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FAIRPORT CONVENTION

Prog Related • United Kingdom


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Fairport Convention biography
FAIRPORT CONVENTION was formed in 1967 by Richard Thompson (guitar & vocals), Simon Nicol (guitar & vocals, viola), Ashley Hutchings (bass), Judy Dyble (vocals) and Shaun Frater (drums). Before the release of their first record Shaun Frater was replaced by Martin Lamble and Ian (Matthews) Mc Donald (vocals & guitar) joined the band. FAIRPORT CONVENTION plays Folk-Rock influenced by British-Folk, American-Folk-Rock, Blues, Country, Cajun and American songwriters like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Tim Buckley and Joni Mitchell.

In 1968 they made their first recording 'Fairport Convention' for Polydor with Joe Boyd as producer. The record was mainly influenced by American-Folk and contained covers of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Later that year they signed to 'Island Records' and the departing Judy Dyble was replaced by Sandy Denny (Ex-STRAWBS) who would compose some of the band's finest compositions. In 1969 FAIRPORT CONVENTION released their second record 'What Did We Do On Our Holidays' introducing for the first time Traditional-Folk and the beautiful 'Fotheringay' by Sandy Denny. Their third record 'Unhalfbricking' (1969) concentrated more on acoustic arrangements and contained a French-sung version of Bob Dylan's 'If You Gotta Go' and the Sandy Denny signature song 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes?'. The record introduced later fulltime member Dave Swarbrick on fiddle. After the recording the band was struck by tragedy when Martin Lamble was killed in the crash of their tour van. With their fourth record 'Liege and Lief '(1969), that contained mainly Traditional-Folk-Songs, the band moved into the field of British-Folk-Rock. After the recording Sandy Deny left to form FOTHERINGAY, while Ashley Hutchings left to form STEELEYE SPAN. With Dave Pegg joining on bass the band recorded 'Full House' (1970), another classic FAIRPORT CONVENTION record and the last with Richard Thompsonbefore he left to become a solo recording artist. In 1971 they recorded 'Angel Delight' and the concept album 'Babbacombe Lee'. For the rest of the 70's the band went through a constant change of musicians. In 1974 Sandy Denny rejoined the band for a tour that is documented on the live recording 'Live Convention' (1974). Sandy Denny stayed with the band to record another studio-record 'Rising For The Moon' in 1975 before going solo again, but she died tragically in 1978. FAIRPORT CONVENTION recorded a Farewell - Live -Album in 1979, 'Farewell, Farewell', but continud to record thro...
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Liege & LiefLiege & Lief
A&M 1990
Audio CD$4.84
$0.47 (used)
UnhalfbrickingUnhalfbricking
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Island UK 2003
Audio CD$5.97
$9.47 (used)
What We Did on Our HolidaysWhat We Did on Our Holidays
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Island UK 2003
Audio CD$6.04
$4.54 (used)
History ofHistory of
Import
Island UK 1995
Audio CD$4.85
$3.51 (used)
Full HouseFull House
Import · Remastered
Island UK 2001
Audio CD$5.90
$5.44 (used)
PerformancePerformance
Four Worlds Media 2012
Audio CD$14.47
$68.04 (used)
Angel DelightAngel Delight
Extra tracks · Import · Limited Edition · Remastered
Universal UK 2004
Audio CD$5.14
$12.96 (used)
Fairport ConventionFairport Convention
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Universal UK 2003
Audio CD$5.34
$5.00 (used)
Rising for the MoonRising for the Moon
Import
Universal Import 2013
Audio CD$16.90
$21.14 (used)
NineNine
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Universal UK 2005
Audio CD$3.09
$2.02 (used)
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Fairport Convention Full House UK LP Island Records ILPS 9130 E.J.Day 1970 USD $6.60 [5 bids]
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Liege & Lief by Fairport Convention (CD, Nov-1988, A&M (USA)) USD $5.00 [1 bids]
5h 39m
FAIRPORT CONVENTION Who Knows? 1975 LTD 180G VINYL LP USD $39.30 Buy It Now 5h 39m
FAIRPORT CONVENTION Angel Delight NR MINT ORIG U.S. LP USD $19.95 Buy It Now 6h
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Fairport Convention Rosie -LP-A&M-4386-OG Sleeve-Vinyl Record Richard Thompson USD $4.49 [0 bids]
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7h 18m
Fairport Convention Rising For The Moon LP Record Album Excellent Vinyl USD $9.99 [0 bids]
7h 55m
Fairport Convention Fairport Chronicles Double LP Record Album Excellent Vinyl USD $9.99 [0 bids]
7h 55m
FAIRPORT CONVENTION - Sense Of Occasion (16 trk CD album) Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg USD $12.56 [0 bids]
8h 2m
FAIRPORT CONVENTION - Liege & Lief (2002 10 tk CD) Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny USD $9.42 [0 bids]
8h 2m
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14h 27m
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More places to buy FAIRPORT CONVENTION music online Buy FAIRPORT CONVENTION & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
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FAIRPORT CONVENTION shows & tickets


