January ’69 – Fairport Convention’s Holiday Show and Tell

Fairport Convention – What We Did on Our Holidays

…she stood out like a clean glass in a sink full of dirty dishes – Fairport band member Simon Nicol on Sandy Denny’s audition with the band.

When Fairport Convention released their second album, What We Did on Our Holidays, 50 years ago this month, British folk rock was evolving quickly. By the end of 1969, it would be a full-fledged thing. But at the beginning of the year, the band had yet to take the full plunge. What we have on this album, remarkably the first of three by Fairport that year, is an interesting mix of original songs with then-obscure cover versions as well as their own arrangements of traditional songs. Perhaps the most notable thing the band did on its holiday was hire a new lead singer, Sandy Denny, to replace the departed Judy Dyble. This was Denny’s rather remarkable debut.

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L-R:  Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol, Sandy Denny, Martin Lamble, and Ashley Hutchings

What We Did… shows a very young group of musicians with a new vocalist rapidly finding their way, but by no means were they scraping the barrel for material. The opening track is Sandy’s Fotheringay, one of the most beautiful acoustic folk songs of the era. There’s also the straight forward electric blues track Mr. Lacey, written by band member Ashley Hutchings and featuring the stellar lead guitar of 19-year-old Richard Thompson. The Book Song and No Man’s Land remind me of American west coast bands, the former the Mamas and the Papas with a Cajun twist, the latter a mish-mash of early Dead and Airplane.

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There’s a nice version of I’ll Keep it with Mine, at the time a lesser known Dylan track which turned out to be a good song choice for Sandy’s vocal and Iain Matthews’ harmonies (only Judy Collins had it on an album at the time; Bob’s versions would see the official light of day on later compilations). They were also the first to release Joni Mitchell’s Eastern Rain – a track which is perfect for either Fairport or Joni (or even It’s a Beautiful Day?). Leaning once again toward English folk, they also put down their own take of the traditional Nottamun Town, a “lost song” from medieval England which ended up passed along through oral tradition to American Appalachia, and whose melody Dylan used in Masters of War in 1963.

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The album’s “chalkboard cover” is a photo taken in a university classroom that doubled as the band’s dressing room before a gig. They picked up the chalk, started drawing, and ended up with an album cover.

Reviews are mostly positive. AllMusic’s Richie Unterberger:

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.

My favorites are Sandy Denny’s original Fotheringay, Richard Thompson’s Meet On the Ledge, Joni Mitchell’s Eastern Rain, and the traditional She Moves Through the Fair – a song I’ve yet to hear a bad version of, with or without vocals. While it may or may not be a cohesive album, I no longer hear it as just a step along the way toward Liege & Leif. It’s a great collection of songs, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with a band releasing a batch of tunes they just happen to enjoy playing, whether they “go together” or not. 1969 had to have been a blur for the group. They would soon experience major adversity prior to the release of their next album just a few months later as they forged ahead, leaving a significant footprint on the music world.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Fotheringay
  2. Mr. Lacey
  3. Book Song
  4. The Lord Is in This Place…How Dreadful Is This Place
  5. No Man’s Land
  6. I’ll Keep It With Mine

Side Two:

  1. Eastern Rain
  2. Nottamun Town
  3. Tale in Hard Time
  4. She Moves Through the Fair
  5. Meet on the Ledge
  6. End of a Holiday

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_We_Did_on_Our_Holidays

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairport_Convention

https://www.allmusic.com/album/what-we-did-on-our-holidays-mw0000309532

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/5hw6/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nottamun_Town

 

 

June Tunes, Pt. 2

Let’s continue our June 1968 wrap up:

Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Iron Butterfly’s second and most well-known album was released June 14, 1968.  The title track, released as a single the same day, holds an odd place in rock history in my mind.  It’s almost become a punchline due to the garbled title and the fact that it takes up the entire second side of the album.  But the album stands on its own as the highest selling release of 1969.  It was also the biggest seller for Atlantic Records until Led Zeppelin IV.

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Fairport Convention – Fairport Convention

This was the English folk-rock band’s debut album, and I can’t write intelligently about it because I haven’t listened to it.  As with many other groups I’ve wanted to get to know, I familiarized myself with Fairport Convention by purchasing a hits collection before branching out, but the compilation didn’t include any songs from this self-titled debut.  Judy Dyble was the lead singer on this record, but she would be replaced by the siren Sandy Denny for the next few releases, and they are among my favorite albums from the era.  I’ll have more from Fairport Convention next January when I have a clue what I’m talking about.

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The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Single:  Fire

This single from the band’s debut album reached #1 in the UK and #2 in the US Billboard charts.

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I’ll just leave this dose of insanity here…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida_(album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairport_Convention_(album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_(Arthur_Brown_song)

-Stephen