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Symphonic Team
3 stars Who knows where the Prog fans went?

After having been quite impressed with this band's 1995 album Jewel In The Crown, I started to investigate the few releases that surrounded it; the previous two albums Red And Gold and Five Seasons from 1989 and 1990 respectively as well as this subsequent one from 1997. I must say that I was quite surprised of what I found. While none of these albums are as good as the excellent Jewel In The Crown, all these albums are good and they beat many, if not most, Fairport albums from the 60's and 70's, in my opinion! (I will now continue to investigate this band's 80's and 00's releases as well.)

Who Knows Where The Time Goes? is another good, latter-day Fairport Convention album. There is the familiar mix between instrumental up-tempo jigs and more conventional Folk rock songs. Some songs here rock quite hard for Fairport standards and there is a strong presence of electric guitar - very well played. And together with fiddle that creates a quite powerful sound. This is clearly more rock than Folk. As on the other recent albums, the instrumental attack includes some non-standard instruments like electric piano, mandolin, clavinet, harpsichord, harmonium and others. But I would not say that this is progressive rock, but Prog related is a very appropriate characterisation of the band and I am certain that I am not the only Prog fan who would enjoy this music.

Compared to the concept album that was Jewel In The Crown, I would say that this album is slightly less progressive, slightly less consistent and slightly less good overall. But this is still very good. The first seven songs here are great, but the album tends to slightly lose its direction towards the end. There is a cover of Jethro Tull's Life's A Long Song, which is an interesting choice, but does not add very much to the original. It is clear that there is a strong mutual appreciation between Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull which makes this band interesting for Jethro Tull fans.

There are two live bonus tracks on my CD version and I strongly recommend to skip them! Heard It Through The Grape Vine is awful and totally out of place and does not fit the band's style at all.

Go for Jewel In The Crown first, and if you like that one you will not be disappointed with Who Knows Where The Time Goes? It is quite surprising how well these latter-day albums hold up with classics like Full House or Babbacombe Lee.

Report this review (#207719)
Posted Wednesday, March 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Featuring the man who inspired the revolutions in the USA and France

Some time between the release of the excellent "Jewel in the crown" album in 1995, and this 1997 set, Maartin Alcock left the band. The five man line up was however preserved by the arrival of Chris Leslie, a multi-talented folk musician who lists Dave Swarbrick among those who have inspired him along the way. Apart from his ability to play a wide array of instruments, Leslie also brought with him his song writing talent, an aspect where the band had been deficient for some time, leaving them to rely on the work of others and of course traditional material.

This album is made up of 10 new recordings, plus a couple of interesting live tracks, of which more later. Leslie makes an immediate impression on the opening "John Gaudie", a song he composed based on a traditional story about a Shetlander who is hit on the head by a hammer. The track incorporates some traditional melodies affording Leslie the opportunity to display his fiddle abilities too. Simon Nicol's first vocal contribution is on Anna Ryder's fine folk ballad "Sailing boat". While never a full member of the band, Ryder has been around the band for a while, also writing and playing on the 35th anniversary release. Nicol is as usual in fine form on the song, which features an excellent mandolin accompaniment by Leslie.

The Steve Tilston composed "Here's To Tom Paine" is interesting more for the tale it tells than for the song itself. Thomas Paine is credited with being a founding father of the USA, who inspired revolutions both there and in France through his inspirational writing. The song mentions a statue of Paine in Thetford, Norfolk (UK), which is "blessed by pigeons". Ric Sanders proves that he is no slouch on the fiddle either with his self composed "The Bowman's retreat", an instrumental which he generously wrote with the intention that he and Leslie would play together to "celebrate him joining the band". The piece is a fine workout for both, similar to the old favourite "The four poster bed".

Interestingly, "Spanish man" was co-written by former member Maartin Alcock and his replacement Chris Leslie. The song is surprisingly heavy, with an offbeat rhythm; it also features some excellent lead guitar which is rather unfortunately cut off in full flow. "The golden glove" is the second of the folk ballads, again featuring Simon Nicol on lead vocal. The song pairs a traditional lyric with a melody written by Sally Barker. Sanders second instrumental composition is "Slipology", a piece dedicated to legendary comedian Spike Milligan.

"The wishfulness waltz" is indeed in waltz time, Chris' vocal being perfect for this delightful song with natural similarities to The Eagles "Hollywood waltz". The twin violins are used to fine effect here the track closing with a Benny Thomasson melody entitled "Midnight on the water". "Life's a long song" is of course a cover of the Jethro Tull hit single. The band's three singers take turns at lead vocal on the track, which offers a reassuringly different take on the piece. "Dangerous" is a wonderful story song written by American singer songwriter Kristina Olsen. The song displays her talent for an acerbically witty composition, Nicol's lead vocal bringing out the song's "bite" (Nicol's word) perfectly.

