Fairport Convention: Folk Heroes will be broadcast this month

Folk Heroes

Sky Arts is to broadcast a major television documentary to mark the fiftieth anniversary of legendary folk rock band Fairport Convention. Titled Fairport Convention: Folk Heroes, the 70-minute film will be transmitted at 9pm on Saturday 25 November 2017.

The film tells how five young musicians in North London formed Fairport Convention during 1967’s ‘summer of love’. The band went on to shake English folk music to its roots by fusing it with rock, an approach which outraged some purists but delighted a new and devoted audience.

In the subsequent five decades, Fairport Convention has attracted widespread critical acclaim, won a coveted BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, and Radio 2 listeners voted Fairport’s groundbreaking album Liege & Lief ‘The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’.

The documentary has been made by London-based independent producer Special Treats Productions. The company’s previous television music documentaries include XTC: This Is Pop, I’m Not In Love: The Story Of 10cc and the award-winning film UB40: Promises And Lies.

The film features rare archive interviews and footage as well as newly-filmed interviews with the current Fairport members and, among others, Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson, Iain Matthews, Judy Dyble, Joe Boyd, Ralph McTell, Maddy Prior, Bob Harris, Suggs, Rick Wakeman, Steve Winwood, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

Through these interviews, the film examines Fairport’s first five years in detail, including the tragic motorway crash which killed drummer Martin Lamble. It goes on to explain Fairport’s pivotal role in the evolution of British folk-rock; how the band fostered major talents such as Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick and spawned other notable bands including Matthews Southern Comfort, Steeleye Span, and Fotheringay.

The story is brought up to date with contemporary material filmed at Fairport’s annual ‘own brand’ music festival held at Cropredy in Oxfordshire. The closing sequence features the band’s 2017 festival performance when virtually all the surviving former members joined the current line-up on stage.

Producer/Director Charlie Thomas has been working closely with Fairport for over a year. He says: “Our aim is to explain how important Fairport’s influence has been and continues to be – in other words, why the band matters.

“We have not set out to make a comprehensive, year-by-year history of Fairport; that has been done before. The film concentrates on two periods – the first five years and the band today. The result is a celebration of a very British institution and an assertion of Fairport’s continuing relevance.”

Artists’ website: www.fairportconvention.com

STRAWBS – Prognostic (Witchwood WMCD 2056)

PrognosticWelcome to the Strawbs with attitude! This is not the stripped down acoustic folk that some may be familiar with. This is a powerhouse of progressive rock. The album consists of a re-release of five tracks from the albums Heartbreak Hill and The Broken Hearted Bride; lovingly remounted and remixed. In addition are four tracks previously unreleased.

The album opens with the back-catalogue tracks, starting with ‘Heartbreak Hill’. Hints of early Genesis and Yes throughout, but with the distinctive Strawbs’ stamp. David Cousin’s unique vocals weave intricate stories through the multi layered music. Each song is a mini epic; the only track under six minutes is ‘Tomorrow’, coming in at 4.29. The various sections through each song are carefully structured to provide a rich tapestry of sounds.

The musicianship is of the highest quality, which is only to be expected. There are even guest appearances by Conny Conrad and the legendary Rick Wakeman. Each song rivets your attention and leaves you in eager anticipation of the next track and the newer tracks are written and performed in exactly the same style as the older songs, so that the change from old to new is seamless

This album is a marvelous example of the Strawbs as a real prog rock force. Turn the volume up to 11, sit back, and immerse yourself in this glorious album.

Ron D Bowes

Artists’ website: http://www.strawbsweb.co.uk/

‘The River/Down By The Sea’ live in 2013. Different line-up but close:

And the original version of ‘Heartbreak Hill’:

DAVE COUSINS – Exorcising Ghosts


Exorcising Ghosts — the long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated autobiography by Dave Cousins, the enigmatic frontman and founder of British folk-rock band, The Strawbs — is to be published this September, distributed by Music Sales, the parent company of Omnibus Press, the world’s leading publisher of music-related books.

This explosive book promises to lift the lid on the highs and lows of Cousins’ celebrated 50-year music career. It charts how a working-class boy from West London came to sell out stadiums, discover Sandy Denny and Rick Wakeman; mix with iconic figures such as David Bowie, Richard Attenborough, and Dame Vera Lynn; meet royalty and gain the Pope’s blessings, and change the face of commercial radio in the UK.

Cousins details The Strawbs’ extraordinary rise from its beginnings in the revivalist folk scene of the 1960s to chart-topping success in the ‘70s after they became the first British band signed to A&M Records in Hollywood. And it reveals his struggles with music management and the impact of commercialism on his music.

