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Fairport Convention - The Five Seasons CD (album) cover


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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "Gold is the lowest of metals, too soft for serious use"

The Fairport line up which recorded this album was one of the most stable and long lasting in the band's history. This was the fifth album (hence the title perhaps) recorded since 1985 by Nicol, Pegg, Mattacks, Allcock and Sanders. While not exactly breaking new ground (we would not really expect them to now would we), this is a fine collection of songs which should please both the devoted fan and the inquisitive with a taste for folk.

The opening "Claudy banks" is a superb mid-paced traditional folk tale which affords each of the band members space to introduce themselves. This 6 minute song has a memorable melody and a timeless quality.

There are inevitably a few more ubiquitous numbers, and the Lowe/White penned "All your beauty" falls into this category. Those with an inkling for Fairport's jigs and reels will no doubt be delighted by the "Cup of tea. . ." medley, which draws in banjo, accordion, mandolin and violin among others.

The ballad "Gold" has a passing similarity to Ralph McTell's "Red and gold", a song also covered by Fairport. The song takes a pragmatic look at the true value of the precious metal, songwriter Peter Blegvad dreaming that "accountants are rarer than poets". The pace remains downbeat for "Rhythm of the time", a track omitted from the original LP version of the album due to lack of space. While the song is atmospheric and well performed, it does feel a bit ordinary. The writer of the song, Dave Whetsone, would go on to work with Maartin Allcock after the latter had left Fairport.

"The card song/shuffle the pack" is a traditional song with entertaining lyrics and a strong folk rock rhythm. The second of the instrumental tracks, "Mock Morris '90" is once again based around three short jigs and reels, credited to band violinist Ric Saunders. The first part, "The green man", is similar to "Bridge over the river ash", while "The Cropredy badger" and "Molly on the jetty" are more traditional toe-tappers.

A second Dave Whetsone composition "Sock in it" features the most cynical lyrics on the album such as "So don't leave your chickens when the vixen's on the hill, 'cos when you turn your back, you know she's gonna make her kill". Once again, the song is perfunctory rather than impressive, the heavy beat failing to distract from the rather ordinary tune.

"Ginnie", is a cover of Huw Williams song "Geordie will dance the jig". This soft folk number suits Simon Nicol's voice well, the instrumentation being kept respectfully unintrusive behind him. The album closes with "The wounded whale", another epic story song, this time written by legendary Scottish folk singer Archie Fisher ("The man with a rhyme"). Unusually for Fairport, the song features Maartin Allcock playing string synthesiser giving the song a symphonic feel at times while retaining its traditional sea-faring values.

The Talking Elephant CD re-issue has one bonus track, "Caught a whisper", another Whetsone song, this time recorded live at Cropredy in 1994.

In all, another enjoyable album by Fairport who by this time are well away from their prog folk days. Those familiar with their work from the mid-1980's on should enjoy this album.

Report this review (#177401)
Posted Sunday, July 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Not all of the beauty is on the outside

My version of this has a much better covert art than the one shown here. But not all the beauty is on the outside as one of the songs has it.

The Wounded Whale is an absolutely excellent and very progressive song. It has a very strong melody and powerful Rock drums and electric and acoustic guitars as well as symphonic keyboards in the background. The lyrics bring you straight to the wild ocean and images of the "leviathan" (the great whale) are brought to mind instantly. The song begins in a mellow and slow mood and builds from there. Piano enters and the drums changes into marching rhythms. The song continues to build both lyrically and musically to a strong climax with a good electric guitar solo that imitates whale noises to great effect. A perfect combination of musical and lyrical storytelling!

The rest of the album does not quite hold up compared to this excellent closing song, however. The ballads are among the best songs here. The piano ballad Gold and the slow Rhythm Of The Time are very nice. The two up tempo medleys are good, but less good than many similar ones found on this great band's other albums. Mock Morris too is not among the band's better fiddle-based instrumentals, but it is a good one still. Unfortunately, it is a little bit too long and slightly repetitive. Sock In It is downright awful and is best avoided altogether. Ginnie, on the other hand, is a decent song apart from the cheesy lyrics. Somehow this song reminds me of Asia's The Smile Has Left Your Eyes. I can almost imagine John Wetton singing this song!

Five Seasons is clearly worth it for The Wounded Whale alone, and the rest is not too bad either. It is hardly progressive, though. Overall, this is probably the least good album of the otherwise quite strong late 80's and 90's period of Fairport Convention. Both Red & Gold and particularly Jewel In The Crown are much better albums for the Prog fan to start with.

Good, but not essential

Report this review (#194649)
Posted Monday, December 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Another solid Fairport album from the group's Maartin Allcock era (1985-96) which starts off with a bang with a great hard rocking arrangement of the traditional song Claudy Banks that packs great vocal and musical hooks as well as loud killer drums from the always impressive Dave Mattacks (why a metal band never sought out his talents is a mystery, at least bands like XTC did) and a great vocal from Simon Nicol that keeps you glued to this six minute track.

The band returns to more familiar musical ground on excellent songs like Gold and Rhythm Of The Time, along with the instrumental romp Mock Morris '90, before the band stumbles into the album's only mistake, a hard rock song with corny lyrics titled Sock It To Me.

The band make up for that one blunder with the album's mock orchestral closing song the emotionally moving The Wounded Whale, which just might be FC's only true progressive rock song ever recorded. Not quite as good as the albums Red And Gold or the exceptional Jewel In The Crown which followed, The Five Seasons easily continued FC's eighties and nineties musical renaissance. 3 stars.

Report this review (#1397110)
Posted Saturday, April 11, 2015 | Review Permalink

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