The final two tracks are live recordings. The cover of the Marvin Gaye hit "I heard it through the grapevine", recorded at Cropredy in 1995, is sensational. It brings back former member Richard Thompson on lead vocals, while also featuring Roy Wood's Big band. Maartin Allcock, who was still a member of the band at the time, also appears on keyboards. The album closes with a recording of the wonderful Sandy Denny song which gives this album its name. This version is from a gig in Canterbury, UK in 1997, Simon Nicol taking on lead vocal. The natural emotion in Nicol's great voice bring out the full majesty of the song.

In all, a fine collection of songs which range from the traditional to the modern Fairport and back to the old Fairport.

The album was later retitled as "The wishfulness waltz" and re-released with four further new recordings of old material.

Report this review (#441277)
Posted Sunday, May 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have the 2000 expanded version of this album called Wishfulness Waltz. Some of the new tracks were recorded at their annual Cropredy festival in 1997, while others were from the much older recordings that led to the album Full House, which features former members Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick. This is also the first album to feature new member Chris Leslie, who adds new dimensions to the band with his song-writing, mandolin, and fiddle.

The album opens with John Gaudie, presented as a mini-epic of five parts which runs less than six minutes. It is a great song that sets the mood for the album ? musically energetic story telling. It is a rollicking opener. The next track gives the other main characteristic of the album ? soft and reflective. Fairport has always been a band that could balance styles and approaches in a single album, and this one exemplifies that quality quite well. Somewhat oddly, I had heard three songs from this album from the Cropredy '98 album I bought when I saw the band some years back. These are also three of my favorite songs off the album. These are the above-mentioned John Gaudie, the instrumental The Bowman's Retreat, which I think defines what Fairport is all about, and the hard hitting Spanish Main, a song of love, betrayal, and murder performed in Fairport's heaviest manner. This song is not so much Prog Folk as it is Prog Metal. One of the highlights of the album is the live version of Heard It Through the Grapevine, performed with Richard Thompson. Brilliant version of the song. When it came on during the first listen, my wife turned to me and said, "I thought we were listening to Fairport Convention." Then she heard Richard Thompson's voice and said, "Oh."

As far as late Fairport albums go, I think this is one of the best, and think that bringing in Chris Leslie was a great move. This is not to say in any way that the band was languishing before this, because I don't believe they were. With its combination of soft and brisk tunes, fiddle duets, great singing, old rarities, and live recordings, Wishfulness Waltz has a lot to offer. Get this version, rather than the original 1997 release if you can. You will be glad for the extra tracks.

Report this review (#561894)
Posted Thursday, November 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The last of my later day Fairport Convention album reviews concludes with this gem from 1997. Who Knows Where The Time Goes is a transitional album that ushered in new man Chris Leslie before he put his own indelible stamp on the band's sound with own songwriter and lead vocals. This is also the last album to feature the mighty Dave Mattacks on drums and I don't think that it's a coincidence that album still maintains the more rocking sound that has a been a hallmark of the band's sound since he joined the FC for the Liege And Leif album way back in 1969. His energy seemed to invigorate the band, especially rhythm mate bassist Dave Pegg who is clearly animated on many of the albums tracks when it's appropriate.

The album starts off with a deft retelling of the British traditional song John Gaudie that's sung by new man Leslie and features many Trad. instrumentals as well as a catchy manic chorus. The evergreen Simon Nichol picks up vocal duties for now on starting with another Trad. tune reimagined in Fairport's image, but it's a fine ballad this time around titled Sailing Boat before the band cover's yet another great song from contemporary songwriter Steven Tilston before exploding into a wonderful jig penned by the ever enthusiastic Ric Sanders called The Bowman's Retreat. This song was written to feature both Sanders and new man Leslie trading violin leads which are done with speed and beauty.

The album also features one of the bands last hard rocking songs, Spanish Main, that feature both Nichol and Leslie on dealing electric guitars on the songs brief but stunning coda! It's that type of album.

As a bonus, the album includes and incredible live performance of the band doing a cover of the Motown standard Heard It Thru The Grapevine that's song with aplomb by former member Richard Thompson with horn accompanist and soulful female backing vocals on the chorus.

As if that wasn't enough, the album closes with a moving live edition of the Sandy Denny classic Who Know Where The Time Goes sung beautifully by Nichol. This is not a song he has sung live often, given the requirements of it's vocal range. I can only assume that this is a rare performance of the song performed by Nichol in which he absolutely nails it, as he pitch perfect.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes is another testimony to FC's eighties and nineties creative and performing resurgence and, more than that, it's an album that should be in the possession of every fan of Fairport Convention. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1397754)
Posted Sunday, April 12, 2015 | Review Permalink

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