Fairport Convention (1983)

fairport-rating1The most distinctive and satisfying folk-rock LPs since the Byrds’ first. Emerging in the late Sixties, the English Fairports were built around singer Sandy Denny and guitarist/vocalist Richard Thompson; they combined a timeless lyricism, an archivist’s purism, rock & roll punch, Cajun good times, superb original songs and a sense of humor that led to marvelously idiosyncratic readings of obscure Dylan tunes. Their emotional commitment to their material was extraordinary. Had the Band been British, this is what it might have sounded like.
fairport-rating2Well-thought-out traditional fare, but save for Denny’s astonishingly passionate “Matty Groves,” lacking in excitement.
fairport-rating3Denny had left the group (Thompson would leave after Full House); she later made decent LPs with Fotheringay and the Bunch, plus two inconsistent solo discs, rejoining an in-name-only Fairport in 1975 for two desultory sets on Island (her best performance after Liege and Lief came with “The Battle of Evermore,” on Led Zeppelin’s Zo-So LP). Only Thompson’s haunted “Sloth” rescues Full House from tedium; Nine, which followed other forgettable Fairport albums, is tedium itself.
fairport-rating4Two discs that collect much of the best of the first three albums, plus highlights of later LPs (“Sloth”) and solo projects. Eminently listenable and enduring.

The New Rolling Stone Record Guide, edited by Dave Marsh and John Swenson, 1983

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