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

 

 

January ’69 – A Bert Jansch Folk & Blues Classic

Bert Jansch – Birthday Blues

In the late 1960’s and early ’70’s there was seemingly an alternate universe of musicians and bands happening right alongside the mega groups, and in some cases (cough Led Zeppelin cough) they were a serious influence, even providing the only female vocal ever heard on a song by that parenthetical band. This was a British world of mostly acoustic “folk revival” performers including Davey Graham, Nick Drake, Al Stewart, the Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and the duo and solo acts within those groups (John Renbourn, Sandy Denny, and Richard Thompson, to name a few). There were, of course, many more. One of them was Renbourn’s duo counterpart and fellow member of the Pentangle, Scotsman Bert Jansch. He released his fifth solo album, Birthday Blues, 50 years ago this month.

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The Pentangle had just released its pinnacle album Basket of Light, and Birthday Blues is basically a Pentangle album without singer Jacqui McShee or fellow guitarist Renbourn (he’s backed by the band’s rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox on this release). It is considered Jansch’s most “pop” record, but it’s firmly in the folk and blues genre. It’s alternatively playful and moody, as the album’s title suggests. Jansch was a dynamic guitarist with a distinctive singing voice – a good combination – so if you like this style of music, there’s a lot to enjoy on this release. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell is a beautiful instrumental inspired by his wife, who also designed the album cover. Poison is a haunting track on the folk rock side of things with heavier drums and an eerie guitar and harmonica that give a feeling of foreboding. A Woman Like You is another one in that vein.

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Trying to recall what inspired me to learn about Bert Jansch, it was probably a Roots of Led Zeppelin sampler CD that came attached to an issue of MOJO Magazine or one like it around 2003 with Jansch’s 1966 take on the traditional Blackwater Side. I purchased a Best of Bert Jansch CD and was on my way. It didn’t occur to me at the time to even bother looking into whether or not he still performed live. Even if he did, it seemed highly unlikely he would pass through Texas. Then one day in 2010 I read he was going to perform at the local symphony hall – opening for and performing with Neil Young! Then I looked at the ticket prices.  Then I looked at my bank account. Wasn’t happening. A little over a year later Jansch died of lung cancer. Missing that show is a big music regret of mine.

Tracklist

Side A:

  1. Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We Can All Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long & Dusty Road
  2. The Bright New Year
  3. Tree Song
  4. Poison
  5. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell
  6. I’ve Got a Woman

Side B:

  1. A Woman Like You
  2. I Am Lonely
  3. Promised Land
  4. Birthday Blues
  5. Wishing Well
  6. Blues

-Stephen

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

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

https://www.allmusic.com/album/birthday-blues-mw0000205948

Bert Jansch – Birthday Blues LP

 

 

January ’69 – Donovan the Hit Maker

Donovan – Donovan’s Greatest Hits

Today’s entry is a first for Introgroove:  a greatest hits album. Thinking ahead, it probably won’t be the last such release I give a nod to. To this day, if there’s an artist or band I’m unfamiliar with but feel I “should” know about them, a compilation is usually my first stop if one exists. Some hits records take on lives of their own. An obvious example is the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), the biggest selling album in US history. Elton’s Greatest Hits as well as Simon and Garfunkel’s were mainstays in my home growing up, even though the studio albums those songs were culled from were always in heavy rotation.

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In my music world, other such compilations which triggered my instant interest in further exploration include Marley’s Legend, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (Vol. 1 was out of stock that day in the mid-1980’s when I decided to take the plunge), James Taylor’s Greatest Hits, Cat Stevens’ Greatest HitsThe Essential Leonard Cohen, Fairport Convention’s 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection, Neil Young’s Decade, and others. As I write this, The Best of Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet is on order. Some compilations are really all I “need” in my collection by some artists. Jim Croce’s Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits is one example. Another is Donovan’s Greatest Hits, released this month 50 years ago. It’s been in my collection since I first listened to a college roommate’s copy 30 years ago, hearing tracks other than Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow for the first time.

