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Pop - Released December 1, 1969 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
In the decades since its original release, more than one writer has declared Fairport Convention's Liege & Lief the definitive British folk-rock album, a distinction it holds at least in part because it grants equal importance to all three parts of that formula. While Fairport had begun dipping their toes into British traditional folk with their stellar version of "A Sailor's Life" on Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief found them diving head first into the possibilities of England's musical past, with Ashley Hutchings digging through the archives at the Cecil Sharp House in search of musical treasure, and the musicians (in particular vocalist Sandy Denny) eagerly embracing the dark mysteries of this music. (Only two of the album's eight songs were group originals, though "Crazy Man Michael" and "Come All Ye" hardly stand out from their antique counterparts.) Liege & Lief was also recorded after a tour bus crash claimed the lives of original Fairport drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend; as the members of the group worked to shake off the tragedy (and break in new drummer Dave Mattacks and full-time fiddler Dave Swarbrick), they became a stronger and more adventurous unit, less interested in the neo-Jefferson Airplane direction of their earlier work and firmly committed to fusing time-worn folk with electric instruments while honoring both. And while Liege & Lief was the most purely folk-oriented Fairport Convention album to date, it also rocked hard in a thoroughly original and uncompromising way; the "Lark in the Morning" medley swings unrelentingly, the group's crashing dynamics wring every last ounce of drama from "Tam Lin" and "Matty Groves," and Thompson and Swarbrick's soloing is dazzling throughout. Liege & Lief introduced a large new audience to the beauty of British folk, but Fairport Convention's interpretations spoke of the present as much as the past, and the result was timeless music in the best sense of the term. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released June 1, 1968 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
By far the most rock-oriented of Fairport Convention's early albums, this debut was recorded before Sandy Denny joined the band (Judy Dyble handles the female vocals). Unjustly overlooked by listeners who consider the band's pre-Denny output insignificant, this is a fine folk-rock effort that takes far more inspiration from West Coast '60s sounds than traditional British folk. Fairport's chief strengths at this early juncture were the group's interpretations, particularly in the harmony vocals, of obscure tunes by American songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Emitt Rhodes, and Jim & Jean. Their own songs weren't quite up to that high standard, but were better than many have given them credit for, with "Decameron" and "Sun Shade" in particular hitting wonderfully fetching melancholic moods. It's true that Fairport would devise a more original style after Denny joined, but the bandmembers' first-class abilities as more American pop-folk-rock-styled musicians on this album shouldn't be undersold. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released December 1, 1969 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
In the decades since its original release, more than one writer has declared Fairport Convention's Liege & Lief the definitive British folk-rock album, a distinction it holds at least in part because it grants equal importance to all three parts of that formula. While Fairport had begun dipping their toes into British traditional folk with their stellar version of "A Sailor's Life" on Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief found them diving head first into the possibilities of England's musical past, with Ashley Hutchings digging through the archives at the Cecil Sharp House in search of musical treasure, and the musicians (in particular vocalist Sandy Denny) eagerly embracing the dark mysteries of this music. (Only two of the album's eight songs were group originals, though "Crazy Man Michael" and "Come All Ye" hardly stand out from their antique counterparts.) Liege & Lief was also recorded after a tour bus crash claimed the lives of original Fairport drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend; as the members of the group worked to shake off the tragedy (and break in new drummer Dave Mattacks and full-time fiddler Dave Swarbrick), they became a stronger and more adventurous unit, less interested in the neo-Jefferson Airplane direction of their earlier work and firmly committed to fusing time-worn folk with electric instruments while honoring both. And while Liege & Lief was the most purely folk-oriented Fairport Convention album to date, it also rocked hard in a thoroughly original and uncompromising way; the "Lark in the Morning" medley swings unrelentingly, the group's crashing dynamics wring every last ounce of drama from "Tam Lin" and "Matty Groves," and Thompson and Swarbrick's soloing is dazzling throughout. Liege & Lief introduced a large new audience to the beauty of British folk, but Fairport Convention's interpretations spoke of the present as much as the past, and the result was timeless music in the best sense of the term. