Fairport Convention - Hey Day (BBC Live 1968-69)

Senin, 22 Oktober 2012

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Fairport Convention are an English folk rock and later electric folk band, formed in 1967 who are still recording and touring today. They are regarded as the most important single group in the English folk rock movement. Their seminal album Liege and Lief is generally considered to have launched the electric folk or English folk rock movement, which provided a distinctively English identity to rock music and helped awaken much wider interest in traditional music in general. The large number of personnel who have been part of the band are among the most highly regarded and influential musicians of their era and have gone to participate in a large number of significant bands, or enjoyed important solo careers. Since 1979 they have hosted the Cropredy Festival, which is the largest such annual event in England. Individually and collectively the members of Fairport Convention have received numerous awards recognizing their contribution to music and culture.

Bassist Ashley Hutchings met guitarist Simon Nicol in North London in 1966 when they both played in the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra. They rehearsed on the floor above Nicol's father's medical practice in a house called "Fairport" and lent its name to the group they formed together as Fairport Convention in 1967 with Richard Thompson on guitar and Shaun Frater on drums. After their first performance at St Michael's Church Hall in Golders Green, North West London on 27 May 1967, they had their first of many line-up changes as one member of the audience, the drummer Martin Lamble, convinced the band that he could do a better job than Frater and replaced him. They soon added a female singer, Judy Dyble, which gave them a distinctive sound among the many London bands of the period.

Fairport Convention were soon playing regularly at underground venues such as UFO and The Electric Garden (later to become the Middle Earth Club)  After only a few months they caught the attention of manager Joe Boyd who secured them a contract with Polydor Records. Boyd suggested they augment the line-up with another male vocalist and so Iain Matthews joined the band and the first album, Fairport Convention which was recorded in late 1967 and released in June 1968. At this early stage, Fairport looked to American folk and folk rock acts such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and The Byrds for material and inspiration. Their unusual use of two lead vocalist and their name led many to believe that they were an American act and they were dubbed 'the British Jefferson Airplane'.

After disappointing album sales they signed a new contract with Island Records. Before their next recording Judy Dyble left the band and was replaced by Sandy Denny, a folk singer who had previously recorded as a soloist and with Strawbs. Denny’s distinctive voice, described by Clive James as ‘open space, low-volume, high-intensity’ is one of the characteristics of the two albums both released in 1969: What We Did On Our Holidays and Unhalfbricking. These recordings marked the growth of much greater musicality and song-writing ability among the band. The first of these featured the Thompson penned 'Meet on the Ledge', which became their second single and eventually the band's unofficial anthem. The second of these albums featured a guest appearance by Birmingham folk fiddler Dave Swarbrick on a recording of 'A Sailor's Life', a traditional song brought to the band by Denny from her folk club days. The recording of this track marked an important turning point for the band, sparking an interest in traditional music for Ashley Hutchings in that led him to detailed research in the English Folk Dance and Song Society Library at Cecil Sharp House, this theme would become the basis for their next, much more ambitious, recording project.

These two albums began to gain the band wider recognition. Radio DJ John Peel championed their music, playing their albums on his influential BBC shows. Peel also recorded a number of sessions which were later released as the album Heyday (1987). They enjoyed some mainstream success when they entered the singles charts with "Si Tu Dois Partir", a French-language version of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now". The record just missed the top twenty, but secured the band a slot on Top Of The Pops, Britain's most popular television pop music programme at the time.

On 12 May 1969, on the way home from a gig in Birmingham Fairport's van crashed on the M1 motorway. Martin Lamble, aged only nineteen, and Jeannie Franklyn, Richard Thompson's girlfriend, were killed. The rest of the band suffered injuries of varying severity. The band nearly decided to disband and Matthews left, eventually to form Matthews Southern Comfort. However, when they had recovered Dave Mattacks took over drumming duties and they returned to the studio to work on their fourth album Liege & Lief.

