Album Info

April 02, 2007
Universal Gmbh
Pop/Rock, Folk-Rock, British Folk, British Folk-Rock, Progressive Folk, Psychedelic

Album Review

Is a four-CD box set of Fairport Convention 1967-1974 BBC recordings excessive? After all, even the Beatles only got two CDs of Beeb tracks into official release. But it really isn't too much for fans of the band, for the quality of most of the stuff here is truly good, even if the very best of it was already issued on the Heyday compilation. There's a lot more here, however. While the expanded Heyday CD contains 20 tracks from 1968-1969, this offers a relatively whopping 69, and where Heyday focused exclusively on late-'60s sessions done while Sandy Denny was in the lineup (which was admittedly their peak era), this has a few recordings predating Denny's entrance into Fairport, as well as quite a few post-dating her departure (and a few from when she briefly rejoined the group in the mid-'70s). Most important of all, this has quite a few songs, particularly folk-rock cover versions from the late '60s, that didn't make it onto official Fairport Convention releases of the time. Certainly the first two discs of the set are the strongest, as all but three of the tracks date from the 1968-1969 Denny era. If you're already heard Heyday, you know how good some of these gems are, like their superb interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," and their fine reworkings of songs by Richard FariƱa ("Reno, Nevada"), the Everly Brothers, Gene Clark ("Tried So Hard"), Eric Andersen ("Close the Door Lightly When You Go"), Bob Dylan ("Percy's Song"), Johnny Cash ("I Still Miss Someone"), and Joni Mitchell ("I Don't Know Where I Stand"), as well as quality originals like "Autopsy" and "Shattering Live Experience." This set includes a few other goodies, however, some of which were previously on bootlegs and benefit from much-improved sound here (Joni Mitchell's "Eastern Rain," "Marcie," and "Night in the City"), and one of which ("Jack of Diamonds," an obscure Bob Dylan lyric set to music by Ben Carruthers from their first LP) had never even previously shown up on those old bootlegs. It's true the blues songs "You're Gonna Need My Help" and "If It Feels Good You Know It Can't Be Wrong" are kind of lame, but at least they preserve one aspect of the early band's repertoire. It's also true that disc three (all taken from 1970-1974 sessions) pales a little in comparison to the first pair of CDs, but these do document Fairport's transition to a much more English traditional folk-oriented group, with Denny re-entering on the four songs from 1974. The fidelity on disc four (subtitled "Off Air") is indeed taken from off-air recordings rather than original tapes, and has noticeably poorer fidelity, though it's actually not that bad. Even these performances, however (some of which found prior release on the Fairport Unconventional box set, as had a few other stray tracks from the first three discs), are quite enjoyable, with eight songs done in 1967-1968 when Judy Dyble was still in the lineup. Some of these songs, too, Eric Andersen's "Violets of Dawn," Bob Dylan's "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" -- never found release on their official albums, and there are other highlights (or at least intriguing oddities) like their December 1968 send-up of "Light My Fire" and a 1970 version of "Tam Lin" with male lead vocals (though Denny had taken the lead on the familiar studio recording). In all, this is essential for Fairport fans, and is not solely or primarily of historical interest, making for quite fine listening on its own terms.
Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Close the Door Lightly When You Go
  2. I Don't Know Where I Stand
  3. Some Sweet Day
  4. You Never Wanted Me
  5. Nottamun Town
  6. Marcie
  7. Night in the City
  8. Jack O' Diamonds
  9. Gone, Gone, Gone
  10. Suzanne
  11. If It Feels Good, You Know It Can't Be Wrong
  12. Eastern Rain
  13. Fotheringay
  14. I Still Miss Someone
  15. Bird on a Wire
  16. Tried So Hard
  17. Reno Nevada
  18. Book Song
  19. Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
  20. You're Gonna Need My Help
  21. Fotheringay
  22. Shattering Live Experience
  23. Cajun Woman
  24. Autopsy
  25. Si Tu Dois Partir [Live]
  26. Percy's Song
  27. Reynardine
  28. Tam Lin
  29. Sir Patrick Spens
  30. Medley: The Lark in the Morning/Rakish Paddy/Foxhunter's Jig/Toss the F
  31. The Lady Is a Tramp
  32. Walk Awhile
  33. Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman [Live]
  34. Doctor of Physick
  35. Sir Patrick Spens
  36. The Bonny Bunch of Roses
  37. Dirty Linen (Jigs and Reels)
  38. Now Be Thankful
  39. The Journeyman's Grace [Live]
  40. Now Be Thankful
  41. Tokyo
  42. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  43. Possibly Parsons Green
  44. Rosie [Live]
  45. John the Gun
  46. Fiddlestix
  47. Rising for the Moon
  48. Down in the Flood
  49. Let's Get Together
  50. One Sure Thing
  51. Lay Down Your Weary Tune
  52. Chelsea Morning
  53. Violets of Dawn
  54. If (Stomp)
  55. Time Will Show the Wiser
  56. If I Had a Ribbon Bow
  57. Meet on the Ledge
  58. Light My Fire
  59. Flatback Caper
  60. Open the Door Richard
  61. The Deserter
  62. The Hangman's Reel
  63. Tam Lin
  64. Sir William Gower
  65. Banks of the Sweet Primroses
  66. Sickness and Diseases
  67. Bridge Over the River Ash
  68. Lord Marlborough
  69. Angel Delight
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