For the first time, it also documents Cousins’ remarkable and little-known “parallel” career in radio and provides an insight into “machinations” that he believes destroyed community-based UK stations.

An essential read for Strawbs fans and music aficionados alike, Exorcising Ghosts explores the diverse personalities and relationships which have influenced Cousin’s songwriting, and contains a wealth of untold, ‘warts and all’ stories about his friends and collaborators, including:

  • Rick Wakeman (Strawbs, Yes)
  • Led Zeppelin
  • David Bowie
  • Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention)
  • Blue Weaver (Bee Gees)
  • Andy Richards (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)

Exorcising Ghosts follows the success of Secrets, Stories & Songs, an anthology of lyrics released by Cousins in 2010. It is, Cousins explains, a “document of its time, from post-war austerity to the present day”.

Cousins, who recently sailed on back-to-back rock cruises in April with the Moody Blues and with Yes, said: “I have found the experience unsettling and emotional, but cathartic at the same time. It has saved me a fortune in psychiatrists’ fees.

“I have discovered that there have been an equal number of peaks and troughs in my career. It’s been a rollercoaster ride!”

‘Hangman And The Papist’ a classic Strawbs song featuring Rick Wakeman

GOLDEN – the new instrumental solo album by Robert Illesh

GOLDEN is the new instrumental solo album by Robert Illesh, who is an internationally acclaimed guitarist, producer and composer. Robert is protagonist in the progressive Aquaplanage project, which enjoys airplay worldwide from Rick Wakeman’s Planet Rock to Californian ProgRock Records’ radio show. Robert is also a long-term member of internationally applauded Yes tribute act Fragile, whose activities have taken him from three years of UK/European touring with Yes/Asia legend Steve Howe, to the Richard and Judy Show with Rick Wakeman and Roger Dean. Other credit highlights include working with Alan White and Jon Anderson of Yes, Glenn Cornick and Clive Bunker of Jethro Tull; and Steve Grant of The Sweet in the classical/rock extravaganza Barockestra.

GOLDEN presents Robert Illesh in new light. Weaving delicate webs and stories, this intimate original music is classically and sacred inspired. Nine instrumental pieces are performed exclusively on 6-string nylon and steel strung acoustic guitars, with just a hint of string and vocal accompaniment. Robert Illesh plays guitars, voice, recorder, the occasional “ting” and is executive producer. Special guests from “Reflection Strings” include Sarah Turner who plays violin and viola; and Val Banks who plays cello. Cover art of cosmic proportions is provided by Marius Michael- George, classically trained sacred and visionary artist.

Material on the 2011 Golden album is the result of many years of work. True to much solo acoustic music across the ages, it is reflective and introspective and additionally encourages the listener to make a journey into the spaces in-between the notes. Metaphors about music, truth and Golden Ages surely apply. Best suited for public performance in seated theatre, sacred hall, or in nature. Music to Uplift. This is Robert Illesh.

RICK WAKEMAN & JON ANDERSON – Fairfield Halls, Croydon (12.10.10)

I thought I’d wandered onto a set from the recent “Sherlock Holmes” movie as rows of candles festooned the stage at the Fairfield Halls concert stage this evening. This was in fact a simple, but effective presentation surrounding the twin keyboards and acoustic guitar of rock legends Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson. Thankfully there was no Sally Morgan…the supposed Medium…to conjure up spirits of the past although music from the past did play a part from the duo’s days in ‘Yes’. For many of us old hippies this was exactly what we wanted to hear delving into a repertoire that included tracks from albums such as “Tales From Topographic Oceans” and “Yessongs” although tonight predominantly concentrating on their new album “The Living Tree”. The fashion conscious (???) Wakeman, bedecked in a black frock-coat and white trainers as ever proved the life and soul of the party with pithy one-liners and the occasional anecdote providing the perfect foil for Anderson’s more serious nature although, having said that, a little aside from Rick did have his partner ‘corpsing’ with convulsions of laughter at one point. The new material was particularly well received including the title track and “Just One Man” a revealing insight into Anderson’s own beliefs. Of course, to cement a good performance you need to rely on the support of a good out-front sound engineer and in this, the dynamic duo were well catered by Geoff Beadman who maintained a consistency in quality I haven’t heard in many years of reviewing. With a well deserved standing ovation the dynamic duo exited stage left with beaming smiles and not a little gratitude from a more than appreciative audience.


Artist Website: www.rwcc.com