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"Meet On The Ledge - An Island Records Folk-Rock Anthology" is a Mini Box Set offering you 44 tracks across 3 CDs and compliments its Reggae equivalent "War Ina Babylon" (see separate review). Both have been released to celebrate 50 years of Chris Blackwell's Island Records label (1959-2009) and having lived with "Ledge" a few days now - it's both brilliant and infuriating in equal measure (with the good far outweighing the bad it should be said). Here are the Matty Groves, the Dirty Linen and The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow's Sunshine...

UK released May 2009 on Universal/Island 531 834-1 (Barcode 0600753183410) - it breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (67:56 minutes):
1. Cocaine - JOHN MARTYN ("London Conversation", 1967 Mono LP on Island ILP 952)
2. She Moves Through The Fair - FAIRPORT CONVENTION ("What We Did On Our Holidays", 1969 LP on Island ILPS 9092)
3. Withering Tree - TRAFFIC (1968 UK 7" single on Island WIP 6041 - Non-LP B-side to "Feelin' Alright")
4. Seven Black Roses - JOHN MARTYN ("The Tumbler", 1968 LP on Island ILPS 9091)
5. A Sailor' Life - FAIRPORT CONVENTION ("Unhalfbricking", 1969 LP on Island ILPS 9102)
6. The Ocean - JOHN and BEVERLEY MARTYN ("Stormbringer!", 1970 LP on Island ILPS 9113)
7. Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal - DR. STRANGELY STRANGE ("Kip Of The Serenes", 1969 LP on Island ILPS 9105)
8. Living In The Past - JETHRO TULL (April 1969 UK 7" single on Island WIP 6056)
9. Matty Groves - FAIRPORT CONVENTION ("Liege & Lief", 1969 LP on Island ILPS 9115)
9. John Barleycorn (Must Die) - TRAFFIC ("John Barleycorn Must Die", 1970 LP on Island ILPS 9116)
10. Banks Of The Nile - FOTHERINGAY ("Fotheringay", 1970 LP on Island ILPS 9125 [featuring Sandy Denny])
11. One Of These Things First - NICK DRAKE ("Bryter Layter", November 1970 LP on Island ILPS 9134)
12. Sir Patrick Spens (Live) - FAIRPORT CONVENTION ("Full House", July 1970 UK LP on Island ILPS 9130)

Disc 2 (72:06 minutes):
1. Dirty Linen - FAIRPORT CONVENTION ("Full House", July 1970 UK LP on Island ILPS 9130)
2. On The Road To Find Out - CAT STEVENS ("Tea For The Tillerman", November 1970 UK LP on Island ILPS 9135)
3. Late November - SANDY DENNY ("The North Star And The Grassman", September 1971 UK LP on Island ILPS 9165)
4. Flowers Of The Forest - MIKE HERON ("Smiling Men With Bad Reputations", 1971 UK LP on Island ILPS 9146)
5. Spring Season - AMAZING BLONDEL ("Evensong", 1970 UK LP on Island ILPS 9136)
6. Time Slips Away - BRONCO [featuring JESS RODEN and ROBBIE BLUNT] ("Ace Of Sunlight", 1971 UK LP on Island ILPS 9161)
7. The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow's Sunshine - CLAIRE HAMILL ("One House Left Standing", 1971 UK LP on Island ILPS 9182)
8. Siege Of Yaddlethorpe - AMAZING BLONDEL ("Fantasia London", 1971 UK LP on Island ILPS 9156)
9. Dear Old Battlefield - THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND ("Liquid Acrobat As Regards The Air", 1971 UK LP on Island ILPS 9172)
10. Dark Eyed Lady - ROBIN WILLIAMSON [of THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND] ("Myrrh", 1972 UK LP on Island HELP 2)
11. Poor Ditching Boy - RICHARD THOMPSON ("Henry The Human Fly", 1972 UK LP on Island ILPS 9197)
12. The Nutting Girl - MORRIS ON [featuring John Kirkpatrick, Barry Dransfield, Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson] ("Morris On", 1972 UK LP on Island HELP 5)
13. Bushes And Briars - SANDY DENNY ("Sandy", September 1972 UK LP on Island ILPS 9207)
14. Black Jack David - THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND ("Earthspan", October 1972 UK LP on Island ILPS 9211)
15. Sailing - SUTHERLAND BROTHERS ("Sailing", 1972 UK LP on Island ILPS 6136)
16. Over The Hill - JOHN MARTYN ("Solid Air", February 1973 UK LP on Island ILPS 9226)
17. Things Behind The Sun - NICK DRAKE ("Pink Moon", February 1972 UK LP on Island ILPS 9184)
18. Haste To The Wedding/The Triumph/Off She Goes - ASHLEY HUTCHINGS & CHUMS ("The Complete Dancing Master", June 1974 UK LP on Island HELP 17)