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1969 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Sandy Denny's haunting, ethereal vocals gave Fairport a big boost on her debut with the group. A more folk-based album than their initial effort, What We Did on Our Holidays is divided between original material and a few well-chosen covers. This contains several of their greatest moments: Denny's "Fotheringay," Richard Thompson's "Meet on the Ledge," the obscure Joni Mitchell composition "Eastern Rain," the traditional "She Moves Through the Fair," and their version of Bob Dylan's "I'll Keep It with Mine." And more than simply being a collection of good songs (with one or two pedestrian ones), it allowed Fairport to achieve its greatest internal balance, and indeed one of the finest balances of any major folk-rock group. The strong original material, covers of little-known songs by major contemporary songwriters such as Dylan and Mitchell, and updates of traditional material were reminiscent of the blend achieved by the Byrds on their early albums, with Fairport Convention giving a British slant to the idiom. The slant would become much more British by the end of the '60s, though, both gaining and losing something in the process. Confusingly, What We Did on Our Holidays was titled Fairport Convention in its initial U.S. release, with a different cover from the U.K. edition, although Fairport's very first album from 1968 had used the title Fairport Convention as well. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 3, 1969 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Unhalfbricking was, if only in retrospect, a transitional album for the young Fairport Convention, in which the group shed its closest ties to its American folk-rock influences and started to edge toward a more traditional British folk-slanted sound. That shift wouldn't be definitive until their next album, Liege & Lief. But the strongest link to the American folk-rock harmony approach left with the departure of Ian Matthews, who left shortly after the sessions for Unhalfbricking began. The mixture of obscure American folk-rock songs, original material, and traditional interpretations that had fallen into place with What We Did on Our Holidays earlier in the year was actually still intact, if not as balanced. Sandy Denny's two compositions, her famous "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" and the far less celebrated but magnetically brooding "Autopsy," were among the record's highlights. So too were the goofball French Cajun cover of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" (here retitled "Si Tu Dois Partir," and a British hit) and the magnificent reading of Dylan's "Percy's Song," though the bash through Dylan's "Million Dollar Bash" was less effective. Richard Thompson's pair of songs, however, were less memorable. The clear signpost to the future was their 11-minute take on the traditional song "A Sailor's Life," with guest fiddle by Dave Swarbrick, soon to join Fairport himself and make his own strong contribution toward reshaping the band's sound. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released June 15, 2018 | Matty Grooves

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Fairport Convention are indisputably one of the best groups in the Californian-inspired wave of British folk rock, and have been since their first eponymous album, released in 1968. With voices that sound like something from the Mamas and the Papas, Dylanesque acoustics, and talented songwriters, the group got better with each passing album. What We Did On Our Saturday is made up of no fewer than 25 tracks which provide a masterful account of the tradition. Blending traditional British folk, steel guitar, Californian sounds, and solo picking, all into a rock groove, Fairport Convention knew how to seduce the USA. A year after they celebrated their half-century, they retrace their musical steps in this double volume. It's no surprise, then, that Time Will Show The Wiser should be the first track, followed by Reno Nevada from 1968. But then there is a little surprise: the sublime Suzanne by Leonard Cohen gives us the voice of Judy Dyble, the first Fairport singer. Chris Leslie picked this classic: a poignant and faithful version. This is not a simple playlist, but a real revisiting of some songs, interpreted by new members or with an enriched composition. It's an album where current or old members rub shoulders, including Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Iain Matthews, Dave Mattacks, Judy Dyble, Martin Allcock and Ralph McTell. © Clara Bismuth/Qobuz
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Folk/Americana - Released February 28, 2020 | Matty Grooves

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Folk/Americana - Released April 16, 2011 | Matty Grooves

