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Fairport Convention - Festival Bell CD (album) cover


Fairport Convention


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2.49 | 9 ratings

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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.

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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