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4.7 out of 5 stars
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It is hard to believe that this album was recorded nearly 35 years ago! It sounds as fresh and invigorating now as it did back then. You don’t have to like folk or folk/rock to appreciate the wonders of this album. This is a brilliant showcase for excellent English songwriting and band performance. The voice of Sandy Denny was simply captivating and is sorely missed. This is ably demonstrated on the opening “Come All Ye”. Rousing and spiritual, Denny makes the song fly, taking the band on a magical journey. On “Farwell, Farewell”, she has a breathless, earthiness in her voice wringing all the emotional essence out of the song. Let’s not forget the rest of the band. The winning combination of Thompson, Swarbrick, Mattacks, Nicol and Hutchings never fail to delight. A classic line-up who sound as if they really enjoy and inspire each other, especially on the instrumental medleys where the band are really on fire.
This was the band at their creative peak and the album is sympathetically produced by Joe Boyd. It is no wonder that this album regularly appears on Top 10 Best Albums of All Time lists. Though they recorded other wonderful albums, it will be for “Liege and Lief” that they will be remembered.
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on 4 March 2005
"L&L" is possibly the ultimate English Electro-Folk album. As a 19 year old, I was taught the song "Matty Groves" whilst steering a narrow-boat down a canal. Hearing the album, a new genre of music opened up. OK, so I had dabbled in the folkier side of rock (exhibits a and b "The Song Remains the Same" by Led Zeppelin and "2112" by Rush respectively), but Fairport were taking music clear out of the safety of rock and into (shudder) folk music.
Highlighting Sandy Denny's ethereal vocals, the sometimes frenetic combination of Richard Thompson's guitar/Dave Swarbrick's fiddle relied on a rhythm section also containing various demi-gods of British folk music. Combining some of the very best performers of the 1960s and beyond, Fairport Convention were to folk-rock what John Mayall's Bluesbreakers or the Yardbirds were to R&B: a finishing school/academy of excellence.
As an aside for the hard-rock fraternity - Sandy Denny was the female singer on Led Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore".
This album is to me Fairport's apogee - it has the driven supernatural thrills of "Tam Lin" and the softer, yet still dark "Crazy Man Michael" juxtaposed with the narrative "Matty Groves" and some perfect tunes to accompany 'jigging about'.
The lyrical content is on the darker side; Goth-folk, should such a genre exist.
Over the last 20 years, with the sad exception of Sandy herself, who died too young, I have had the privilege to see most of the performers who passed through Fairport, some with the band itself and some in other projects/solo. [their album "history of..." gives a family tree] This band is, to me, the foundation-stone of folk-rock and one could say that this album is the gnomen on the sun-dial of British folk-rock/electro-folk casting its shadow through time.
As a mark of the stature that playing in Fairport confers, like Carlos Santana and John Lee Hooker in their respective spheres, those who passed through Fairport have gone on to nurture the younger generation of talent and mere striplings such as aNNa rYDEr have the support. Check out some of their associates at Cropredy festival, or for the more eclectic, Guilfest, usually has artists with some Fairport connection.
To me, this is THE essential album for electro-folk/folk-rock enthusiasts.
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on 1 August 2007
There can't be many albums that utterly redefine the musical landscape. Perhaps the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen"? Or Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde"? Or the Velvet Underground? Anyway, this is up there with the best.

With this recording, made after the band had been traumatised by a motor crash that robbed them of their iinventive drummer, Martin Lamble, Fairport single-handedly invented a new musical form marrying traditional British folksong with a serious rock arrangements. This is nothing like what American folk-rockers were doing in the 60s (with the possible exception of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and, of course, the mighty Band)(Music from Big Pink has been acknowledged by Fairport as their gold standard!)

There is not a duff track on this CD. Although the six members of this Fairport did play together in the future in different combinations, the six of them would never re-convene and, I believe, they only played a dozen or so concerts. This year (2007) the five remaining members (Plus Chris While filling in for the late Sandy Denny) will reprise the album at Fairport's Cropredy Convention.

The album highlights the folk sensibilities of Dave Swarbrick (fiddle and vocals) and Sandy Denny (wonderful heartbreaking vocals); Ashley Hutchings and Dave Mattacks (who, quietly, invented an entirely new and distinctive way of playing bass and drums) and Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol (possibly the best guitar pairing anywhere ever!)

