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17 March 2014

Fairport Convention - 'The History Of' (Island)

I love those 'rock band family trees' and this gatefold LP uses it as the artwork, which is fun as you can really trace the lineups and changes of the sound as you listen through this compilation, which spans up through '71. Most of the first LP of this feels like a retread, especially as I just listened to What We Did on Our Holidays and Liege and Lief for this project; the Unhalfbricking songs are a nice inclusion (ah, it's such a pleasure to have 'A Sailor's Life' on vinyl!) though they included zero from the self-titled Judy Dyble-vocalised album. I can't say much more than I already did except I didn't mind listening to 'Matty Groves' again, and this first LP is a pretty solid collection that should be foundational for many people. 'Grazy Man Michael' and the medley replace 'Tam Lin' for some reason - I guess the medley is important to show their further descent into traditional material, especially to audiences in 1972 who might be purchasing Babbacombe Lee expecting Thompson's malignant picking to be there. The second LP I confess I rarely listen to, though it contains Thompson's mighty 'Sloth' and the single-only 'Now be Thankful'. 'Sloth' really is a masterpiece, alternating between world-weary resignation in the verses and the fire-storming churning of something more kinetic, only to sit back and look at the 'war' which has begun, just the roll of the drum, etc. etc. This is probably the best Fairport song. I'm so biased towards the official, rock-ist view of Fairport Convention, which is that after Richard Thompson left, I cash out (just like I care not a fuck for post-Wyatt Soft Machine, post-Barrett Floyd (mostly), etc.). I guess that's cause I've never taken the initiative to really give that stuff a chance, happy to take the collective doctrine as gospel.  The last side of the record is hard to sink into; 'John Lee' is all right, there's a real storytelling sense, and the performances are more than adequate, but I don't know; it's just not for me.