  • Fairport Convention at The Playhouse, Weston-super-Mare on 6 Feb 2015
  • Burg Herzberg Festival on 30 Jul 2015

FAIRPORT CONVENTION discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

FAIRPORT CONVENTION top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.27 | 39 ratings
Fairport Convention
1968
3.64 | 60 ratings
What We Did On Our Holidays
1969
3.54 | 63 ratings
Unhalfbricking
1969
3.65 | 82 ratings
Liege & Lief
1969
3.57 | 49 ratings
Full House
1970
2.90 | 28 ratings
Angel Delight
1971
3.72 | 30 ratings
Babbacombe Lee
1971
2.10 | 20 ratings
Rosie
1973
2.81 | 24 ratings
Nine
1973
3.01 | 27 ratings
Rising For The Moon
1975
1.50 | 16 ratings
Gottle O' Geer
1976
2.43 | 13 ratings
The Bonny Bunch Of Roses
1977
3.03 | 11 ratings
Tipplers Tales
1978
2.96 | 8 ratings
Gladys' Leap
1985
2.21 | 5 ratings
Expletive Delighted
1986
3.49 | 9 ratings
Red And Gold
1989
2.96 | 9 ratings
The Five Seasons
1990
3.77 | 12 ratings
Jewel In The Crown
1995
3.00 | 1 ratings
Old New Borrowed Blue
1996
3.66 | 9 ratings
Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
1997
3.08 | 7 ratings
The Wood And The Wire
1999
3.92 | 5 ratings
XXXV : 1967-2002 The 35th Anniversary Album
2001
3.16 | 6 ratings
Over The Next Hill
2004
2.00 | 1 ratings
Sense Of Occasion
2007
2.44 | 4 ratings
Festival Bell
2011
5.00 | 1 ratings
By Popular Request
2012

FAIRPORT CONVENTION Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.15 | 18 ratings
Live Convention
1974
3.93 | 15 ratings
House Full
1977
3.11 | 8 ratings
Farewell, Farewell
1979
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Airing Cupboard Tapes '71 - '74
1981
3.60 | 5 ratings
Moat on the Ledge
1982
4.00 | 1 ratings
25th Anniversary Concert
1993
5.00 | 2 ratings
The Cropredy Box
1999
4.00 | 1 ratings
From Cropredy to Portmeirion
2002
4.00 | 2 ratings
Festival: Cropredy 2002
2003
4.00 | 1 ratings
Acoustically Down Under 1996: The Woodworm Archives - Vol. 2
2005
4.33 | 3 ratings
Rare Broadcasts
2007

FAIRPORT CONVENTION Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Cropredy Festival 2001
2001
3.13 | 4 ratings
Live At The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury (DVD)
2003
4.50 | 2 ratings
The 35th Anniversary Concert
2003
4.33 | 3 ratings
The Ultimate Collection
2007

FAIRPORT CONVENTION Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.90 | 18 ratings
The History Of Fairport Convention
1972
3.01 | 11 ratings
Heyday BBC Radio Sessions 1968-1969
1987
3.18 | 2 ratings
The Woodworm Years
1991
4.05 | 2 ratings
Fiddlestix, The Best of Fairport 1972-1984
1998
4.98 | 4 ratings
Meet on the Ledge - The Classic Years 1967-1975
1999
4.50 | 2 ratings
Then & Now 1982-1996 The Best Of Fairport Convention
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Fairport Unconventional
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Chronicles
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
Who Knows? The Woodworm Archives - Vol. One
2005
3.09 | 5 ratings
Fame And Glory
2009

