denny's heartbreaking ballad, "Who knows where the time goes", a song she originally recorded with the very early Strawbs. Then there's the raucous bar room sing along of Dylan's "Si tu dois partir". From a folk perspective, we have a couple of jigs and reels collections, plus more traditional sounding songs such as "Walk awhile" and "Bonnie black hare", the latter having an extremely dubious lyric!

The most beautiful songs is arguably "Crazy man Michael", a tear-jerking tale of love which was unforgivably left off the CD version of this collection in order to release the collection as a single CD.

During the period covered by the album Sandy Denny left, the band moved in together in a disused pub (The Angel), and Richard Thompson went solo (but remained in the Angel). The band also released their only concept album "Babbacombe Lee". What did not change however was the quality of the music. Every track here is worthy of its place on the compilation, this is one of the finest overviews of any band. Yes, the source material available was of an astonishingly high standard, but the compilers have excelled themselves when it came to both selecting the tracks, and in presenting them in a format which creates a superb continuity.

If you only ever buy one Fairport Convention album, this is the one to go for.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#108786)
Posted Thursday, January 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
aapatsos
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Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
4 stars 3 years in the life of...

...folk-rock, blues, sweet female vocals and touches of country, rock 'n roll and 60's psychedelia... These are the main constituents of this rather satisfying compilation of the 1969-1972 period of the band that includes 6 (!) studio albums, leaving out the self-titled debut.

Unacquainted with any of their material, the recommendation to delve into this compilation for a start has definitely paid off. From the rock 'n roll moments such as Mr. Lacey to the soft and full-of-emotion Meet on the Ledge and Book Song, the band delivers different styles in great consistency. Even in simple forms, the great musicianship and the creativity are more than apparent and the melodies are touching and memorable. The dreamy vocals of Sandy Denny are very characteristic and blend beautifully with the early approach of FAIRPORT CONVENTION in the first half of the compilation.

The more folk and progressive moments such as Sailor's Life and the brilliant adaptations of the traditional Matty Groves and Bonny Black Hare have definitely caught my attention. Although the absence of Denny's beautiful vocals from the second half is obvious, there are top moments such as the long ballad Sloth and the British-folk short dynamic instrumentals Bridge Over the River Ash and the closing The Hen's March/The Four Poster Bed.

One interesting element to observe is the "a-la Moody Blues" atmosphere in the tracks up to 1970 (first 9 tracks) and the introduction of more country and "up-lifting" folk patterns in the remaining tracks up to 1972. The CD version of the compilation does not include the tracks Crazy Man Michael and Medley that appear in the LP version.

My personal favourites include the adaptations of traditional folk stories and the nostalgic and beautifully sung Who Knows Where the Time Goes and Fotheringay - but almost everything with Sandy Denny's voice in. Even if I can not judge if this compilation is representative of these 3 years, I would unreservedly recommend it to folk-rock fans, and I will be looking forward to discover the studio albums from this era.

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Send comments to aapatsos (BETA) | Report this review (#278389)
Posted Sunday, April 18, 2010 | Review Permalink

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