Disc 3 (65:32 minutes):
1. Hanged I Shall Be - THE ALBION BAND ("Battle Of The Field", April 1976 UK LP on Island HELP 25)
2. Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Cheabhail [Instrumental] - JOHN MARTYN ("Inside Out", October 1973 UK LP on Island ILPS 9253)
3. Withered & Died - RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON ("I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight", April 1974 UK LP on Island ILPS 9266)
4. Spencer The Rover - JOHN MARTYN ("Sunday's Child", January 1975 UK LP on Island ILPS 9296)
5. Darlin' Cory - BRYN HAWORTH ("Sunny Side Of The Street", May 1975 UK LP on Island ILPS 9332)
6. The Never Shines On The Poor - RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON ("Hokey Pokey", March 1975 UK LP on Island ILPS 9305)
7. Stone - RONNIE LANE & SLIM CHANCE ("Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance", July 1975 UK LP on Island ILPS 9321)
8. Dimming Of The Day/Dargai - RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON
9. Upton-Upon-Severn Stick Dance - ASHLEY HUTCHINGS & CHUMS
10. Calvary Cross (Live) - RICHARD THOMPSON ("Pour Down Like Silver", November 1975 UK LP on Island ILPS 9348)
11. I'm A Dreamer - SANDY DENNY ("Rendezvous", May 1977 UK LP on Island ILPS 9433)
12. May You Never (Live) - JOHN MARTYN ("Live At Leeds", September 1975 UK (Mail-Order) LP on Island ILPS 9343)
13. Meet On The Ledge - FAIRPORT CONVENTION (November 1968 UK 7" single on Island WIP 6047, A-Side)

First up is the complaint that there's too many familiar tracks and therefore doesn't warrant buying - you'd be wrong. The 2009 remastering by DENIS BLACKMAN on the tracks you already own is truly fantastic. I felt every song sounded like an upgrade and the obscure tunes you don't own are well chosen and worth your attention - many seeing CD light of day for the first time.

The sound quality needs some explaining. Take track 2 on Disc 2, "On The Road To Find Out" by Cat Stevens - it's a superlative lesser heard gem tucked away on Side 2 of his "Tea For The Tillerman" LP from 1970. Most fans will probably have the 2000 remaster of the album, but this version is almost certainly off the Deluxe Version from 2008 because the sound quality is STUNNING - absolutely gorgeous. The instruments just leap out of the speakers with wonderful clarity. The same applies to "Living In The Past" by Jethro Tull on Disc 1 - I adore this tune and have various remasters of it - but this is without doubt the best-sounding version I've ever heard.

There's also clever track choices - a badly needed new remaster of the live version of Richard Thompson's slow bluesy "Calvary Cross" from the 1976 double "Guitar, Vocal" rather than it's 1974 studio original, the stripped down BBC Sessions version of John Martyn's beautiful "May You Never" with just him and his guitar from 1977 [lyrics above] and the truly affecting 1987 "Real Time" version of "Meet On The Ledge" by Fairport Convention (again instead of the 1968 7" original) which finishes the box off and brings the musical journey full circle. Cool stuff.

On the rock side too, there's the inclusion of Bryn Haworth's lovely "Darlin' Corey" from his 1975 album "Sunny Side Of The Street" (he was the guitarist in the 60's psych act Fleurs-De-Lys") and even better is Bronco's "Time Slips Away" from their 1971 album "Ace Of Sunlight" - a fantastic choice - Jess Roden's soulful vocals backed up by Robbie Blunt's tremendous guitar work [he later played for Robert Plant's band]. The annotation is good too - the 32-page booklet featuring a biog on each artist (photos too) with the whole set has been curated and researched by DAVID SUFF with skill.

If I was to point out a real downside it would be the omissions - with playing times of 67:56, 72:06 and 65:32 - it's hugely disappointing that more tracks weren't used - how about "Say No More" by Smith Perkins Smith (1972), "Whims And Ways" by Bryn Haworth (1974) and "The Sea" by Fotheringay (1970) to name but a few. And as rocking as Richard Thompson is, do I really need the full 11 minutes of "A Sailor's Life" - no. And the liner notes mention "The Chieftains 5" album on Island from 1975, but then don't include them - on a Folk box?

Still, these are niggles - what is on here is stupendously good - and sounding absolutely spiffing. I've enjoyed hearing this box so much - and I suspect it will send many folk and rock music fans scurrying back into second-hand record shops trying to hunt down original palm-tree label LPs - those things we adored so much - all those years ago. Despite some reservations - this is a top job done - and recommended big time - especially given the upgraded sound...
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on 31 May 2009
I feel a bit short changed by this compilation. Granted, the music is by and large fantastic but there are too many songs by the same artists. Out of 46 tracks, 6 are by Fairport Convention, 6 by John Martyn (7 if you include the one with his then wife Beverley), 3 by Sandy Denny (5 if you include the Fotheringay recordings) and 3 by Richard & Linda Thompson (5 if you include the two solo tracks). There is also some repetition with the previous Island compilation, Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal with the following songs appearing on both: Banks of the Nile by Fotheringay, A Sailor's Life and Meet on the Ledge by Fairport Convention and Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal by Doctor Strangely Strange.