FAIRPORT CONVENTION Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Meet On The Ledge
1968
5.00 | 1 ratings
Si Tu Dois Partir
1969
5.00 | 1 ratings
Now Be Thankful
1970
5.00 | 1 ratings
John Lee
1972
5.00 | 1 ratings
Rosie
1973
5.00 | 1 ratings
White Dress
1975
5.00 | 1 ratings
Meet On The Ledge
1987

FAIRPORT CONVENTION Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Liege & Lief by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.65 | 82 ratings

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Liege & Lief
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars I had seen Fairport Convention as an opening act for Jethro Tull, back in the early 80s and I certainly retain vivid impressions of what I saw and heard that night. Particularly, Ric Sanders terrific fiddle, which lashed out often and blazed a few memorable sonic trails. I always enjoyed British folk, as opposed to American country music, though it must be said that Fairport Convention is a different kettle of fish as it concentrates on traditional structures. On Liege and Lief, Sandy Denny, who has often been deified for dying young, a popular habit back in the 70s with a slew of superstars expiring (Hendrix, Jones, Joplin, Morrison, Wilson, Bonham & co) was of course a fundamental pioneer in the career of the Strawbs, a band I have a long standing love affair with. It must also be mentioned that the instrumentalists are equally first rate, no one more so than the enigmatic and genial Richard Thompson, but also the terrific Dave Mattacks on drums. The violin is held here by Dave Swarbrick .

This album is considered to be their finest hour, a glowing menu of brilliant melodies that perfectly capture the various styles associated with the nascent electric prog-folk scene, from old school traditional songs such as the instantly recognizable highlight tracks "Matty Groves", "Reynardine", "Sir Patrick Spens" and "Tam Lin" as well as more rollicking pub sing-along fare ("Come All Ye"). There is also an inspiring medley of jig related pieces that highlight the still revered British folk scene today, the fiddle leading the way in a style that spawned such current stalwarts as Iona or Loreena McKinnitt. There is even an epic 10 minute finale, the deliciously titled "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" that stamps strong prog imagery onto the disc's powerful folk leanings. The rock element is conveyed by Thompson's energetic performance, a fluid and innovative guitarist with boundless expression and exuberance. His playing alone is worth owning this in a prog collection.

The focus is also clearly on Denny and her angelic delivery, and she really does not falter or disappoint. Particularly on the extended folk platforms "Matty Groves" and "Tam Lin", she glides dramatically over the dignified melodies with assurance and class. "Crazy Man Michael" is another mesmerizing ditty, full of rolling bass from Ashley Hutchings, some cool Swarbrick violin and Denny howling to the moon. The epic final track has a unique buzz, somewhat experimental in nature, very Iona-like actually, like some mist choked bog in the Highlands churning out some sheep farmer's lament. The hypnotic mood is atmospheric and ethereal, simplicity ruling the melody as it's egged on by the swirly fiddle. Pretty sure Enya and Clannad got their initiation on this incredible track. The only slight negative is the awful artwork, a typically drab pre-Woodstock cover, looking more like an old postage stamp.

4 tankards of ale

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 Full House by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.57 | 49 ratings

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Full House
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars With Sandy Denny departed for her Fotheringay project and Steeleye Span emerging to present a more traditional-sounding version of the sort of electric folk that was Fairport's forte, Richard Thompson and friends responded by steering Fairport in a slightly rockier direction this time around. There's just a shade more groove in their step and a dash more fuzz to their guitar than in the preceding albums which makes this an interesting one to round off Richard Thompson's tenure in the band. The lack of female vocals on the album - Fairport having turned into a boys' club at around this time - is a particular shift in their sound which demonstrates that, far from trying to reclaim the glory of the preceding three releases, they were intent instead on pressing on to find a new sound, which they just about grasp the coattails of here.

