Many of you reading this won’t need me to tell you that Fairport’s existence between 1967 and their ‘split’ in 1979 is very well documented. With greatest hits, box sets including rarities + the many releases by most of the individual members that chronicle this period – it is a well trodden path, that all these years on has become the standard bearer of British folk rock music – and in the main, rightly so.
What then is different about this particular collection?
I think the answer (in my mind anyway) is the all encompassing nature of the release, that doesn’t instantly think that because it is a 7 disk set including over 50 previously unreleased tracks, that it’ll only be Fairport purists interested in it. It is accessible for the curious, as well as the converted.
Compiled by Andrew Batt, the curator of the recent Sandy Denny show ‘The Lady, which toured the UK in 2012, this collection begins with tracks from their eponymous 1968 debut release on Polydor, through to ‘Tippers Tales’.
Of course the classic albums ‘What We Did On Our Holiday’ (the original album version of Meet on the Ledge is there in all it’s glory) ‘Unhalfbricking’ and ‘Liege and Lief’ are covered, but not extensively – it provides a taste, but leaves anyone new to the band requiring further investigation in to those influential records.
Much of the ‘rarities’ or previously unreleased material here are live tracks – but while the material may be familiar – no less interesting to hear them in this format. Disk 6 in particular is a complete live audio stream from a 1973 gig at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. The handful of songs taken from the 1971 TV program The Men They Couldn’t Hang are the first time these have been released since the program was broadcast – perfect for the collector.
Richard Thompson’s assent in to one of this country’s greatest songwriters is documented, the differing line-ups through the 1970’s that still managed to bring the Fairport sound alive – and of course, Sandy – it’s all here.
This collection won’t please everyone. This band are so important to so many people that fans much bigger and knowledgeable than me will find issue with some track choices, but for a 7 disk selection, that brings together the best and the best of the rest – it hits the spot, and further appreciation of just what this band are as they celebrate their 50th year – simply iconic.
Review by Phil Daniels