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VINE VOICEon 8 August 2007
Back in 1969, Liege & Lief was the seminal album which established British folk-rock as a distinct genre, separate to the hippy mysticism of America's west coast or the earnest finger-in-the-ear traditionalism of the folk club purists. Paving the way for everyone from Steeleye Span to Lindisfarne, it mingled rock & roll attitude with a sense of indigenous history and myth that stretched back deep into folk memory.

Sometimes it was difficult to tell traditional tunes apart from those written by the band. Although the supernatural epic Tam Lin and adulterous tragedy Matty Groves are plainly trad, the beautiful Crazy Man Michael was written by guitarist Richard Thompson and violinist Dave Swarbrick, while the melancholy Farewell Farewell is an old tune reworked with new lyrics -- possibly in response to the fatal road accident on tour which had killed the band's first drummer Martin Lamble.

Although a remastered version of the album with a couple of extra tracks has been available for some time, this 2-CD release goes much further. As well as the traditional sea-song Sir Patrick Spens, there's a cover of Roger McGuinn's The Ballad Of Easy Rider and two very different band takes of Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood, later to surface accapella on Sandy Denny's solo album Sandy.

Then there's a gem of a John Peel session from 1969's Top Gear, some of which was included on the Live At The BBC box set. What these live renditions lose in vocal subtleties they gain in sheer energy and fire, and the cold glitter of seduction song Reynardine shines more brightly than ever. There's also a hilarious take on jazz standards The Lady Is A Tramp and Fly Me To The Moon.

A great extended tribute to an important British album.

First published at
0Comment39 of 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I have long been a fan of the British folk-rock movement of the late sixties, voraciously hoovering up albums by Pentangle, Steeleye Span, John Renbourne and the like. The two albums which started me off on this love affair with folk are Liege and Leaf and Full House from the mighty Fairport Convention.

This album was recorded at a time of transition for the group. Following the American folk leanings of Unhalfbricking, the inclusion of fiddler extraordinaire Dave Swarbrick as a regular group member seems to have sent them down a more British traditional music route. This would fully sublimate itself on the following album, Full House.

The album opens with the joyous Come All Ye, a piece that calls your attention to the album and gets you to listen. It is followed by the hauntingly beautiful Reynardine, with an absolutely divine lyric from Sandy Denny. Then comes, what for me anyway, is the best song on the album, the mighty Matty Groves. It's a ballad of adultery and bloodshed, sung by Denny with absolute conviction. But when the singing stops, Dave Swarbrick launches into a dazzling fiddle solo that just leaves you breathless. The album then continues with joyous jigs and reels, tales of the supernatural and quiet ballads of love and loss.

The band never worked better together or had a more stylistically cohesive vision. Denny's vocals are a thing of beauty. Even by her high standards the tracks on this album are exceptional performances. Next on my list of people to praise is Dave Swarbrick, long one of my musical heroes. Here he plays with verve and vigour, as only he can, but tones it down where necessary to deliver some delightful slower tracks, and he is generous in making way for other band members to shine. He never overpowers the record, but adds a great flavour to it. Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol provide some sensitive guitar work, while Ashley Hutchings on bass and new member Dave Mattacks on drums lay down a great rhythm section.

There is nothing twee about this folk music. It takes the folk form and adds rock to it to make a perfect blend that is grown up, informed by contemporary society and viewpoints while at the same time sounding not out of place alongside songs that were written a hundred years previously. It was the natural progression for folk, and a top notch album that really speaks to the soul was a result.

It's a classic folk record. This 2008 double disc re-release is a decent affair. The remastering is OK, with a pretty clear sound on my stereo. Occasionally one feels as though the bass line is a bit muddy, but I think that this is a result of the limitations of the source material. It's much better than my old copy though! The remastering sounds just the same as the 2002 single disc version, so if you are looking to update in search of better sound quality it's not worth it. The second disc contains some interesting tracks, but nothing that warrants an upgrade from the 2002 single disc unless you are a serious Fairportophile. It's a grand release of a grand album, 5 stars.
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VINE VOICEon 23 September 2007
...but if you do this is a bit of a rip-off. This is a rip-off because it's so good! This is the way the previous edition should have been. But I must state that the record company should have released it at the same time as the 'single disc re-master' as this would have allowed fans to choose between the deluxe version with all the trimmings and the more amenably priced disc. They could have thus avoided the accusation that owners of the single disc edition are being cynically manipulated into making this additional purchase.