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 What We Did On Our Holidays by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 60 ratings

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What We Did On Our Holidays
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Part of the classic brace of albums Fairport Convention put out at around this time, if you liked Unhalfbricking and Lief and Liege then you'll probably find something to enjoy in this. The original lineup's been shaken up a bit and the arrival of Sandy Denny means that the band benefit from her great singing voice, her deft hand on the keyboards and guitars, and her keen folk sensibilities. So confident are they in their new acquisition that they lead off the album with a Denny-penned track, Fortheringay, which in the long run would be the moniker for one of her post-Fairport projects. It was probably too much to expect the alliance of two big folk minds like Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny to last for long, but its inception here is a joy to the ears.

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 Unhalfbricking by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.54 | 63 ratings

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Unhalfbricking
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Fairport Convention's Unhalfbricking is another great 1969 release from a band that had a bumper crop that year. There may be a somewhat larger emphasis on more modern cover versions than the more traditional Liege and Lief, but then again the extended guitar explorations that are unleashed when Richard Thompson and Simon Nichol let loose result in radical transformations of the songs anyway. Yes, they still owe a debt to Dylan, but there's not a trace of Dylan's distinctive sound here even when they do cover some of his material: the conventions of the Fairport sound are clearly set out at this stage of their career.

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 Festival Bell by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.44 | 4 ratings

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Festival Bell
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars From the Northwest Passage to Cape Horn

This is the latest studio album at the time of writing by Fairport Convention. It continues in the venerable tradition that the band has been following since the 80's with albums such as Red And Gold, The Five Seasons, The Jewel In The Crown, Who Knows Where The Time Goes? and Over The Next Hill. This is not only the most stable period in the band's long history, but also in my opinion the strongest. Festival Bell is however not up to par with these preceding albums even if it does have a couple of strong tracks.

There are many songs in Fairport Convention's catalogue that pertain to the sea. Here there are two of those in Mercy Bay and The Wild Cape Horn, both songs telling stories of dangerous and arduous sea journeys. The former tells the story of a crew trying to find the Northwest Passage. This very good song is one of the few highlights of this album and it would have fitted very nicely on some of the aforementioned albums. Excellent storytelling through music, evoking images of an icy, foreboding world depressingly far away from England's green. The Wild Cape Horn is also one of the better songs here and this one tells the story of a sailor rounding the notorious Cape Horn.

There are two instrumentals having the name of Danny Jack in the title. The up-tempo Danny Jack's Chase is another highlight. Its companion Danny Jack's Reward is somewhat less memorable, but perhaps the most "progressive" piece of this album together with the brief Albert & Ted, these allowing for a bit more instrumental workouts including a bass solo. The rest of the album is filled with rather standard Fairport Convention numbers, some of which are good and others (including the title track) are rather bland. It sometimes feels as if they are just going through the motions, cruising on autopilot, making decent but predictable music. The second half of the album is relatively weak, and the first real embarrassment is Ukelele Central, an awful ditty performed on that despicable instrument. There is also a re-make of Rising For The Moon, originally sung by Sandy Denny on the album of that name. This version is neither here nor there. I think that this album could easily have been made shorter by dropping a few of the weakest tracks.

Despite some good moments, Festival Bell is an average album and not the best place to begin with latter day Fairport Convention. Start instead with some of the albums I mentioned above, particularly the excellent (and weakly conceptual) Jewel In The Crown.

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 Festival Bell by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.44 | 4 ratings

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Festival Bell
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

3 stars Fairport Convention has sung for fourty-six years now and they still have a nice flow in their music. The band is made up by Simon Nicol, Chris Leslie, Ric Sanders, Gerry Conway and Dave Pegg. Even if this is good music, there isn't what they were in the late sixties and early seventies. I heard them here in Stockholm two weeks ago and was amazed. They are still a very good band and of course they played a lot of old gems such as Doctor of Physick and Sir Patrick Spens. But now I am reviewing their last studio recording Festival Bell from 2011, two years ago now.

