23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating folk-rock album, excellently re-packaged,
By A Customer
This review is from: Babbacombe Lee (Audio CD)
The true story of John "Babbacombe" Lee, the man they couldn't hang is the stuff of folk legend. Lee was dubiously sentenced to death in 1885 for the inconclusive murder of his landlady Emma Keyes in Babbacombe near Torquay. Three times at the scaffold the bolt was jolted but the trap door didn't open. Lee's capital sentence was commuted to life imprisonment where he served 23 years before being released to tell his amazing tale. Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention found a copy of Lee's papers in a Ware antique shop and was suitably inspired by his story to make it the theme of the band's next long-player.
Babbacombe Lee the LP covers John Lee's life from his youth to the hanging incident. It is folk-rock with the playing (and singing in particular) leaning too heavily towards folk in places for my personal tastes. The album is very much Swarbirck's baby though the highlight for me showcases the talents of guitarist Simon Nicol. Breakfast In Mayfair features some beautiful, fluid lead guitar by Nicol equal to any of the best works by his illustrious predecessor Richard Thompson. The song is about the impassiveness of rich suburbanites reading about Lee's conviction in their morning papers. The lyrics throughout the album are well written and factual though as a concept LP, it doesn't have the thought-provoking meanings or unexpected twists of say, Tommy by The Who.
This 2004 reissue of Babbacombe Lee is lavishly re-packaged with lyrics, liner-notes on its subject and two bonus tracks, the excellent Farewell To A Poor Man's Son and a slightly inferior version of Breakfast At Mayfair sung by Sandy Denny. It is an interesting period piece telling a fascinating story and is recommended to anyone who likes folk-rock with leanings towards the folk side of the combination.