British hippies who started out emulating Jefferson Airplane, Fairport Convention escalated their homeland connections with each outing, culminating in this, their fourth album and a watershed for British folk-rock. Hindsight offers the ironic possibility that the Dylan covers of its predecessor, Unhalfbricking
, opened a window onto the earlier Irish-English-Scots roots of the American music they loved, and Liege & Lief
jumps through that window triumphantly. "Come All Ye" underscores their affinity for the Band yet is joyfully rooted in their own fertile folk traditions, echoed in a mix of classic songs from members Sandy Denny, Ashley Hutchings, and Richard Thompson, and given direct homage in the extended ballads "Matty Groves" and "Tam Lin," which evoke Neil Young & Crazy Horse in kilts. Fiddler Dave Swarbrick's arrival as a fulltime member adds new richness and a wonderful foil for Thompson's superb guitar leads. A medley of jigs and reels showcases their flair for hot-wiring traditional British Isles dances, a fixture ever since. --Sam Sutherland
After forty years of Fairport Convention, undoubtedly one of the most influential folk collectives to have ever existed, here we have the release of a deluxe version of perhaps their best but certainly their most emotive album to mark the occasion. Liege & Lief is the Fairport album steeped in tragedy - the first trip back to the studio following the deaths of drummer Martin Lamble and Jeannie Franklyn (the girlfriend of Richard Thompson) in a tragic car accident in May 1969, the album has the almost eerie quality of a band struggling to find a means of coping with their obvious anguish; at the same time they are a band desperate to break all social constraints and indulge in the most manic of folk rock which they do so unapologetically in 'Matty Groves'.
Pioneers of the 1960s folk rock revolution (the band was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2002), Fairport's seminal album was voted the 'Most Influential Folk Album Of All Time' in 2006. And quite rightly so - it is the album that saw the band edge closer to its English folk roots, bravely combining folk traditions with electric instruments. The Oxfordshire group, who had always been mistakenly thought of as members of the American west coast folk scene, embraced music in all its raw Englishness becoming exponents of a genre that would not only define a moment in musical history, but which would change the face of folk forever.
It goes without saying that the Liege & Lief reissue is a must for all Fairport fans - the double disc has a collection of John Peel's Top Gear recordings, the highlight of disc 2 being the unmatchable "Tam Lin" from the September 1967 show.
But while Fairport's glory days are predominantly behind them, (a studio album Sense Of Occasion was however released in February this year), movements by former members including Richard Thompson whose album Sweet Warrior was released a few months ago, ensure the Fairport ghosts are never allowed to fade away. This important re-release will remind folk followers and music lovers alike why Fairport was one of the most important and pioneering folk collectives of all time. --Gemma Padley
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