This record shows us some things were better before the cd came and made the records longer. With less songs and more concentration on those left it could have been great. This record starts good with a traditional sailor ballad " Mercy Bay" with a long and telling story and a little sad melody with a typical british voice in Simon Nicol. This is the albums best song along with two instrumentals "Danny Jack's Chase" and "Danny Jack's Reward". These two are also the only progressive here with exciting themes going around and broken by experimental interrupts. There is dreaming there I presume. The last one has a bass sole with excellent Dave Pegg. "Albert and Ted" is also an exciting little song. Ralph McTell is composer of two tracks "Around the wild cape horn" and "London Apprentice/Johnny Ginears" and they are strong singer/songwriter material with tempo and feeling. Otherwise I feel these (other) songs quite weak if you think of how it could have been. This is not a pioneering record but it's nice they are live and still play folk rock ? a great genre.

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 Liege & Lief by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.65 | 82 ratings

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Liege & Lief
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On Liege & Lief Fairport Convention made their definitive break away from previous 60s folk rock precedents, which had concentrated mostly on presenting modern material from singer- songwriters like Dylan, and instead applied a folk rock approach to adapting more traditional folk fare, focusing in particular on arrangements of British folk standards with only a smattering of original compositions.

It's spoken of as a groundbreaking album, and it is, but to perceive this you need to remember that the real inventiveness here is in the arrangements rather than in the compositions themselves, with mellow electric guitar solos and the like being worked into the mix so naturally you'd have imagined these songs were originally composed for electric instruments. Fairport Convention weren't the first people to take this sort of approach to British folk rock, but few were as successful as they are here.

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 Gottle O' Geer by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1976
1.50 | 16 ratings

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Gottle O' Geer
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by Ferdy

1 stars A first review of one of my favorite bands from the 60's and 70's. So let's begin with my least favorite record of them. The last on the island record label. After the polished but good 'Rising for the moon' record, the band fell apart. What was left of them, made this record together with a bunch of guest musicians. Under the name Fairport. I can accept that this isn't really prog anymore. But even without that there are not much good songs on this record. the two traditionals are reasonable. 'When first into this country' has a nice melody, and the same can be said of the instrumental 'The frog up the pump'. Although they have done a lot better instrumentals. Well, and the rest is very very poor. A funk/folk feel in 'Cropredy capers'. A try at Sandy's song '(Take away the load)'. Not much succesful. And the rest are songs which you almost have forgotten after you have heard them. I am aware that this is a transitional record. And the follow up 'Bonny bunch of roses' is much better of quality. I doubt between one or two stars. But with only two songs who are only just a very little better then the rest, i cannot give this record a higher rating than only one star

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 Unhalfbricking by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.54 | 63 ratings

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Unhalfbricking
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 10/15P.: The ultimate Bob Dylan recycling album depicting Fairport Convention on an interim course of covering predominantly American music with a British kind of eccentricity. In spite of some inessential moments this album still keeps a sufficient level of meaning, but the folk rock longtrack surely can't hold a candle to the group's later efforts in that genre.

Unhalfbricking is sad, it's funny, it's colorful, it's British and American at the same time, it's partly innovative, it's authentic and it's a tough listen. It is, perhaps, anything you may associate with how a folk rock band might be, but what it doubtlessly isn't is a consistently satisfactory album. Actually, it was pretty obvious that - after the warmly glowing What We Did on Our Holidays - something was going to change. Lead singer Iain Matthews left the band, and this shifted the lead vocal duties to Sandy Denny who, in her prime, sang folk songs with The Strawbs in the minor venues of Great Britain.

Maybe it's partly because of a helplessness which course to take with the band, but maybe also because Bob Dylan had shocked the world of pop music with another, - actually the third - 'new sound' he had worked on (i.e., the Americana genre): this album is schizophrenic in the combination of its eight songs which are radically different from each other, but it makes the very best out of the fairly adverse conditions.

On the definite plus side there is the excellent track Genesis Hall and the good, but slightly inefficient version of Sandy Denny's stellar Who Knows Where The Time Goes. The latter is widely (and, in my opinion, also correctly) viewed as her signature song, but there's a demo version she recorded in 1967 in which she accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar, and I like that version better than the full band version which feels to quick and straight to let her voice really flourish. A timid guitar solo and Simon Nicol's soulful rhythm guitar, however, are really good, and these minor points of criticism cannot change the fact that it's the song of Unhalfbricking which I listen to most frequently.