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Donovan has loomed throughout my first year’s worth of posts, and for good reason. He may not have been as big as Dylan or the Beatles, but he was seemingly always around the scene and on camera at just the right times with just the right people, and releasing really good tunes along the way. I’m sure there were contemporary or perhaps even earlier greatest hits releases by 1960’s artists, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any others besides the Byrds and the Beach Boys. (There’s a trivia/discussion topic for you: list some others that I’m forgetting.) The crème de la crème for me here includes Sunshine Superman, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, Colours, and Season of the Witch. I always thought There is a Mountain was kind of goofy at best, but gained a slightly better appreciation for it after realizing what I was hearing on the Allman Brothers’ Mountain Jam.

One of my favorites didn’t make it into the above playlist, but is on the album:

Tracklist (original listing differs from CD reissue linked above)

Side One:

  1. Epistle to Dippy
  2. Sunshine Superman
  3. There is a Mountain
  4. Jennifer Juniper
  5. Wear Your Love Like Heaven
  6. Season of the Witch

Side Two:

  1. Mellow Yellow
  2. Colours
  3. Hurdy Gurdy Man
  4. Catch the Wind
  5. Leléna

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donovan%27s_Greatest_Hits

 

November 1 – Sophomore Success for the Pentangle

The Pentangle – Sweet Child

Continuing a busy day of significant 1968 album releases, British folk rock group the Pentangle released their second album of the year and second overall on this date fifty years ago, and on it they proved they were no one-album wonder.  Sweet Child is a double album; half of it was recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in June of ’68, the other half in the studio.

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L-R:  John Renbourn, Danny Thompson (standing), Terry Cox, Jacqui McShee, Bert Jansch

In addition to the folk and rock element, the Pentangle added experimental jazz and blues to their repertoire – something which set them apart from contemporaries Fairport Convention.  To illustrate how prolific they were at the time, the live half of the album on the original release contains only one song from their debut earlier in the year, with the rest of it and the second disc being completely new material.  Its tracks’ origins run the gamut, from traditional songs, to jazz and blues from the likes of Charles Mingus and Furry Lewis, to originals by the group.  The album jacket was designed by Peter Blake, of Sgt. Pepper fame.

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In his AllMusic review, Matthew Greenwald calls Sweet Child “an awesome and delightful collection, and probably their finest hour.”  It’s also an hour for which I’ve arrived quite late.  When it comes to British folk rock groups, I’ve always favored Fairport Convention while giving short shrift to the Pentangle.  My only explanation is that I prefer Sandy Denny’s vocals to Jacqui McShee’s.

But I’m acquiring a taste for her singing, and there’s so much more to this group anyway with dual virtuoso guitarists John Renbourn and Bert Jansch (not to mention the latter’s vocals), as well as Danny Thompson’s jazz-infused stand up bass.  I’ve been enjoying solo Renbourn and Jansch for a while now, so it’s a no-brainer.  I’m finally waking up to this amazing group.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Market Song
  2. No More My Lord
  3. Turn Your Money Green
  4. Haitian Fight Song
  5. A Woman Like You
  6. Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat

Side Two:

  1. Three Dances:  a) Brentzel Gay b) La Rotta c) The Earl of Salisbury
  2. Watch the Stars
  3. So Early in the Spring
  4. No Exit
  5. The Time Has Come
  6. Bruton Town

Side Three:

  1. Sweet Child
  2. I Loved a Lass
  3. Three-Part Thing
  4. Sovay
  5. In Time

Side Four:

  1. In Your Mind
  2. I’ve Got a Feeling
  3. The Trees They Do Grow High
  4. Moon Dog
  5. Hole in My Coal

-Stephen

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

https://www.popmatters.com/pentangle-sweet-child-turns-50-2601840684.html

https://www.allmusic.com/album/sweet-child-mw0000206628