Fairport Convention, the legendary band who originated British folk-rock, celebrate their golden anniversary this year. When Fairport takes the stage on Saturday 27 May 2017 for their birthday concert at the Union Chapel in Islington it will be fifty years to the day since their first-ever gig.
Formed by Ashley Hutchings in 1967’s “summer of love”, Fairport Convention is one of the few touring bands with an unbroken history stretching back five decades. They have been performing and recording more or less constantly since their inception.
Fairport Convention has been one of the most influential UK bands in popular music and has nurtured the careers of some great names, among them Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Dave Swarbrick.
The band saw many changes of personnel during its early years but Fairport Convention’s current line-up has been together since 1998. Simon Nicol, lead singer and guitarist, is the only founding member still with Fairport; bass player Dave Pegg has been in the band since 1970.
To mark its fiftieth anniversary year, Fairport Convention will be releasing a new album. Titled 50:50@50, half the tracks are studio recordings of brand-new songs and half are live performances from Fairport’s core repertoire. The album features guest vocals from Robert Plant and Jacqui McShee.
Fairport will hit the road in January on a UK-wide tour which starts at the prestigious Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow. A second tour in early summer will include the birthday concert on 27 May before the band’s year culminates at their own music festival at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, in August. Fairport’s headline set will see past members joining the current line-up on stage for a reunion performance.
“Fifty years after I first heard them the mighty Fairport Convention still sound as good as ever.” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2
According to the BBC Music website, Fairport Convention is “…undoubtedly one of the most influential folk collectives to have ever existed.”
Fairport’s seminal albums Unhalfbricking and Liege & Lief (both released in 1969) originated a whole new genre of music, British folk-rock, which celebrated English roots by combining traditional folk songs and tunes with amplified rock instruments.
This genre’s influence has percolated down the years touching artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin and Devendra Banhart, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons, Seth Lakeman and Ryley Walker.
Radio 2 listeners voted Liege & Lief “The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’”
Mojo magazine listed Liege & Lief at number 58 in its list of “100 Records That Changed the World”.
Fairport’s story has been celebrated with several radio and TV documentaries and the band has won a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award.
Folking has just had word of the new deluxe edition of Fairport Convention’s fabulous 1975 recording, Rising For The Moon, an album that marked the only studio recording with Sandy Denny and the band members since her return to the group in 1974.
In 1969, the “classic” Fairport line-up recorded and released three albums (What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief) all within a single year. At the end of that frenetic period, Sandy quit the band to form Fotheringay, This again was short-lived as Sandy soon embarked on a distinguished solo career (some of these albums have also been released as Deluxe Edition series) before being drawn back into Fairport fold. She ‘officially’ re-joined in February 1974 during a four night stint at LA’s Troubadour club. A remarkable live recording of this legendary shows form part of this new release released and can be found on the second disc on this new edition of Rising For The Moon.
It was 26 January 1974, when Fairport became the first rock band to play the Sydney Opera House, the Nine album line-up (featuring: Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks, Trevor Lucas, and Jerry Donahue) had been augmented by Sandy Denny, who was now married to Lucas. The result was the ground breaking Fairport Live Convention album (released in America as A Moveable Feast) which confirmed how much the band had benefited from having Sandy back on board. Then only weeks later, Sandy was fully integrated into the band again and the LA Troubadour dates present a Fairport that was at the top of its game. As was often the case with Fairport’s luck in the seventies, the band’s perilous financial situation meant that they couldn’t afford to purchase the tapes from Wally Heider’s Mobile organisation. Over the years, odd selections trickled out but it was only on the 2010 definitive 19 CD Sandy Denny box-set that the tracks featuring Sandy were properly mixed to their natural audible glory. Now, with additional performances by Trevor Lucas and Dave Swarbrick included, fans can enjoy this brief but memorable line-up at its absolute best.
The set list at the Troubadour is also unusual in that it was substantially different to the songs performed on Fairport Live Convention. In fact the recording features several songs that the band have never performed again including: Trevor Lucas’ ‘Ballad Of Ned Kelly’ originally on the ‘Fotheringay’ album, and ‘Down Where The Drunkards Roll’ (Trevor had sung background vocals on the original version on Richard and Linda Thompson’sI Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight). Sandy performs a passionate version of Dylan’s ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ and her own ‘Crazy Lady Blues’ performed here with an added verse and, dipping into the Fairport back-catalogue, with a haunting ‘She Moves Through The Fair’.
Further highlights include ‘Solo’ and ‘Like An Old Fashioned Waltz’ from Sandy’s third album, and a spirited cover of Dylan’s ‘Down In The Flood’. Swarb delivers an effortless version of the ‘The Hens March through the Midden’ and a spirited break-necked performance of ‘The Hexamshire Lass’. Sandy’s signature ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ is there in all its majesty as well as a definite version of ‘Matty Groves’. The band also rocks out on ‘Six Days On The Road’ and ‘That’ll Be The Day’.
