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4.5 out of 5 stars19
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VINE VOICEon 8 May 2012
I had mixed feelings when I heard of Fairport's 45th anniversary project to re-record the songs most voted for by fans from their back-catalogue. I've no objections to unearthing good material from the past, but some of the most popular songs have already been re-recorded numerous times - did we really want another version of Meet on the Ledge, Matty Groves or Rosie? So what is the result of this democratic exercise?

My reservations about the songs chosen have been counteracted by the good variety of music included. Yes, there are some much re-recorded songs here, but there are also some less-exposed gems. One thing all have in common is that they are excellent songs and stand up well to re-working. In terms of which album they appeared on first time round there is a good spread, from 1968 to 1995: two from What We Did On Our Holidays, one from Unhalfbricking, three from Liege And Lief, two from Full House, the title track from Rosie, one from Nine, one from Gladys Leap (available as Gladys Leap: Remastered), the title track from Red and Gold and, finally, the title track from Jewel in the Crown. Breaking the content down by songwriter also shows a good spread with 3 traditional arrangements and the rest composed by, Richard Thompson (3), Ralph McTell (2), Dave Swarbrick and Richard Thompson (2), Dave Swarbrick (1), Sandy Denny (1) and Julie Matthews (1).

As you would expect from Fairport the standard of the performances is very good overall. Given the familiarity of the material the tracks that stand out for me are those that are given a different treatment from other available recordings and, in particular, the real rarity here. To my knowledge it has never been recorded since the original version, so I was delighted that "Farewell Farewell" was one of the chosen tracks - particularly since this got one of my votes. However, the original superbly atmospheric recording on "Liege and Lief" owed so much to the consummate vocal delivery of Sandy Denny and the delicate, lilting backing of Thompson and the rest of the 1969 band that I did not know what to expect here. The present ensemble have, to their credit, come up with something completely different. They use a combination of gentle harmonic singing and an accompaniment that includes a whistle part played by Chris Leslie - and it works.

As for the packaging, the concept of a design linking the 45th anniversary with a 45rpm single is a great idea and works well, but I'm not a fan of cardboard sleeves - they disintegrate too easily. I would have preferred a longer-lasting jewel case which can be easily replaced and any insert tranferred.

So who should buy this? In addition to the hardened fans, who will find plenty of interest, the quality of the songs means that this should be an album that those new to the band, or who have not listened to them for a while, should buy. It's not a 'best of' - and certainly not a 'greatest hits' - but it is a reminder of the musical contribution that the various line-ups of Fairport Convention have made over five decades.
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on 15 August 2012
The sorts of review I find helpful are those that are actually about the article at least as much or more than the revier's feelings about it. Some classical reviews on Amazon are excellent, for that reason. Someone here gives this album one star because it turns out to be the crap he always knew it would be, then there follows a string of epithets. Very strange.

The whole point of this CD is that it is the current line-up of Fairport playing those songs and tunes voted favourites by fans. So, er, yes, we will have heard them before. But to say they are lazy or boring arrangements shows someone listening with his prejudices well to the fore. There are some lovely passages of mandolin and fiddle playing together; there is the interest and pleasure of hearing a different singer -Simon Nicoll or Chris Leslie - taking over, as it were, from Sandy Denny or Dave Swarbrick. The musical style of the current line-up is naturally, quite different from the original tracks. Again, that's surely the point.

I find it puzzling that some fans put the Fairport of 1969 to 1972 on a pedestal, and regard everything they have done since as relatively worthless. Much as I love them, sometimes the band back then made less musical and varied sounds than today's line up, in my etc. Swarbrick and RT, titans indeed, but I doubt I'm alone in feeling that the frantic headlong jigs of those days are not always more enjoyable than the suppler instrumental sounds of today's band. It's not just nostalgia that makes people buy Fairport's recent albums. They are fine musicians.

Well, comparisons are personal and probably unhelpful. If you want to know what the band sounds like these days, and bearing in mind that at live gigs, they do of course play from the back catalogue as well as newer repertoire, this is a good album to get, with some good singing, nice springy rhythms, and a sound quality better than many old recordings. I found it more varied and pleasing than I expected.
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on 2 June 2012
Well what can you say? Excellent musicians all pretty much on top form on this studio reworking of a most interesting selection. The fact that the tracks on this are the ones chosen by thousands of fans makes this a really interesting selection. I am clearly very typical of the bulk of Fairport fans - I would have chosen these.

Sir Pat Spens is possibly better than any previous version and Farewell Farewell is at long last re-visited. The rest - all great, listen yourself you'll enjoy them all.

Lets hope it's a very long time before there is any Farewell to Fairport.
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on 16 July 2012
This is a really good CD that consists of tracks voted as favourites by Fairport audiences. The selected tracks are a little predictable but that is to be expected, but that said everyone will have their own personal view as to what should have been selected. 5 tracks written by Richard Thompson, 3 by Swarb (2 jointly with RT), and 2 from Ralph McTell comprise 8 of the 13 tracks on the CD. None of the tracks are exactly the originals, but that is the whole point as these are 'now' recordings of past standards. Bearing that in mind, Fairport should be congratulated - it is never easy to recreate the past without people saying 'Oh that's not as good as the original'. In a way, to me the most interesting track is Simon doing great credit to Sandy Denny with his version of Fotheringay. Well done to all.
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on 11 April 2013
there isnt a new song on here but they feel as fresh as when they first came out (40+ years ago in many cases) Walk awhile in particular and Sandy Dennys beautiful Fothringay come over well. Only mildly disapointing new version is ironically their best known Matty Groves which lacks the fiddle and guitar interplay of the original although Chris Leslie and Rick Sanders do their best to replicate Swarb & Thompson
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on 17 December 2012
They are the best folk rock group ever. I helped vote for the tracks they chose along with thousands of others. I can't understand why they aren't played more
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on 4 July 2012
This album combines all the best tracks by Fairport, but by the present line-up that we all love to go and see, what could be better?
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on 2 February 2014
One of the best CDs in my opinion, See this group live quite regular, they keep getting better and better.
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on 30 June 2014
Bought this after going to a recent concert by Fairport Convention - love every single track on this CD. The music really stands the test of time. I still have the original recordings with Sandy Denny which I love but I enjoyed the harmonies on this one.
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on 3 April 2015
Having recently seen Fairport performing live, some 40 years after first seeing them perform, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the sheer quality of their musicianship and the way that their original "hits" still sound fresh and new. This album contains some of their best known songs and clearly demonstrates that there is no substitute for talent. This group of musicians may have been performing for the best part of 50 years, but they manage to retain their enthusiasm and mastery of their craft.
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