More than thirty years on, Liege and Lief is awesome. Some of the musical themes got worked to death over the next decade (spare me fiddlers who speed up their tapes to emulate Swarb) but in their choice of material and because of their cracking musicianshp, Fairport created something unique. Quite simply they created something so special that nobody could follow it.
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on 15 March 2004
Everybody says that this is Fariport Convetion's finest moment and they're absolutely right. It is also famously the album which launched folk-rock as we understand it today: electrified traditional music. Unfortunately, we cannot hear this album through fresh ears and cannot hear how original, and even revolutionary, it must have sounded in 1969. The album was recorded following a lengthy recuperation from the physical and psychic injuries the band members had suffered in the fatal van accident that had killed their drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend Jeannie Taylor.
Having tinkered with traditional English folk music on 'Unhalfbricking', they decided to record an entire album of traditional music. Fortunately, they showed the good taste that had characterized their earlier works in both the choice of material and their arrangements. A number of songs seem as they were chosen to match Sandy Denny's beautiful voice perfectly, especially 'The Deserter' and 'Reynardine'. The handful of band compositions are done in traditional style as well; indeed, 'Crazy Man Michael' is almost more folk-music than folk-music. The two stand-out tracks, however, are the lengthy pieces 'Tam Lin' and 'Matty Groves', particularly the latter which is the very embodiment of folk-rock.
This is a good repackaging and I have to say: about bloody time. Island Records have shown a shameful indifference to their magnificent back catalogue over the years. The thick booklet features a detailed history by Joe Boyd and Ashley Hutchings and a wealth of rare and beautiful photos. The two bonus tracks are a bit of a disappointment, however. 'Sir Patrick Spens' was justly left off the album first time round and 'Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood' is just plain tedious.
Should you get it? Of course you should: music simply doesn't come much better. However, I will say that 'Liege And Lief' is only the second best ever folk-rock album. Best ever? Steeleye Span's first album, 'Hark The Village Wait', which simply excels in every way.
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Voted in 2006 as the 'most influential Folk album ever' by those lovely peopleoids at the BBC - "Liege & Lief" finished out an astounding year for FAIRPORT CONVENTION - 1969. They gingerly popped out "What We Did On Our Holidays" in January, "Unhalfbricking" (with "Who Knows Where The Time Goes") in July and the mighty "Liege & Lief" in December of that momentous year. The only other two bands I can think of that put out three great studio albums in one year are Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969 and (with a slight Fairport tie-in) Matthews Southern Comfort in 1970. And with those three albums (all on Island Records) - the Fairports practically introduced Folk-Rock to the world as well the gigantic talents of Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson. "Liege & Lief" was some achievement really. Here are the Rakish Paddies, Crazy Man Michaels and Farmers Tossing Feathers...

Released May 2002 - the single CD version of "Liege & Lief" on Universal/Island Remasters IMCD 291 (Barcode 731458692928) breaks down as follows (55:21 minutes);

1. Come All Ye [Sandy Denny and Ashley Hutchings song]
2. Reynardine [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention]
3. Matty Groves [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention]
4. Farewell, Farewell [Richard Thompson song]
5. The Deserter [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention] - Side 2
6. Medley: The Lark In The Morning, Rakish Paddy, Foxhunter's Jig, Toss The Feathers [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention]
7. Tam Lin [Traditional Air Arranged By Dave Swarbrick]
8. Crazy Man Michael [Dave Swarbrick/Richard Thompson song]
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 4th album "Liege & Lief" - released December 1969 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9115 and in the USA on A&M Records SP 4257.

9. Sir Patrick Spens (Sandy Denny Vocal Version) [Traditional Air Arranged By Fairport Convention]
10. Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood (Take 1) [Traditional Air Arranged By Sandy Denny, Words by Richard Farina]
Both 9 and 10 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED (Take 4 of "Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood" was released on the 1986 retrospective box "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" - not Take 1)

The 16-page booklet on this single-disc remaster is a pretty affair - colour montages of the band, historic references and plates on subjects that inspired the songs, liner notes by original Producer JOE BOYD and band member ASHLEY HUTCHINGS remembering the making of. GARY MOORE carried out the gorgeous and warm remaster with both Joe Boyd and Ashley Hutchings in attendance. Moore's name has graced Thin Lizzy, Elton John and T.Rex remasters for Universal and his much-praised work is of the same calibre here - warm, detailed and full of life.