Usually considered the highpoint of the band’s long career, Liege and Lief was a huge leap forward in concept and musicality. The album consisted of six traditional tracks and three original compositions in a similar style. The traditional tracks included two sustained epics ‘Tam Lin’, which was over seven minutes in length, and ‘Matty Groves’, at over eight. There was a medley of four traditional tunes, arranged, and, like many of the tracks, enlivened, by Swarbrick’s energetic fiddle playing. The first side was bracketed by original compositions ‘Come all ye’ and ‘Farewell, Farewell’, which, in addition to an inner sleeve based on Hutchings’ research, explaining English folk traditions, helped give the record the feel of a concept album. ‘Farewell, Farewell’ and the final track ‘Crazy Man Michael’, also saw the full emergence of the distinctive songwriting talent of Thompson that was to characterize his contributions to the band and later solo career. The distinctive sound of the album came from the use of electric instruments and Mattacks’ disciplined drumming with Swarbrick’s fiddle accompaniment in a surprising and powerful combination of rock with the traditional. The entire band had reached new levels of musicality, with the fluid guitar playing of Thompson and the ‘ethereal’ vocal of Denny particularly characteristic of the sound of the album. As the reviewer from Allmusic put it, the album was characterized by the ‘fusing [of] time-worn folk with electric instruments while honoring both’.

A few British bands had experimented with the use of electric instruments with traditional English songs, (including Strawbs and Pentangle), but Fairport Convention was the first English band to do this is a concerted and focused way. Although this is often referred to today as folk rock, the bands and press of the time used the term electric folk or English folk to distinguish it from more American inspired music. The descriptions are now often used indiscriminately or forgotten, however, Fairport Convention’s achievement was not to invent folk rock, but to create a distinctly English branch of the genre, which would develop alongside, and interact with, American inspired music, but which can also be seen as a distinctively national reaction in opposition to it. 

Liege & Lief was launched with a sell-out concert in London's Royal Festival Hall late in 1969. It reaching number 17 in the UK album chart, where it spent fifteen weeks.

Dave Swarbrick, having made a major contribution to Liege and Lief, now joined as a full member, but there were disagreements about the direction of the band in the wake of this success. Ashley Hutchings wanted to explore more traditional material and left to form (among many projects) arguably the only two groups that would rival Fairport for significance in English folk rock Steeleye Span and the Albion Band.[16] Sandy Denny also left to found her own group Fotheringay. Dave Pegg took over on bass guitar and has been the group's one constant every since, in an unbroken membership of over three decades. The band made no serious attempt to replace Denny, and, although she would briefly return, the sound of the band would now be characterized by male vocals.

Despite these changes the band produced another album Full House (1970) which was remarkably successful as a project. Like its predecessor, it combined traditional songs, including a powerful rendition of ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, with original compositions. The latter benefited from the writing partnership of Thompson and Swarbrick, most obviously on ‘Walk Awhile’ which would become a concert favorite. Despite the loss of Denny the band still possessed four vocalists, including the emerging voice of Nicols and Swarbrick, whose tones and would dominate the sound of this period. It was favorably reviewed in Britain and America, drawing comparisons with The Band from Rolling Stone Magazine who declared that ‘Fairport Convention is better than ever’. The album reached number 13 in the UK Chart and stayed in the chart for eleven weeks. The same year the band released a single 'Now Be Thankful' and made its American debut, touring with Traffic and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

In the recurring pattern, soon after the album’s release Thompson left the band to pursue other projects and eventually his solo career. This left Simon Nicol as the only original member and Dave Swarbrick emerged as the leading force in the band. In 1970 the members and their families had moved in to The Angel, a former pub in Hertfordshire and this inspired the next album Angel Delight (1971) the band's first to chart in the US, peaking at number 200 on the Billboard 200 and their only top ten album in the UK. The next project was an ambitious folk-rock opera developed by Swarbrick, based on the life of John 'Babbacombe' Lee, ‘the man they couldn’t hang’ and released with the title Babbacombe Lee (1971). The concept format, originally without clear tracks, excited considerable press interest and it received good air play in the United States where it reached number 195. A version was produced by the BBC for TV in 1975 with narration by Melvin Bragg. These two albums were also notable as the first time the same Fairport had recorded consecutively with the same line-up, but inevitably stability did not last: Simon Nicol left early in late 1971 to join Ashley Hutchings’ Albion Band and he was soon followed by Mattacks. 

01. Close The Door Lightly When You Go 
02. I Don't Know Where I Stand 
03. Some Sweet Day 
04. Reno, Nevada 
05. Suzanne 
06. If It Feels Good, You Know It Can't Be Wrong 
07. I Still Miss Someone 
08. Bird On A Wire 
09. Gone, Gone, Gone 
10. Tried So Hard 
11. Shattering Live Experience 
12. Percy's Song 
13. You Never Wanted Me 
14. Nottamun Town 
15. Fotheringay 
16. Si Tu Dois Partir 
17. Cajun Woman 
18. Autopsy 
19. Reynardine 
20. Tam Lin 

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