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Fairport Convention Fiddlestix, The Best of Fairport 1972-1984 album cover
4.05 | 2 ratings | 1 reviews | 50% 5 stars

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Fiddlestix (The Devil In The Kitchen/Jolly Tinker) ( 2:49)
2. Sir Patrick Spens (3:28)
3. Banks Of The Sweet Primroses (4:37)
4. The Plainsman ( 3:20)
5. The Hexhamshire Lass (2:31)
6. Polly On The Shore (4:56)
7. Days Of '49 (6:36)
8. Possibly Parsons Green (3:43)
9. Down In The Flood (3:23)
10. Rising For The Moon (4:08)
11. White Dress (3:44)
12. The Eynsham Poacher ( (2:25)
13. Adieu Adieu (2:30)
14. Three Drunken Maidens (2:39)
15. Reynard The Fox (2:59)
16. The Widow Of Westmorland's Daughter / Random Jig (3:18)
17. Close To The Wind (4:44)
18. It Suits Me Well (5:11)
19. Jenny's Chickens / The Mason's Apron (8:20)

Total time :75:06

Line-up / Musicians

See original albums for line up details

Releases information

Raven RVCD 47 (1998) Australia, now widely available elsewhere

Thanks to easy livin for the addition
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FAIRPORT CONVENTION Fiddlestix, The Best of Fairport 1972-1984 ratings distribution

(2 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(50%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (0%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

FAIRPORT CONVENTION Fiddlestix, The Best of Fairport 1972-1984 reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Fiddlin' about down under

This fine, if rather eclectic compilation was originally released in Australia in 1998. In recent years, it has become widely available in other territories, usually selling at a low price. Here we have no less than 19 Fairport songs taken from a 13 year period in their history. As such, the collection gathers in contributions from many of the Fairport greats, including Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, Trevor Lucas, Simon Nicol and many, many more.

Since the earliest songs here date from 1972, we have already skipped past some of Fairport's best albums such as "Liege and Lief", and "Unhalfbricking", but these are more than adequately covered on other collections such as "The history of Fairport Convention" and the superb "Meet on the ledge, the classic years". On the other hand there are a few rarities here, some with an Australian link, which will be of interest to Fairport fans.

The opening instrumental, here named "Fiddlestix", was an Australia only single. It was originally released there as the B-side of "Rosie" in 1973 under the "Fiddlestix" title then overdubbed, with strings being added, and released as the A-side of a single under the title "Devil in the kitchen". The piece itself is a fiddle led jig, which sound a little bizarre with the backing of the string section.

We are then treated to a couple of tracks from the 1977 live album "House full, Live at the LA Troubadour". These recordings actually date from 1970 when the band were on a promotional tour of the US, and as such feature Richard Thomson. The mixes of the songs ("Sir Patrick Spens" and "Banks of the sweet primroses") are slightly different to those on "House full".

Only one track from the "Rosie" album is afforded space here, but "The plainsman" is certainly a fine choice, being one of that album's highlights. The song takes its melody from the better known "Tramps and hawkers". Two tracks from "Nine" then follow, with "Polly on the shore" being the more interesting in prog folk terms. A couple of live rarities from late '73/early '74 follow. The recording of Trevor Lucas's adaptation of Bob Dylan's "Day's of '49" is taken from a Fairport performance at Sydney Opera House. The gig was important in the band's history, as it saw Sandy Denny return to the line up, a decision she only took en-route to Australia. Previously only available on a rare cassette "Together again" which was credited to Denny and Lucas, "Days of '49" harks back to the days when Fairport were heavily influenced by Dylan and the US folk sounds. The version of "Possibly Parsons Green" featured here is a live version recorded in London. The recording of "Down in the flood", another Dylan song, is also from the same tour. Once again, the song sounds decidedly un-Fairport like, Denny doing a passable impersonation of Dylan of helium.

Two tracks are included from "Rising for the moon", the 1975 album which saw Sandy recording in the studio with Fairport for the final time. The title track is a wonderful Denny composition which features superb violin played by Dave Swarbrick over a killer folk melody. Swarb writes the other song from taken the album "White dress", a lovely, gentle song clearly written with the perfect voice of Denny in mind.

A major reshuffling of the membership subsequently took place before "The bonny bunch of roses" appeared in 1977. In-between we had the sub-standard "Gottle o'geer" credited to Fairport (no Convention). The two tracks from "Bonny bunch of roses" included here, "The Eynsham poacher" and "Adieu, adeui" are among the strongest on the album, both having survived in the band's live repertoire for many years.

Three tracks from the following "Tippler's tales" are present here. "Three drunken maidens", subtly changed from its more usual "Four drunken maidens" title, is a frisky piece of Fairport fun with suitable instrumentation. "Reynard the fox" features three part harmony vocals by Swarb, Pegg and Nicol, while "The widow of Westmoreland" sees Swarbrick taking lead vocal alone but double tracked, the song being in the best traditions of "The bonny black hare". The vocal melody is counter-pointed by "Random jig" played on fiddle.

Around 1979, Fairport was effectively in the process of being wound up. Swarbrick and Nicol worked on an album together, the title track of which ("Close to the wind") featuring all the then Fairport members. The track is therefore included on this compilation although technically it was never credited to the band. The song is a fine reflective number written by Stuart Marson, with suitably traditional lyrics and a further reference to Australia!

In 1981, the line up which recorded the "Full house" album got back together in the studio. The results were never released under the Fairport name, but appeared on a couple of Dave Swarbrick's solo albums. "It suits me well" was included on his otherwise all instrumental "Smiddyburn" album. Swarb sings lead vocal on the song, which was written by Sandy Denny and thus becomes a tribute to her here.

The final track is the 8 minute "Jenny's chickens/The mason's apron". This recording dates from 1972 and the line up which recorded "Nine". This version is a previously unreleased BBC recording from a folk club in London, UK. The piece is reminiscent of Dave Edmunds never ending romp through "Sabre dance".

In all, a fine compilation which has been put together with great thought and care. The balance between rare tracks and selected songs from albums is just about right. The accompanying booklet includes extensive sleeve notes detailing the band history throughout the period under review.

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