Recorded across 4 sessions (16, 22, 29 October and 1 November) - the band was Sandy Denny (Vocals), Richard Thompson and Simon Nicols (Lead Guitars), Dave Swarbrick (Violin and Viola), Ashley Hutchings (Bass) and Dave Mattacks (Drums). Retreating to a large country house called 'Farley Chamberlayne' in Hampshire to recover from a horrific car crash that took the life of Drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend Jeannie Taylor - the circumstances surrounding the recordings couldn't have been worse (on the verge of breaking up). Yet somehow digging down deep into English Roots for material and the warmth of the area and place seemed to heal and galvanize the proceedings. And although "Liege & Lief" is categorized as 'Folk' (the jigs of "Toss the Feathers" are purely that) - I've never heard the album in that straightjacket way and many Rock buyers thought so too. For us Folk-Rock had arrived.

Side One opens with an absolute belter "Come All Ye" - a Denny/Hutchings song that sounds like its been in someone's repertoire for 300 years or so - and just now dusted off for the modern world. The first Traditional "Reynardine" is a ballad where 'old music is played on new instruments' - floating like its haze on a country river in the morning. The eight-minute "Matty Groves" is likely to send many an English schoolteacher into a Morris Dance - Dave Swarbrick's Violin and Richard Thompson's guitar licks trading off a gorgeous Sandy Denny vocal. In fact we must talk about Sandy. When Australian Trevor Lucas joined with her in Fotheringay - the two shared lead vocals - and while he has a fabulous voice - Sandy Denny had a tone that felt like vocal honey. Her English charm and sincerity seemed unforced, real and effortless. When she begins the gorgeous Side One finisher "Farewell, Farewell" - there's a faint croak in her notes - yet it works precisely because it's so fragile (a little like herself). Ghosts of Sandy Denny fill every Kate Rusby album.

"The Deserter" is a soldier's lament given a Swarbrick/Thompson background of floating Violin and plucked Guitars. The three-part "Medley" leads us into proper Folk Music with the added backbeat of drums. You can just hear a whole pub chucking aside their wooden stools as they prance about to the jigs and reels like - well drunken sailors. "Tam Lin" and the pretty "Crazy Man Michael" bring proceedings to the close with history and melody. Of the two extras - there's a barnstormer. The ten-minute "Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood" (based on "She Moves Through The Fair") is a trippy Acid Folk workout where a lone bongo is accompanied by a violin and what sounds like a fuzzed-up Jews harp - all of it wrapped around sublime Sandy vocals. It's a properly fabulous extra.

Groundbreaking, first past the post and now a timeless classic - "Liege & Lief" has stood the test of musical time. And this cheap-as-chips deep-in-the-purse CD remaster does that legend proud and cries out for a place in your straw bed and homemade ale casket...
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on 26 November 2008
"Liege and Lief" was Fairport's first album that was almost entirely inspired by traditional British music. The band had previously released 3 albums during a relatively short period of time, and the repertoire had been a mixture of pop, rock and American and British folk.

In May 1969 after the recording of the previous album "Unhafbricking" the band had a terrible road accident which took the lives of drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend Jeannie.

Other band-members were injured in the crash and the group were close to splitting up, but with their wounds healing up they eventually decided to continue with new members Dave Swarbrick and Dave Mattacks.

They did not want to perform their old material and needed a new direction and with inspiration from Ashley Hutchings and Sandy Denny they began digging into traditional Bristish folk music.

In a Hampshire farmhouse they began rehearsing material for a new album which eventually became "Liege and Lief".

The album inspired many other musicians to dig into traditional music and has now become a folk-rock classic and the album.

The original 8 tracks are all great and this new release features two bonus tracks recorded during the same sessions. "Sir Patrick Spence" was later recorded by the next Fairport line-up, here you have the opportunity to hear an early version with lead vocals by Sandy Denny singing slightly different lyrics. The arrangement may be less tight than the "Full House" version, but still a great addition to a timeless album. The other "new" track is a droning version of "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" which Sandy later recorded several times and released on her second solo-album.

Though most of the material is traditional, there are a couple of originals written by Richard Thompson; and they both stand out. "Crazy Man Michael" ( co-written by Swarbrick ) and "Farewell Farewell" were always favourites - "Farewell Farewell" sound much better than on the original vinyl album.

An often overlooked song, "The Deserter", was actually the song that got me into the band; a great tune beautifully sung by Sandy Denny.
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on 25 July 2008
"Liege and Lief" was Fairport's first album that was almost entirely inspired by traditional British music. The band had previously released 3 albums during a relatively short period of time, and the repertoire had been a mixture of pop, rock and American and British folk.

In May 1969 after the recording of the previous album "Unhafbricking" the band had a terrible road accident which took the lives of drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend Jeannie.

Other band-members were injured in the crash and the group were close to splitting up, but with their wounds healing up they eventually decided to continue with new members Dave Swarbrick and Dave Mattacks.

They did not want to perform their old material and needed a new direction and with inspiration from Ashley Hutchings and Sandy Denny they began digging into traditional Bristish folk music.

In a Hampshire farmhouse they began rehearsing material for a new album which eventually became "Liege and Lief".

The album inspired many other musicians to dig into traditional music and has now become a folk-rock classic and the album.

The original 8 tracks are all great and this new release features two bonus tracks recorded during the same sessions. "Sir Patrick Spence" was later recorded by the next Fairport line-up, here you have the opportunity to hear an early version with lead vocals by Sandy Denny singing slightly different lyrics. The arrangement may be less tight than the "Full House" version, but still a great addition to a timeless album. The other "new" track is a droning version of "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" which Sandy later recorded several times and released on her second solo-album.

Though most of the material is traditional, there are a couple of originals written by Richard Thompson; and they both stand out. "Crazy Man Michael" ( co-written by Swarbrick ) and "Farewell Farewell" were always favourites - "Farewell Farewell" sound much better than on the original vinyl album.

An often overlooked song, "The Deserter", was actually the song that got me into the band; a great tune beautifully sung by Sandy Denny.
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on 9 November 1999
Liege and Lief is, perhaps, the finest example of British folk you are ever likely to find. An album that sounds just as fresh and invigorating today as it did over 30 years ago. From the mastery of Dave Swarbrick's fiddle-playing to the emotion and power of Sandy Denny's vocals, every track is a classic in it's own right. If you thought folk music begins with morris dancing and ends with The Pogues then this album will be a revelation. The traditional ballads (Tam Lin, Matty Groves) blend seemlessly with the original material. If you thought folk music was all about men in woolly jumpers and farming then this is the record that will change your mind. Sandy's voice is as powerful as it is invocative and the jigs and reels will have you tapping a toe in no time at all. A wonderful introduction into Fairport Convention and a wonderful introduction to folk, an album that will become a lifetime favourite.
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on 1 September 2007
This was the first album I ever bought, way back in 1970. The original vinyl is worn out and I replaced it with this CD. The music has the same effect it did back then - all the musicians giving it everything and Sandy Denny's voice, undoubtably at its best, still sends shivers down my spine. Wonderful album, with not a bad track on it, which showed the way for the next generations of folk-rock. Buy it - it's a bargain!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 October 2014
I recently bought this album again on CD, having owned it on vinyl since 1969. I am giving it repeated plays, as I have rediscovered just how brilliant it is. What Fairport did here was to take traditional English folk songs and adapt them to modern electric instruments, without losing the essence of original music. It was a remarkable project at the time; something never before attempted and it paid off.

At this stage in their careers Fairport Convention were increasingly moving away from American influences and back towards traditional English songs. This was made possible by the fact that Sandy Denny had a perfect voice for narrative lyrics. Most of these songs tell a story, so the words matter. Her crystal-clear singing makes the songs come alive, recreating the traditional English folk songs but using an up-to-date singing style backed by modern-day instruments.

Complementing Sandy Denny's singing is Dave Swarbrick's electric violin playing (double entendre intended!). It adds a touch of authenticity whilst at the same time emphasising that these are modern-day re-interpretations of the traditional songs. Many tracks truly rock.

Sadly, this was the summit of Fairport Convention's work. There really was nowhere for them to go after Liege and Lief and they broke up. But the peak they scaled was very high: this record is as fresh today as it was almost five decades ago and is one of the few albums that genuinely earns the description 'unique'. Highly recommended: five stars.
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