Having said all that this is the way a 'Deluxe' edition should be.
I fully approve of keeping bonus material separate from the original album in all but a few very exceptional cases(see "Unhalfbricking" for an example of perfect matching of bonus material)because, I find that, out takes, demo's, live and 'alternate' versions are so often a distraction or a dilution of the original album's quality. Yes I know, you can program them off, or even just be ready to press stop at the point the 'original' would have ended, but I prefer it if such concerns are absent from the listening experience. In this case I think that there is such an odd blend of extras, that keeping them separate is a very sensible idea.

At the price, it seems to me that it is not really for the interested newcomer looking to `see what all the fuss is about' and the very keen fans will have, all but a few, of the extra tracks already.

I shan't go into a big description of the merits of the album as I feel that it has been fully covered in the earlier reviews.
I will just say that this is an excellent presentation of a truly great album, if you don't already own a copy and/or don't mind paying the extra money then this is definitely the best available edition.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 August 2007
Sure, you could buy this superb five star album in its new form, but the rip-off police have already got an APB out for the record company on this set. For a start, the first two tracks on the bonus disc (both of them very good) already appear on the existing Island remaster. When is a bonus not a bonus?

The other tracks on the bonus disc, which don't go far to shed light upon the album, are available elsewhere should you really want them. In my view they are in this context almost like a moustache on the Mona Lisa ... if you consider two strokes of ink to be a bonus, go for it.

Otherwise, treat yourself to the previously-released remaster and pick up the remaster of Full House or Unhalfbricking while you're about it, either of which are much better "bonus" discs for your cash. This short, pretentious two-disc set is just a tax on the collector.
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on 3 September 2007
I cannot understand the thought process of some; this is a 5 star album, an acknowledged classic and catalyst of a whole style of music. Why some have reviewed this as a 3 star release, and even acknowledge it as a 5 star in their review then give it 3 for other reasons leaves me scratching my head. If this has been re released again, with extra tracks and a booklet, this doesn't detract from the fact that the album is here for you to enjoy again and again. Stand out tracks? All of them. Stand out musicians? All of them, although Sandy Denny is a personal fave of mine. What more needs to be said about this much discussed wonderful album? Very little; it has earned the reputation it deserves over the last 37 years and is in my top 3 albums ever.

In short, ignore the fools that get upset becuase it has been re released again. So what? It's still the same album and it has marketed itself clearly as a delux edition. It's a brilliant album, full of superb playing and singing and still vibrant and fresh years later.

If you are unfamiliar with Liege and Lief, this is a good place to get to grips with a beautiful record. Enjoy!
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on 22 December 2008
I will not give a long review, there are plenty of fans here who have done justice.

I just want to agree with all the praise and state that this is a peerless example of Folk/Rock and shows that Brit music was not just about glam and prog in the 70's.

For anyone new to folk, this album is simply something you must own. Don't miss out.
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on 17 March 2015
Excellent package. A great album still
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VINE VOICEon 28 September 2007
I have only recently (last month or so) discovered this spellbinding and beautiful album, although I have been aware of Fairport for some time. I had previously confined myself to the eponymous debut album pre-Sandy Denny, as it was closer in feel to the US West Coast folk rock that I love. I was under the misapprehension that Liege and Lief, indeed Unhalfbricking and What We Did On Our Holidays too, were unlistenable trad folk horrors. How wrong I was, and I'm ashamed that I didn't investigate Fairport Convention - Mark 2 with Sandy a lot sooner. But the very essence of being an avid music collector and appreciator is discovering jewels you haven't come across before, and fast approaching 40 years old I am relieved and happy that albums like Liege and Lief can still find their way into my world and amaze me.
Without doubt this is one of the best albums of all time. It's certainly my new favourite, I haven't stopped playing it yet. There isn't a bad track on it, with perhaps the exception of the instrumental medley, but even that fiddle led jiggery feels absolutely natural in the company of the other songs which are stunning. Standouts for me:
"Come All Ye", is a rousing call to arms, with a strident Sandy vocal. A superb opening number.
"Reynardine" is given a brilliant feel with a spacey guitar underpinning Sandy's breathy tones. Beautiful.
"Matty Groves" keeps up the high standard of this album with a captivating, rambling arrangement. Stunning.
"Tam Lin" is without doubt my favourite on the album, in fact I'd go as far as to say that it's now in my top ten all time favourite songs. It's amazing.
I had no idea UK folk rock was this good, but I do now. Unhalfbricking and Holidays are also good albums, but do not have the consistency of this album.
BUY IT NOW. It doesn't really matter whether you buy the one disc remaster (which I have) or the deluxe two disc set, no bonus tracks are going to really augment this album because it is so stunning on its own terms and merits.
TEN STARS**********
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