There's really nothing you can criticise about Genesis Hall - the dulcimer scratches, Ashley Hutchings' bass guitar walks along in its own special way, Richard Thompson provides his first upfront backing vocals to accompany Sandy Denny's haunting singing and the whole band does every possible thing to convey the chilly and husky atmosphere which so many of Richard Thompson's later songs should offer. What a perfect way to begin an album! But then comes the pretty whimsical Si Tu Dois Partir, which is delightful as the song of the group which is most originally linked to Cajun music, but it does smell a lot of smoke-filled evenings and a certain musical aimlessness. The song itself is a French translation - aided by a French-speaking audience member - of Bob Dylan's early song If You Gotta Go, Go Now, filled with reedy accordions, loose backing vocals and the hectic rattling and scratching of some percussion instruments. However, the song is notable for being - going along the track listing order of the songs - the first song of the band in which Dave Swarbrick can be heard playing the fiddle.

Autopsy is a faintly jazz-influenced and relaxed pop song written by Sandy Denny, consisting of two parts, the first and more folk-inflected one being in 5/4 time and the second one going into a pretty sharp 4/4 measure with enough space for a lovely little guitar solo by Richard Thompson. Listenably, the two parts were composed at a different time and stuck together later, but this doesn't hurt at all - especially regarding the beautiful vocals and the quiet but effective dulcimer melody in the background.

Cajun Woman picks up Richard Thompson's cajun influences again, but implants them into a spicy rock'n'roll with an unleashed Thompson on electric slide guitar, duelling a wee bit with Dave Swarbrick on violin. Drummer Martin Lamble is in fine form in this track as well, propelling the song further on with some accurate kick drum eights.

A Sailor's Life surely wasn't the first time that traditional folk and rock music were fused (according to my research this award goes to The Byrds' He Was A Friend of Mine and The Beach Boys' Sloop John B), but it was the first time that an extended jam of thorny and rootsy psychedelic rock was built around an old folk melody. At 12 minutes length with one mere chord stretching through the whole track, the whole effect it makes is rather 'static'. Violinist Dave Swarbrick and guitarist Richard Thompson throw tiny licks and scalic fragments at each other rather than working around melodies, which makes this track a nearly jazzy affair. A comparison of the rhythmically vague vocal melody and the (similarly vague) melody of Reynardine, a track on the band's next record, however, shows why the latter sounds better to my ears: in Reynardine the melody isn't cast into a steady rhythmic frame and it is gilded a lot more with atmospheric sounds. I marvel a lot at Thompson's and Swarbrick's eccentric interplay and also at the doubtless historical importance of this recording, but listening through the whole track is a pretty tiring thing.

Interestingly, there is even more Dylan material on this CD, apart from Si Tu Dois Partir. At first, there is a rendition of Dylan's lengthy 1963 outtake Percy's Song and the Basement Tapes relic Million Dollar Bash. Not used for the original album, but tried in the studio were the already widely known Dear Landlord from Dylan's 1967 album John Wesley Harding and, shortly after the album sessions, Ballad of Easy Rider, the collaboration of Dylan and Roger McGuinn (of The Byrds) for the film of the same title. But the question which puzzles me is why the band chose these particular Dylan tracks. The British Dylan management outpost allowed the band to listen through nearly the whole Basement Tapes which Dylan recorded with The Band in late 1967. But instead of covering Too Much Of Nothing or another one of the meatier Basement tracks they rather stuck to older Dylan songs - the only Basement choice being the pretty empty Million Dollar Bash, a country throwaway without a discernible melody, apart from the catchy chorus. Nonetheless, the other Dylan songs are good - if strange - choices. Percy's Song itself is a perfect song, perfectly arranged by the band and succeeding extremely well in wrapping the listener in the ever-returning 'turn, turn, turn again/turn, turn, to the rain and the wind' chorus. But, compared with the wonderful BBC version, the harmony vocals - especially of Iain Matthews who left the band during the sessions - get lost in the mix, just like the dulcimer which doesn't feel completely in line with the full-on rock band line-up. A very good song it is nevertheless.

The two bonus tracks are welcome additions to the original album. Dear Landlord, always reminding me of Dylan's earlier composition Ballad of a Thin Man, is an incredibly haunting and dark piece of country-inflicted American music, and this rendition showcases Sandy Denny's ability of augmenting songs with a low and brooding piano backing - she would later add to Richard Thompson's debut solo album in the same way. The sophisticated melody is completely in Denny's vocal range and bassist Ashley Hutchings, - as usual - never playing a note if it's not doubtlessly essential for the song, is actually more in the foreground than the two guitars.

