Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-o-Meter: 3.25 out of 5
Well, they're pretty straight up folk rock by this point, but we did the last one so let's do this. The angelic-voiced Sandy Denny left just before Fairpoint Convention's "Full House" album, but they retained their classic status until guitarist Richard Thompson left a year or so later. Apparently Denny hated flying, so this window of time gave the band a chance to tour properly while still in their prime. This recording is smooth, if a touch muddy (as opposed to Heyday's crisp, but slightly warped sound) - it is in a echoey club. You'll hear Richard Thompson debuting the signature Fender Stratocaster sting that he's been successfully pushing for over forty years now (although I must admit I slightly prefer his 60's P90-driven Les Paul crunch), and Dave Swarbrick's fiddle is nicely front and center. You'll miss Denny's (and Ian Matthews) vocals if you think about it, but Thompson and Swarbrick are still pretty classic British folk rock vocalists in their own right.
"The Lark in the Morning Medley" and "Jenny's Chickens" are very folky instrumentals that have every right to be cheesy, but the fire under the collective ass of the Convention pushes it into the realm of amazing instead. Then "Sloth" develops into a twelve minute jam out that give the frontline instrumentalist to absolutely explode your minds. It's a little odd to hear Thompson belting out "Matty Groves." We'll get back to my earlier statement, though, that you'll only miss Sandy Denny if you really think about it.
This is not quite as essential as the Heyday set, but it's another one whose existence eluded my until my trip to the Ueda Departo last week. While Heyday lives up to its title, this one displays the fully focused instrumental firepower that the Convention possessed at their best.
P.S. - Pour out a little bit of your 40oz. for Dave Mattack's drumming here as well.
09 November 2014
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5
I came into Fairport Convention backwards. I've been a fan of Fariport's legendary guitarist Richard Thompson since high school and caught him and Roger McGuinn live in 1995, but I never really got to the band until a few years ago. Oops. The Convention has the rep of being Britain's prime folk rock band, but folks often forget that they started off as the country's answer to the Jefferson Airplane. With some serious instrumental firepower and Sandy Denny's fantastic vocals, they may be better in a live setting than on their already great studio albums. As a set of BBC sessions, there's a touch of studio work, but these recordings are basically live. The sound quality can be a touch iffy in places, and there are a few annoying on air announcements, but I might peg this disc as the best way to hear Fairport Convention (er... second best - I'd still give to top spot to Leige and Lief).
First off we've got some of the Convention's album tracks coming off fire-breathing here. "Fotheringay" and "Autopsy" sound fantastic, and "Tam Lin" is better than the studio track with Thompson's guitar ripping a hole through the universe. Would've done nice with "A Sailor's Life," but you can't get them all. The value added here is with the cover tunes. Producer Joe Boyd says in the liner notes that he basically told them to piss off with most of their cover choices, but they got them rolling at the BBC. I totally dig their takes on Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" and "Bird on a Wire," and they don't do so bad with Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" and Joni Mitchell's "I Don't Know Where I Stand," which they did on their debut album, but without Sandy Denny, who knocks it out of the park here.
Is this actually obscure? Maybe not. But it does need to be better known. I've been properly diggin' the Convention since 2010, but I only came across this in an oddball used record store last week.