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Fairport Convention - Gladys' Leap CD (album) cover


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Symphonic Team
3 stars "How many times do you have to fall before you end up walking?"

Glady's Leap was the first Fairport Convention album in seven years and it started a new chapter in the band's long history. Even if I think that the previous two albums, Tippler's Tales and Bonny Bunch Of Roses, were both good, I would say that the band had lost its way as far back as in 1973 with the weak and disappointing Rosie album. In the light of that the present album constituted not only a return to the scene, but a return to form. Glady's Leap was the first of a series of albums in the same style that included albums like Red And Gold, Five Seasons, Jewel In The Crown, Who Knows Where The Time Goes? and Over The Next Hill over the rest of the 80's, the 90's and into the 00's (the exception being Expletive Delighted! which is all instrumental). If you like one of these albums there is no reason you should not like the others - they're all good! But the present album is not the best of them.

The great fiddler Ric Sanders played here with the band for the first time and the rest of the band is Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks. Richard Thomson plays guitar on one track (Head In A Sack) and Cathy Le Surf sings lead vocals on another (My Feet Are Set For Dancing). The material is mostly not the band's own but written by outsiders. However, Dave Pegg provides the first two parts of the Instrumental Medley '85 where the second part gives the album its title. The story behind the title is this. There was a female post man in Cranham, a village near Stroud in Gloucestershire, England whose name was Gladys Hillier. To save a two mile walk, she used to jump across a stream on her round. In 1977 the spot where she used to jump was named in her honour and became Glady's Leap.

The most similar of the albums I mentioned above is probably Red And Gold, but Glady's Leap does not have the highs and lows of that album. The first five tracks are by far the best while the last three are a bit less interesting. Still, this is a good and rather typical Fairport album. We have here Folk songs made in Rock style with electric and acoustic instruments. Most of the vocals are by Simon Nicol.

This album is recommended to anyone interested in this period (from 1985 till today) of the band's career, which in many ways is their best and certainly their most consistent period! For Prog Folk fans, this period of Fairport Convention is well worth investigating.

Report this review (#277783)
Posted Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Glady's Leap, the first album of the reunited Fairport Convention is quite a good but not complete outing by guitarist Simon Nicol, bassist Dave Pegg and drummer Dave Mattacks, with only fiddler Dave Swarbrick not returning. Between the group disbanding in 1979 and this reunion album in 1985, Pegg picked up a lucrative job recording and touring with Jethro Tull but never gave up on the idea that Fairport's business as music makers was unfinished. And this album proves him right. With outside songwriting contributions from former member Richard Thompson and British folk stalwart Ralph McTell, the group sound absolutely reanimated on the songs recorded here.

Starting off with a catchy rocker from Thompson called "How Many Times" Nicol now assumes strong lead vocal duties in place of they departed Swarbrick, while Pegg and Mattacks remind us that they are one of rock's strongest if unheralded rhythm sections. The following song, McTell's "Bird From the Mountain" gives Pegg a rare and convincing lead vocal on this beautiful folky ballad before the group breaks into one of their majestic sea epics with "Honour And Praise". The acoustic guitar driven ballad "The Hiring Fair" is another classic Fairport time traveler of young love back in the age before steam. These four songs are stupendous and are followed by a classic Fairport violin instrumental featuring future member Ric Sanders on fiddle duty while Pegg and Mattacks lay down heavy grooves with fretless bass and heavy drums respectively on "Instrumental Memory '85".

And here's where the fun stops as the next song to follow is a strange club/dance song written and sung by a women named Cathy LeSurf that features synths, sampled drums and a funky R&B styled bass . I can only assume that the song is by a lady friend of one of the band mates. At least I hope so. Another excellent period McTell song follows called "Wat Tyler" before the band fall flat with an album concluding generic rocker titled " Head In A Sack". Even guest guitar playing by the great Richard Thompson fails to invigorate this song.

In conclusion, this album has many high points before it runs out of steam. A slew of impressive albums would soon follow in the 1990s, but "Gladys' Leap" is a fine starting point for this unique band's recording renaissance. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

Report this review (#2080108)
Posted Saturday, December 1, 2018 | Review Permalink

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