This album comes at a time of big changes for Fairport, with their own new label, and a face into the future, as the title implies. That's all brought a new attitude to the music, with a slightly rawer, more rocking feel, as on "Wait for the Tide to Come In," where Simon Nicol's electric guitar work simply sparkles. The oldest member of a long-running band, Nicol even takes lead vocals on a reworking on their 1969 hit "Si Tu Dois Partir," which even manages to incorporate the percussion break from original drummer Martin Lamble, thanks to the magic of technology, and thus connects the present to the past in more ways than one. Elsewhere the songs are of a consistently high standard, with Chris Leslie's "I'm Already There" a standout. In a couple of places the music veers toward that comfortable middle of the road space Fairport's carved out over the last few years, but they seem to jerk themselves away before becoming too complacent about the music. And when they do veer into instrumental work, "Canny Capers" is the equal of anything they've managed in the past, the twists and gyrations of its lines both daunting and entertaining. There's only one traditional song on this disc, "Winter Wassail," with its small surprises that proves great satisfaction. So what does this say about Fairport for the future? Other than they'll still be there, and that they're in the process of taking a long hard look at themselves, not a great deal. But if this new attitude and grit persists, there'll be plenty of excellent music ahead. © Chris Nickson /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 1, 1970 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Fairport Convention is a group that has always beaten the odds -- that's why a version of the band is working in the 21st century. By the time of this, the group's fifth album, key members Ashley Hutchings and Sandy Denny had exited the lineup, yet the group continued here without skipping a beat, for the first time without a female singer -- and it turned out not to make a major difference. Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick took over as singers, and Dave Pegg (more recently of Jethro Tull) joined on bass, and the resulting album was actually more viscerally exciting than its predecessor, Liege and Lief, if not quite as important as that record, since it came first. Even vocally, this version of the group needed offer no apologies. Thompson, Swarbrick, Pegg, and Simon Nicol harmonize beautifully around strong lead vocals. Not only does the singing here retain the high standard of the earlier incarnation of the group (check out the harmony singing on "Sir Patrick Spens" and "Flowers of the Forest"), but the playing throughout has greater urgency and punch, from the rousing Thompson-Swarbrick opener "Walk Awhile" to the haunting, moody, dazzling nine-minute "Sloth," which remained part of the group's live set for years. An indispensable recording, and one that anybody who wants to truly know this band, or to take in some of the best work of Richard Thompson's career, must own (his playing on "Sloth" and "Doctor of Physick" makes it worthwhile). Swarbrick's fiddle and viola playing is also among the best of his career. Ironically, Thompson would make this his last full-time studio venture with Fairport, but what a way to go! © Stephen Winnick & Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released June 1, 1975 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Although there's nothing here as overpowering as "Sailor's Life" or "Sloth," this record is still a choice release, as Sandy Denny's official return to Fairport. She wrote or co-wrote seven of its 11 songs, and dominates most of the others with her voice. This lineup (Denny, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, Jerry Donahue, Trevor Lucas, and Bruce Rowland, with Dave Mattacks -- who quit partway through -- drumming on some of the tracks) went for the gold with rock veteran Glyn Johns in the producer's spot. The result was the only Fairport album done after the departure of Richard Thompson that doesn't sound anemic in the electric guitar department. Some of the songs, especially the title track and "Restless," have the feel of compact, breezy pop/country-rock, reminiscent of the Eagles or Firefall, although it's hard to imagine either of those groups turning in anything with the ethereal beauty of Denny's performance on "White Dress" or "Dawn." Those songs and "Stranger to Himself" could easily have been on one of her solo albums. Others, like Trevor Lucas' "Iron Lion," sound almost like Fairport's version of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers." Only the Swarbrick/Pegg "Night-Time Girl" resembles Fairport's established work from their earlier history. This was the last album and the last incarnation of Fairport Convention to present itself to the public as a contemporary rock group. Beyond this point, they became part of the folk revival circuit, albeit with a huge audience. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released June 30, 2017 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Come All Ye: The First Ten Years is a curious selection for a mammoth box set to commemorate the 5Oth anniversary of Fairport Convention, the British folk-rock act who changed everything. It's huge, with seven discs that house 121 tracks and nine hours of music; what's more, 55 of these selections are previously unreleased. That last fact should be enough to grab the faithful by the throat and get them to the shop and plunk down their hard-earned dosh. This box was compiled and produced by none other than Andrew Batt, the man with the fussy ear who helmed Sandy Denny's beloved collection I've Always Kept a Unicorn: The Acoustic Sandy Denny (bring it back into print, man!), and the glorious deluxe edition of Fairport's Rising for the Moon. The box includes healthy selections from the band's first 13 studio albums through 1978's Tippler's Tales (nothing from The Bonny Bunch of Roses though); but none are in their entirety. The bulk contains outtakes, alternates, BBC sessions, live material (like a killer "Sweet Little Rock 'n Roller" from the Troubadour in 1970, or "All Along the