Ballad of Easy Rider actually doesn't belong to this CD since it was one of the earliest recordings for the Liege and Lief sessions, already tracked with Dave Mattacks on the drums. I wholeheartedly agree that the song would be tout a fait deplaced in the context of Liege and Lief, so I am quite content with it being added to this release. Originally, it was written in a fast 2/4 country signature, but Fairport Convention transformed it into a weary and forworn 3/4 measure, stretching the whole running time to twice the length, including a really moody guitar solo by Richard Thompson. The summer of 1969 was the time when the whole band hit rock bottom after an accident in which Richard Thompson's girlfriend and drummer Martin Lamble were killed. I'm sure that the depressive state which the band was in is the reason why this song is possibly the saddest and most disheartened recording I know from this band. Dave Mattacks, later a most wanted studio drummer with an unbelievable punch and sense for spectacular fills, plays quite unobstrusively, too. The diffidence with which the band covers this pastoral anthem of freedom makes this song an essential listen for every friend of folk rock.

Taken together, Unhalfbricking is by no means an dissatisfying album, but it's also not among the best ones which this prolific band achieved to record. People who think they might enjoy a fairly eccentric and often whimsical take on folk rock with a fair amount of great and more reflective songs will surely like this album. In its totality it's not an essential listen, but there are enough numbers on this album which totally prove why this band is considered one of the greatest on the borderline between folk and rock music.

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 What We Did On Our Holidays by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.64 | 60 ratings

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What We Did On Our Holidays
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 12.5/15P. A consistent collection of beautifully-crafted and rootsy original compositions plus a broadband choice of covers makes up a perfect soundtrack for a cozy winter evening. Each song is different, but all of them go together perfectly well. And - best of all - no psychedelic experiments to spoil the enjoyment!

This album is so much of a piece that I would do it harm if I deconstructed it the same way I'm inclined to do it otherwise. In 1968, a time in which the clash of Indian folk, west coast psychedelia, folk and rock music resulted in a lot of messy albums, it is rare that you find an album which shows a self-confident and mature band with classy compositions instead of sitar solos and strange Vaudeville songs. This album, picking up songs and influences from both sides of the Atlantic ocean, has a remarkable dignity to it - a clerical atmosphere in the reverberated harmony vocals of Sandy Denny and Iain Matthews (as in Book Song), a grievous power of the swampy Delta sound in You're Gonna Need My Help and The Lord is in this Place (recorded by Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson in a church in a vocals-plus-slide-guitar lineup) and the melodicism of Scottish pipers and balladeers in the two British folk adaptations and, actually, in most of Richard Thompson's lead guitar parts.

And it was also Richard Thompson, 18 years old at that time, who provided the slightly psychedelic pop song Tale in Hard Time which includes wonderfully entangled guitar drones in the beginning and the end in addition to the heavenly vocals, a lovely harpsichord in the background and the slightly twisted rhythm. It's actually my favorite tune on the record, if I think it over for a little while. Book Song, on the surface, looks like one casual American country ballad, but due to its ethereal atmosphere and the chilly reversed-played guitar tracks it is on one level with Gram Parsons' best ballads on the Burrito Brothers' debut album. Curiously there are some seconds of sitars and Hammond organ in front of and after the song, but these seconds turn out to be quite tuneful. No Man's Land dips into Cajun music, a genre which you do not regularly listen to when you are a rock listener. Cajun music is the product of an accomodation of the upbeat and often accordion-dominated folk music of French migrants to the new homeland which they strove to inhabit, an area we now call Louisiana. It was also Richard Thompson who brought in these influences, building them into an unusual pop song with some Byrds influences.

