14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Far from definitive Swarb collection-a wasted opportunity,
This review is from: Swarb! Forty Five Years Of Folk's Finest Fiddler (Audio CD)
Anyone reading the title of this lavishly packaged set would think they would be buying the definitive compilation of England’s very finest fiddler. They would be wrong. The title is misleading. What it should say is “Swarb. Obscurities and rarities from the last forty five years of the fiddler, Dave Swarbrick.” That at least would be honest. Many of the tracks here are culled from Swarb’s private collection of recordings made in countless folk clubs and concerts around the country and the rest of the world. Mostly they are badly recorded. Always there is tape hiss. There has been no attempt to re-master the tapes, just the old tapes put straight on to disc. That is not to say there is no good stuff here. There is his work with Bert Lloyd, the Ian Campbell Folk Group, Simon Nicol, and Alistair Hulett; but there is little representation of his solo albums or his many collaborations with Carthy he recorded on the Topic label. Surely, on a 4 CD set, the Carthy recordings on Topic, some of the finest in the genre, should get a CD to themselves. Fairport Convention is well represented here, - not the classic recordings, of course, but obscure live recordings, some of which are plain dreadful. Listen to their lamentable attempt at Dylan’s ‘Country Pie, for instance, which is badly played, badly sung, and badly recorded.
A part of this box set is a 136 page book by Nigel Schofield detailing the life and works of Swarb. It misses out little but the chronology is confused, so that the text jumps back and forth instead of progressing logicially from the 60s onwards. This creates confusion, at least it did for me. on the plus side there are also lots of viginettes dealing with musicians he has recorded with and albums he has made. These are interesting. So are the many pictures and reproductions of posters, tickets, Melody Maker articles etc, which flood the pages. Therefore, the book (it is too big to call a booklet) is like the CDs - a mixed affair. It basically needs a good editor to sort it out rather like the CDs need a good producer to sort them out.
This set is a missed opportunity. There is nothing wrong with an album of obscure tracks and unheard live recordings so long as the packaging does not attempt to sell itself as any thing else. This is most definitely not a definitive compilation set. There is a precedent for this type of CD. Nic Jones’ ‘Unearthed’ and ‘In Search of Nic Jones’, published by Mollie Music but sadly not available from Amazon or in shops, set out to do just the same as ‘Swarb’. It collected together radio shots, archive material and live recordings and provided them with concise but informed notes and photos from the present and the past. This is what Free Reed should have done with Swarb. There is too much here and much of that of low quality. I cannot recommend this box set despite the treasures it holds. I bought it thinking that it would be a Best of Dave Swarbrick. Instead, I got a mixture of the best and the worst. I cannot wait until we get a proper retrospective of Dave Swarbrick covering his solo work, his work with Fairport Convention, and his classic recordings with Martin Carthy. Until that happens, stay away from this, and type in Dave Swarbrick into the Search Engine, and select anything of his that has Carthy’s name beside it such as ‘But Two Came By’ or ‘Byker Hill’, the solo albums such as ‘Swarbrick’ and ‘Swarbrick 2’, and something by the Fairports, such as ‘The History of …’ or ‘Liege and Lief.’ There you will hear the genius of Swarb in full flight, and a delightful sound it is too, the best in all England in fact.