Friday, February 4, 2011
Fairport Chronicles - Fairport Convention
A&M SP 3530
The crummy suburban town I spent my teenage years in did not have much of a record store. It was a typical mall-type record store, perhaps a chain one, I can't remember anymore. It didn't stock much of a back catalog or carry anything out of the ordinary which is why I was flabbergasted when I went in there and saw this sitting in the bin. I only knew Fairport Convention because of their entry in "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock" by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden which was basically my bible at the time. Their description of Fairport as the English Jefferson Airplane fascinated me since I was heavily into the Airplane. I was dying to hear them and I was thrilled to pick this up. By a lot of standards this is kind of a crappy compilation, it ignores much of their career including their debut album, their only hit single "Si Tu Dois Partir" and nearly all of the traditional songs they covered including such crucial ones as "A Sailor's Life," "Matty Groves" and "Sir Patrick Spens." Yet somehow it still works. The compilers have an agenda of sorts, basically championing the original vision of the band as a contemporary folk-rock outfit, celebrating the musical content of their second and third albums ("Fairport Convention" and "Unhalfbricking") before "Liege and Lief" changed them forever. They even throw in songs from splinter groups Fotheringay and the Bunch - all contemporary covers - that reflect this perspective as well as a song from Sandy Denny's solo album, "Sandy." 20 songs in total, only two traditional numbers and six covers. Only one song from "Angel Delight" and 2 from "Full House." 9 songs from the second and third album though. A greatest hits album without any hits. Instead it is a pointed and intelligent selection of songs from a hard luck band that never got the success it deserved. I loved it at the time and I love it still. It flows beautifully, it feels like an organic and cohesive whole even though it jumps all over the place temporally. All the songs are first rate. The liner notes are extensive, smart and informative. It is a wonderful introduction to Fairport. I've been a fan ever since I first heard it. Recommended to fans of the Band who wish they had been fronted by an enchanting woman singer with the most divine voice ever to grace a rock group.