Watchtower" from 1975 in Norway), rarities. etc. Some of these appeared with less-than-optimal sonics on the 2010 Sandy Denny box set, or as bonus tracks on various album reissues (again without this level of audio quality). One example of the treasure to be found within is on disc seven where Denny delivers a harrowing live version of "Down Where the Drunkards Roll" weeks before it appeared on Richard & Linda Thompson's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. Disc three contains a television performance of songs from the film The Man They Couldn't Hang that are more ragged and more expressive than the ones that appeared on the "Babbacombe" Lee album. Disc four holds unreleased tracks from an unreleased album that included Canadian David Rhea. Another Denny gem, the original version of "After Halloween" is far superior to the officially released one. The final two discs contain full concert recordings. Number six is live from Fairfield Hall in December 1973 and offers a version of the traditional "Days of 49" followed by a burning "Fiddlestix." Disc number seven was cut in the U.S. at L.A.'s Troubadour in 1974. Opening with Bob Dylan's "Down in the Flood," it flows through Trevor Lucas' "Ballad of Ned Kelly" "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," and Denny's classic "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." That show, and the box, end with the unlikely rave-up of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day." There are dozens upon dozens of selections punters can argue over. What it all amounts to is that in part or in its entirety, Come All Ye: The First Ten Years is essential listening. For fans, all of this is necessary, for the curious, start with the studio offerings (there are two fine offerings entitled Five Classic Albums, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) or the double-disc Gold from 2008. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1999 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Fairport Convention have had their fair share of anthologies, but the double-disc set Meet on the Ledge: The Classic Years (1967-1975) is arguably the best yet, rivaling the classic Fairport Chronicles, which was released just as the classic lineup was splitting apart. Meet on the Ledge is more exhaustive than that collection, and it also boasts a number of rarities, including the previously unreleased "Bonny Bunch of Roses" and "Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman." Undoubtedly, those will be of interest to collectors, but the 32-track set is still primarily targeted at neophytes and casual fans. Happily, it fulfills its goal of offering a flawless introduction -- not only does it provide a concise history of the band, but it's also tremendously entertaining. Which means that even if it satiates some appetites, it will whet others. But the best thing is that the compilation works well enough to remain entertaining, even if you know the albums inside out. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released March 10, 2017 | Matty Grooves

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Electric/folk legends Fairport Convention present their 28th studio album, 50:50@50, following 2015's Myths and Heroes. The album features six newly recorded studio tracks alongside a selection of live tracks taken from performances between 2014 and 2016. 50:50@50 was released by the band's own label, Matty Grooves. © Liam Martin /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released August 10, 2018 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Folk/Americana - Released November 20, 2020 | Explore Rights Management Ltd

Fairport Convention's Fame and Glory is an album given over entirely to compositions by Breton songwriter Alan Simon, who proves to be a good fit for the venerable British folk-rock outfit. The band is well served by material that delves back into the Middle Ages and beyond, referring to the Arthurian legend more than once. A third of the tracks are instrumentals; four are live recordings; and there are guest vocalists including Jacqui McShee and John Wetton. All that said, this remains a characteristic Fairport Convention album, with the violin and flute pacing folk-rock arrangements and Simon Nicol handling most of the singing. Using the Simon songs is just a way of coming up with an album's worth of music to play in their typical style. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1975 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Although there's nothing here as overpowering as "Sailor's Life" or "Sloth," this record is still a choice release, as Sandy Denny's official return to Fairport. She wrote or co-wrote seven of its 11 songs, and dominates most of the others with her voice. This lineup (Denny, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, Jerry Donahue, Trevor Lucas, and Bruce Rowland, with Dave Mattacks -- who quit partway through -- drumming on some of the tracks) went for the gold with rock veteran Glyn Johns in the producer's spot. The result was the only Fairport album done after the departure of Richard Thompson that doesn't sound anemic in the electric guitar department. Some of the songs, especially the title track and "Restless," have the feel of compact, breezy pop/country-rock, reminiscent of the Eagles or Firefall, although it's hard to imagine either of those groups turning in anything with the ethereal beauty of Denny's performance on "White Dress" or "Dawn." Those songs and "Stranger to Himself" could easily have been on one of her solo albums. Others, like Trevor Lucas' "Iron Lion," sound almost like Fairport's version of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers." Only the Swarbrick/Pegg "Night-Time Girl" resembles Fairport's established work from their earlier history. This was the last album and the last incarnation of Fairport Convention to present itself to the public as a contemporary rock group. Beyond this point, they became part of the folk revival circuit, albeit with a huge audience. