Monday, 29 January 2018

"Liege & Lief" by FAIRPORT CONVENTION (May 2002 Universal/Island Remasters 1CD Reissue - Gary Moore Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Come All Ye Rolling Minstrels…"

Voted in 2006 as the 'most influential Folk album ever' by those lovely peopleoids at the BBC - "Liege & Lief" finished out an astounding year for FAIRPORT CONVENTION - 1969. They gingerly popped out "What We Did On Our Holidays" in January, "Unhalfbricking" (with "Who Knows Where The Time Goes") in July and the mighty "Liege & Lief" in December of that momentous year. 

Other bands who put out three great studio albums in one year are The Rolling Stones in 1965 (USA), The Lovin' Spoonful in 1967 (USA), Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969 (USA) and with a slight Fairport tie-in - Matthews Southern Comfort in 1970 in the UK. 

But with their three 1969 albums (all on Island Records) - England's Fairport Convention practically introduced Folk-Rock to the world as well the gigantic singer-songwriter talents of vocalist Sandy Denny and guitarist Richard Thompson. "Liege & Lief" was some achievement really. Here are the Rakish Paddies, Crazy Man Michaels and Farmers Tossing Feathers...

Released May 2002 - the single CD version of "Liege & Lief" by FAIRPORT CONVENTION on Universal/Island Remasters IMCD 291 (Barcode 731458692928) breaks down as follows (55:21 minutes);

1. Come All Ye [Sandy Denny and Ashley Hutchings song]
2. Reynardine [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention]
3. Matty Groves [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention]
4. Farewell, Farewell [Richard Thompson song]
5. The Deserter [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention] - Side 2
6. Medley: The Lark In The Morning, Rakish Paddy, Foxhunter's Jig, Toss The Feathers [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention]
7. Tam Lin [Traditional Air Arranged By Dave Swarbrick]
8. Crazy Man Michael [Dave Swarbrick/Richard Thompson song]
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 4th album "Liege & Lief" - released December 1969 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9115 and May 1970 in the USA on A&M Records SP 4257.

9. Sir Patrick Spens (Sandy Denny Vocal Version) [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention]
10. Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood (Take 1) [Traditional Air Arranged By Sandy Denny, Words by Richard Farina]
Both 9 and 10 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED (Take 4 of "Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood" was released on the 1986 retrospective box "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" - not Take 1)

The 16-page booklet on this single-disc remaster is a pretty affair - colour montages of the band, historic references and plates on subjects that inspired the songs, liner notes by original Producer JOE BOYD and band member ASHLEY HUTCHINGS remembering the making of. GARY MOORE carried out the gorgeous and warm remaster with both Joe Boyd and Ashley Hutchings in attendance. Moore's name has graced Thin Lizzy, Elton John and T.Rex remasters for Universal and his much-praised work is of the same calibre here - warm, detailed and full of life.

Recorded across 4 sessions (16, 22, 29 October and 1 November) - the band was Sandy Denny (Vocals), Richard Thompson and Simon Nicols (Lead Guitars), Dave Swarbrick (Violin and Viola), Ashley Hutchings (Bass) and Dave Mattacks (Drums). Retreating to a large country house called 'Farley Chamberlayne' in Hampshire to recover from a horrific car crash that took the life of Drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend Jeannie Taylor - the circumstances surrounding the recordings couldn't have been worse (on the verge of breaking up). Yet somehow digging down deep into English Roots for material and the warmth of the area and place seemed to heal and galvanize the proceedings. And although "Liege & Lief" is categorized as 'Folk' (the jigs of "Toss the Feathers" are purely that) - I've never heard the album in that straightjacket way and many Rock buyers thought so too. For us Folk-Rock had arrived.

Side One opens with an absolute belter "Come All Ye" - a Denny/Hutchings song that sounds like its been in someone's repertoire for 300 years or so - and just now dusted off for the modern world. The first Traditional "Reynardine" is a ballad where 'old music is played on new instruments' - floating like its haze on a country river in the morning. The eight-minute "Matty Groves" is likely to send many an English schoolteacher into a Morris Dance - Dave Swarbrick's Violin and Richard Thompson's guitar licks trading off a gorgeous Sandy Denny vocal. In fact we must talk about Sandy. When Australian Trevor Lucas joined with her in Fotheringay - the two shared lead vocals - and while he has a fabulous voice - Sandy Denny had a tone that felt like vocal honey. Her English charm and sincerity seemed unforced, real and effortless. When she begins the gorgeous Side One finisher "Farewell, Farewell" - there's a faint croak in her notes - yet it works precisely because it's so fragile (a little like herself). Ghosts of Sandy Denny fill every Kate Rusby album.

"The Deserter" is a soldier's lament given a Swarbrick/Thompson background of floating Violin and plucked Guitars. The three-part "Medley" leads us into proper Folk Music with the added backbeat of drums. You can just hear a whole pub chucking aside their wooden stools as they prance about to the jigs and reels like - well drunken sailors. "Tam Lin" and the pretty "Crazy Man Michael" bring proceedings to the close with history and melody. Of the two extras - there's a barnstormer. The ten-minute "Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood" (based on "She Moves Through The Fair") is a trippy Acid Folk workout where a lone bongo is accompanied by a violin and what sounds like a fuzzed-up Jews harp - all of it wrapped around sublime Sandy vocals. It's a properly fabulous extra.

Groundbreaking, first past the post and now a timeless classic - "Liege & Lief" has stood the test of musical time. And this cheap-as-chips deep-in-the-purse CD remaster does that legend proud and cries out for a place in your straw bed and homemade ale casket...
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