Actually I'd also suggest that this album is a lot more appealing than the critically acclaimed Unhalfbricking. Compared with the overlong and rhythmically unstable A Sailor's Life, the two folk songs on What We Did On Our Holidays are concise and haunting, Nottamun Town with drummer Martin Lamble's fiddle accents, four-part harmonies and Thompson's rapid acoustic guitar shredding in a more medieval way, She Moved Through the Fair rather echoing Bert Jansch and Shirley Collins with the hushed and jazz-influenced Gibson lead guitar and Sandy Denny's stellar and utterly British vocal delivery. The Unhalfbricking track Who Knows Where The Time Goes?, in a way, also pales a wee bit compared with the Dylan cover I'll Keep It With Mine which is, in Fairport's heavily assimilated and piano-backed version, doubtlessly the precursor to the later band interpretation of that Sandy Denny track. I'll Keep it With Mine is 6 beautiful minutes of folk rock with also explain a bit which role the inconspicuous rhythm guitarist Simon Nicol played in this stage of the group's biography. Without any doubt Who Knows Where The Time Goes features a sufficient amount of own ideas and beautiful hooks, as proved by her gorgeous solo demo recorded in 1967, but the Fairport version from 1969 just gives Sandy too little space to shine. Sandy Denny's composition Fotheringay, perhaps as unusual an album opener as The Band's Tears of Rage which was published around the same time, gives the band the opportunity to work on the more classical aspects of folk music. The song deals with Queen Mary I of Scotland, a person quite important in the 16th century politics of England and Scotland, a time in which - to say the least - the situation between the British and the Scottish was more tense than one could imagine it today. In the folk rock genre these realms, be it genuine minnesongs or just songs with a more scholastic approach towards history, are less frequently ventured into than the dances and ballads of the working class - and don't get me wrong, it's actually the working class material which I, thanks to folklore collectors Roud and MacColl etc., have the closest relation to.

Bandleader Ashley Hutching's Mr.Lacey, though saved from banality by Nicol's and Thompson's properly concerted double guitar work and the bizarre lyrics mentioning British inventor Bruce Lacey, is slightly out of place on this album. I surely wouldn't miss it if the band kept it in the vaults; after all, Ashley Hutchings always did best when he arranged the music, not when he composed it. * Simon Nicol's brief acoustic guitar instrumental End of A Holiday, however, is a superb closer to this album. Quiet and delivered with understatement, it's a nice coda to the enthusiastic anthem Meet on the Ledge, which is really good, but at the moment in my opinion not - as most people profess - one of the very best songs in the Fairport Convention repertoire. Nonetheless it received some further bitterness - along with the 1967 track M1 Breakdown - when drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend died in an accident on the M1 motorway in early 1969. Jack Bruce dedicated his first solo album to Thompson's girlfriend, and Ashley Hutchings - injured heavily as well - left the band to start a huge number of utterly successful folk rock projects afterwards.

The bonus tracks, apart from the commercial and, after all, quite superficial Bryant song Some Sweet Day, show Fairport Convention as an unexpectedly proficient blues rock band, Throwaway Street Puzzle in a more West Coast fashion than the gruff You're Gonna Need My Help. The former - never at all a throwaway track even though it's a b-side - convinces with fine distorted blues harp playing and a tricky guitar lick which is better than the actual guitar solo, the latter features hypnotic percussion work and electric slide guitar, never keeping the matter too far away from the sound of Led Zeppelin on III and IV.

I won't give this album a full five star rating because of the minor faults already mentioned and, actually, because this rating wouldn't feel correct. For sure, this shouldn't keep you from buying this excellent record which is at least as important as the group's seminal Liege and Lief album, and nearly as moving and haunting as the less seminal, but more tightly crafted recordings in the Mattacks-Nicol-Swarbrick-Thompson-Pegg lineup (1970). Most importantly, this album doesn't get its noteworthiness merely from its historical relevance, but also by its rustic beauty which exposes itself in many different directions.

* [In this respect I cannot recommend enough what great achievements Mr. Hutchings made with his Albion Country Band and related projects. Every rock music listener looking for music of the most independent kind may expect a completely new listening experience: the work of a man who got so much absorbed in the British music that he was able to unite dozens of different musicians over the years - from first-row folk revivalists in the vein of Martin Carthy (who inspired Bob Dylan quite a lot) onto Canterbury musicians Lol Coxhill and Ric Sanders - to revive the strangest British traditions such as the Morris dancing. Start with the Morris On album from 1972, if you wish to explore this kind of music.]

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