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 1, 1986 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Recorded during Fairport Convention's September 1970 shows in Los Angeles (their second visit to the city in six months), House Full captures the four-piece Full House lineup at its zenith -- a point proven by the marathon renditions of "Sloth" and "Matty Groves," which are among its epic highlights. Anybody who thought Sandy Denny was the only person who could convincingly perform the latter is certainly in for a pleasant surprise, as is anyone who thought the Albion Band's version of "Battle of the Somme" was the definitive rendition. By year's end, however, this particular Fairport Convention lineup shattered, as Richard Thompson moved on to a solo career. This performance, with its taste of two songs originally intended for a presplit new album, is a vivid portrayal of all that listeners lost when he went. © Dave Thompson /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 1, 2013 | Castle Communications

This three-disc set was recorded live in August of 1997 at Fairport Convention's annual Cropredy Festival. In 1997 Fairport celebrated their 30th year of existence, and this concert was an attempt to chronicle the various periods of the band's storied career by reassembling their most significant lineups. Original vocalist Judy Dyble, who only sang on one recording, showed up to help represent Fairport's debut record, and Vikki Clayton was enlisted to sing the part of the late Sandy Danny, which she did with amazing accuracy. Founding member Ashley Hutchings served as narrator as well as bassist/vocalist to represent his abbreviated tenure with the group in the late '60s. The expected participants were present in full regalia. Dave Swarbrick and Richard Thompson -- who, along with Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks, helped make up the most powerful and talented of the various Fairport configurations -- injected some modernized fiddle and guitar licks into the old standards. Even lesser-known '70s members like guitarist Jerry Donahue and drummer Bruce Rowland represented their respective stints with the band. Although he never recorded with Fairport, guitarist Dan Ar Braz toured with them in the mid-'70s, and on this recording he played and sang lead on the Beatles' "Rain." Ralph McTell, whose songs are routinely covered by Fairport, performed as a member of the offshoot band the GPs, along with Thompson, Pegg, and Mattacks. And, of course, guitarist and singer Simon Nicol (who, along with Pegg and Mattacks, is the longest-standing regular member) contributed his distinct vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar. Eighties' members Martin Allcock and Ric Sanders, along with Allcock's eventual replacement, Chris Leslie, hopped onstage at their appropriate cues to bring this fascinating musical documentary up to date. Nicol refers to such recordings -- and there have been numerous Cropredy Festival recordings released in the '80s and '90s -- as mementos for Fairport Convention's devout fans. The Cropredy Box is sure to be a prized possession for those devotees. © Dave Sleger /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released October 1, 1973 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Fairport Convention's ninth album is their most uneven. The group shows extraordinary virtuosity and musical instincts on folk-based tracks such as "The Hexamshire Lass" and "The Brilliancy Medley & Cherokee Shuffle" (which features some of the best mandolin playing you're ever likely to hear from an English band), but on numbers like "Polly on the Shore" and "To Althea From Prison," where the band supplies the music to traditional lyrics, they simply fall flat -- it isn't even that the playing is bad, so much as that the failed numbers are uniformly lugubrious in the way they're treated. Part of the problem lies with the fact that while Lucas and Donahue were good guitarists, they weren't terribly interesting -- where Richard Thompson always came up with something surprising and unexpected on Fairport's songs, Lucas and Donahue stick with fairly routine pop music sounds, more in keeping with the Eagles than the group that recorded Liege and Lief, Full House, and House Full. Lucas' "Bring 'Em Down" is a decent song, with some strong singing and playing by the composer and a lovely and powerful fiddle solo by Swarbrick, but it overstays its welcome and loses its cohesion -- "Sloth" it is not. Too much of the album is taken up by easily forgotten contemporary-style rockers like "Big William" and throwaways such as the countrified "Pleasure and Pain"; not even the upbeat, riff heavy "Possibly Parsons Green" makes up for this problem. And the rather plain cover art didn't help matters any when it came to selling this record. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released June 7, 2005 | Talking Elephant Records