It would have been nice to have a couple of rarities thrown in or even some unreleased tracks to tempt the completist, the people most likely to buy this type of compilation. The fans of Island music in their late 60's, early 70's hayday will no doubt own most of these tracks already. With four years between this and the Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal compilation, I would have expected more. Island were once known as an innovative label and the music does clarify that, but this is a lazily put together compilation.
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on 13 June 2009
For those in two minds about buying this, I say go ahead, it's a wonderful heart warming selection of tracks loosely affiliated to Folk music, from out and out traditional songs to the genre crossing experiments of the likes of John Martyn and Fairport Convention. For the newcomer to this fabulous world of timeless pastoral Englishness, it's an absolute bargain.

For us seasoned Fairports, Martyn, Thompsons, Denny afficionados there is still plenty on here to delight. Amazing Blondel, Bronco, Bryn Haworth, Albion Band, Sutherland Bros (you will recognise their contribution `Sailing' without too much difficulty, and even Rod's old mate Ronnie Lane all turn in fine contributions, which help make this a thoroughly rounded and entertaining set.

The packaging is delightful. A green leafy box containing 3 CD's in similarly themed card sleeves and a generous booklet with all the information you'll need, all presented with first class graphic design. I am a sucker for that font they use.

First class product. Now I wish someone would think about doing the same for the early years of Virgin Records who had a similarly eclectic yet high standards.
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Meet On The Ledge contains over three hours of music from the archives of Island Records golden age of folk-rock. If you could choose your own tracks would you select the same ones? Probably not. Do you already own a lot of them? Most likely!

However, as a celebration of what Island Records was all about in the late sixties and early seventies this set stands up well and is very well produced. The box contains the three CDs in card sleeves and a thirty two page illustrated and informative booklet. Some of the tracks featured have been difficult to get elsewhere in recent years whereas others will be in almost every CD collection.

Personally, I found Fairport Convention to be featured too highly - I love them, but I've already bought these tracks many times over! There are no previously unreleased tracks or alternative versions just tracks you know and probably love. However, if you are lucky enough to be discovering this music for the first time this set will offer some amazing moments!

The music, the price and the package make this a five star product, but some will see it as an opportunity missed. As a part of the celebration of Island's fifty years in the business it does the job, but highlights the most creative ten year period for this genre.

There is a companion Reggae Box Set which is also well worth considering, and a complete label overview called Island Life will be released at the beginning of June. Island is still quite innovative in their choice of artists, but they will never again match the breadth of talent contained in the period covered by this folk-rock anthology.

Don't be put off by the amount of tracks you already own - the ones you don't have will compensate!
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on 27 July 2009
Wonderful compilation, full of the folk rock classics. Would like to hear a rock/blues classic from Island, including Free, Jethro Tull.
This compilation features many of the great artists from Island, including lots of Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny. More and more and more like this.
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on 2 September 2009
This is another excellent box set from Island - a great companion to the "strangely Strange" set of a few years back. The selections are excellent and the accompanying booklet is very imformative. The only quibble is the over reliance on John Martyn and Fairport tracks. A few more esoteric items might have been welcome. If you have any interest in the folk-rock music of the '70s on then this is a great introduction. If you like this kind of set then look at the reggae box set released as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.
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on 20 June 2009
What a wonderful age of music we lived through! The tracks still sound fresh and relevant. I still play and sing on the folk circuit and feel for the young players trying to emulate the achievements of the Island philosophy. It does seem to me that for the last 20 years many music producers have not given real creative ownership to their artists and what are the results? Mind you some of these tunes are tested by time so they will survive fads anyway!
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on 17 December 2013
Great digital sound brings old friends to life from long forgotten vinyl. Predictably slewed towards Fairport and offshoots, as you would probably expect but pity not more from obscurer artists. My other gripe is the inclusion of long tracks which could have made way for shorter ones. Jethro Tull - folk ? Nice to have Amazing Blondel and Claire Hamill, oh, and Sutherland Brothers. An excellent booklet and great image for the box. A job well done.
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on 10 July 2009
I bought this cd for my husband and it was certainly a hit. If you like to spend your weekend on a field in Cropredy this is for you.
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on 7 June 2015
Folk, in the best and broadest sense, from Island's heyday. The classics such as "Sailor's Life" are here together with less known artists such as Amazing Blondel (love "Spring Season") and some rarities (live " May You Never" seguing into "Easy Blues"). If you're an old fart like me, buy it to relive the delights of the past; if you're a youngster (under fifty!) then buy it to find out what we're on about!
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