With Sandy back in the band, Island Records made a greater commitment to Fairport’s next studio recording and, to that end, Glyn Johns was brought in as producer for Fairport’s 10th studio album. Johns’ pedigree was impeccable: Rolling Stones, Beatles, the Who, the Eagles… and was emphatic that he wanted the new sessions to include only original material with no covers or traditional material.
The album was recorded at Olympic Studios in two blocks. The first sessions began in December 1974, but during a break in January, Dave Mattacks quit and was replaced by ex-Grease Band drummer Bruce Rowland, who played on the remaining tracks and stayed on for the tours following the album release in June 1975.
The album included songs from all members of the band although seven of the album’s eleven tracks were penned in whole or partly by Sandy. Johns made them rehearse the new material, then sifted through to find the best and, on many levels, Rising For The Moon was indeed a triumph. Sandy is in fine vocal form; the band gels instrumentally and songs like the title track, ‘Stranger To Himself’ and ‘One More Chance’ (featuring blistering guitar from Jerry Donahue) are among Fairport’s best ever. Swarb’s ‘White Dress’ was sufficiently strong and was chosen as the album’s only 7” single.
Even Sandy – though happy with the finished album – recognised that the financial and personal strain it had put on the band made a split inevitable and by the end of 1975 guitarist Jerry Donahue and then Sandy and Trevor decided to leave the group. The original Rising For The Moon is now ripe for reappraisal whereas at the time it raised the question was it a Sandy Denny album or a Fairport album? Of course it’s both and, whichever way you look at it, it is one of Fairport’s and Sandy’s best and most underrated records.
Now enriched on this Deluxe edition by 21 additional tracks – including; a beautiful, previously unreleased performance of ‘White Dress’ (discovered in the LWT archive), an alternate mix of ‘Dawn’; a studio demo with Sandy and Trevor of ‘What Is True’; plus Sandy’s home demos of ‘After Halloween’, and ‘King And Queen Of England’, the latter written for the album but never recorded.
The album reviews at the time were largely positive. The Guardian judged the album “their best for six years… it ought to re-establish Fairport as a significant British band.” In the end it wasn’t to be; the rigours of touring and financial problems essentially drove the band to split. A truncated Fairport went on to record their final album for Island, Gottle O’ Gear, and in 1976, Jerry Donahue went off to work with Joan Armatrading; Trevor went on to produced Sandy’s 1977 album, Rendezvous; but within a year Sandy was dead and the folk scene lost its greatest heroine. Despite her solo success, the Sandy many of her admirers remember with most fondness is the lady who fronted Fairport Convention during their glory years. So here then, are the beautiful songs she wrote and the music she made with the band second time around.
01: RISING FOR THE MOON ( 4.08 )
02: RESTLESS ( 4.01 )
03: WHITE DRESS ( 3.44 )
04: LET IT GO ( 2.00 )
05: STRANGER TO HIMSELF ( 2.51 )
06: WHAT IS TRUE ? ( 3.33 )
07: IRON LION ( 3.27 )
08: DAWN ( 3.42 )
09: AFTER HALLOWEEN ( 3.38 )
10: NIGHT-TIME GIRL ( 2.56 )
11: ONE MORE CHANCE ( 7.58 )
12: WHITE DRESS ( 3:24 ) Live on LWT – 9/8/1975
13: DAWN – ALTERNATE VERSION ( 4:11 )
14: WHAT IS TRUE ? – STUDIO DEMO ( 3:16 )
15: AFTER HALLOWEEN – DEMO ( 3:00 )
16: THE KING AND QUEEN OF ENGLAND – HOME DEMO ( 3:12 )
DISC TWO – LIVE AT THE LA TROUBADOUR
01: DOWN IN THE FLOOD ( 3:13 )
02: BALLAD OF NED KELLY ( 3:59 )
03: SOLO ( 5:40 )
04: IT’LL TAKE A LONG TIME ( 5:35 )
05: SHE MOVES THROUGH THE FAIR ( 4:09 )
06: THE HENS MARCH THROUGH THE MIDDEN & THE FOUR POSTER BED (3:17 )
07: THE HEXAMSHIRE LASS ( 2:44 )
08: KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVENS DOOR ( 4:33 )
09: SIX DAYS ON THE ROAD ( 3:38 )
10: LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED WALTZ ( 4:19 )
11: JOHN THE GUN ( 5:10 )
12: DOWN WHERE THE DRUNKARDS ROLL ( 4:14 )
13: CRAZY LADY BLUES ( 3:54 )
14: WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES ( 6:54 )
15: MATTY GROVES ( 7:05 )
16: THAT’LL BE THE DAY
Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront