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Respectful repackaging for legendary folk-rockers
on 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 subba-cultcha.com