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4.5 out of 5 stars
31
4.5 out of 5 stars


on 9 October 2017
Great album - but as other reviewers point out, it is both a different style to that of Later Fairport years and shows the rustiness of late 60s recording techniques, accorded to new bands with limited studio time. I love the album's West Coast-ish feel, drawing on great songwriters and recall paying more for my import vinyl original than this CD now. When I wore that one out, it's budget version UK replacement was still this price. And now you get four bonus tracks from Cohen, Singer,Hardin and Farina (just love the development of this 'Reno, Nevada' song over the last 50 years - cf. Cropredy 2017). What is there not to like?
If you want to build a CD history of Fairport, then this CD and the 3CD 'Who knows where the time goes' set, followed by 'The Woodworm Years' and 50:50 gives you a pretty good start. More to like, enjoy and play again.
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on 6 August 2017
like the Dylan first album...a rusty start to allow for the greatness that was about to become with next 4 or 5 albums...Jack O Diamonds the outstanding track...a rock n roll classic!!
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on 24 June 2017
Great
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on 17 December 2003
Yet despite that, it's not a mere curio for collectors, it's an album with a lot to offer.
Judy Dyble's certainly no Sandy Denny, but despite her unreliability onstage (all too evident on that Cropredy 2002 live disc), she doesn't tarnish this album at all - her voice blends nicely with Iain's and she handles the Joni Mitchell/Jim & Jean songs appealingly.
Apart from frequent doses of Richard's untamed blues-rocking early guitarwork (and to think he'd be inventing a new language for the instrument in a few years!), the most remarkable thing about the album is the quality of the original songs.
`If' sound like the Byrds during their '66-'67 peak. There are two underrated Richard-penned ballads, `Sun Shade' and `Decameron' (the latter reminds us that he always had depressive tendencies, even before the Scratchwood disaster). `...Witchcraft' may be a Dylan parody but at least it's a subtle one - and with some fine guitar work.
And - the great lost song on the album - `The Lobster'. Co-written by Richard and two ex-schoolmates (!) it's a mini-epic, virtually prog-rock before the term was invented. And it focuses on the guitarist himself, whose contributions point towards his more mature (post-Full House) style. In the `hushed' and `frantic' segments alike, he perfectly defines the phrase "not-a-note-out-of-place".
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on 14 March 2003
This album was initially released in 1968 when, unbelievably, the band were all still teenagers. If you are looking for the 'Folk Rock' sound that Fairport later made their own then this perhaps is not the best place to start. Fairport Convention's excellent debut album is more American west coast influenced than anything the band later recorded, with influences such as The Lovin' Spoonful, Gene Clark, Leonard Cohen and Moby Grape being the most noticeable.
This album is interesting because it must feature two of the first, if not the first, cover versions of songs by the then unknown Joni Mitchell ('I Don't Know Where I Stand & 'Chelsea Morning') and contains glimpses of the genius of guitarist Richard Thompson, which were later to develop so dramatically that he is now considered widely to be one of Britain's finest ever guitarists.
The packaging and sound quality on this remastered edition is excellent, with lot's of previously unseen photos from this time and sleevenotes from founding band member Ashley Hutchings. The album offers plenty of interesting moments, highlights including 'Time Will Show The Wiser' and 'If' and also includes four bonus tracks, including at long last on CD, their bizarre debut single 'If I Had A Ribbon Bow'. This album certainly has a lot of charm and is highly recommended.
However, if you are a newcomer to Fairport, I would recommend their next album 'What We Did On Our Holidays' as a starting point. This album still has traces of the West Coast influences of the debut, as well as the first examples of their 'Folk Rock' sound. It is also the first album to feature the awesome vocal talents of Sandy Denny and is one of the best albums of the late 1960's. After that, this debut album is a great purchase!
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2005
Long out of print, as I discovered after trading in the Polydor vinyl album some years ago, this re-mastered reissue includes bonus tracks including their first single, a cover of Maxine Sullivan's 1940 recording of If I Had A Ribbon Bow. The best track is probably the Dylan-influenced and rather psychedelic It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft.

Among the other original material, some of it dating from Richard Thompson's previous band, is a fair smattering of well-chosen songs from contemporary performers. Joni Mitchell was virtually unknown and unreleased on record in 1967 when this album was recorded and her own versions of the two songs here did not appear until her second album, Clouds, in 1969. The Fairports knew her as she had been in the UK at the invitation of their producer, Joe Boyd, and she had played some British dates supporting the Incredible String Band. Emitt Rhodes was still performing in the obscure group the Merry-Go-Round when they recorded Time Will Show The Wiser to open the album.
 
Dylan's Jack O'Diamonds was actually a poem which turned up on the liner-notes of Another Side Of Bob Dylan. He had given it to an actor friend called Ben Carruthers at the Savoy, who had used it in a TV play called A Man With No Papers, and subsequently recorded it with his group Ben Carruthers And The Deep, aided by Jimmy Page and Nicky Hopkins, on a flop single. One Sure Thing was a cover of a little-known duo called Jim and Jean (Jim Glover and Jean Ray).
There is no clue from this eclectic mix of songs featuring Ian Matthew and the very underrated Judy Dyble that they were to virtually reinvent folk-rock with Sandy Denny just a couple of years later. I saw the band a couple of times around the time of this album and, much as I enjoyed their later albums, rather miss these styles of playing in their music.
Their version of Suzanne used to feature alternate verses sung by Ian Matthew and Sandy Denny but the May 1968 version here sadly falls between Judy Dyble leaving and Sandy Denny joining, but you can hear the dual-vocal version from their August 1968 Top Gear session on Heyday
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on 18 June 2011
First, a confession. Much as I applaud Fairport's boldness in embracing traditional British folk music whole-heartedly and in the process, defining British folk rock which of course secured their place in rock history, my listening preference has always been for the early Fairport, that Fairport which seemingly took much of its inspiration from the American West Coast. Heresy, I know and may the wrath descend on me. The very early manifestation of Fairport as heard in this album is viewed by many critics as little more than talented copyists. The ethereal Ms Denny had not yet joined and song writing skills within the band were rudimentary. That's what some people say. I don't see it like that.

Prior to coming across Fairport I'd been buying Byrds albums, plus the early output from the West Coast bands with names like Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe etc., and also US singer/songwriter stuff. Most of the US psychedelic bands had roots more in folk than in rock. Apart from the Floyd who were originally blues based (but they shed that very rapidly), there wasn't any band in the UK that could be mentioned in the same sentence as the Airplane. With this album suddenly everything changed. Sure, much of the content was covers but it was covers of very obscure originals that you were pretty unlikely to have heard. There was apparently even a Dylan number you'd never heard of, and this was before the days of widespread bootlegs. And there was a psychedelic instrumental track - not many UK bands had committed such to wax - perhaps these guys could be a Brit Quicksilver? Even the sleeve had a rather arty farty look hinting at some intelligent content. As an aside I have to add that I rather suspect a tongue not too far from a cheek in the notes from Ashley Hutchings to the current version, wherein he lists, among the cultural reference points, Thomas Pynchon, French Symbolist Poetry, Ayler, John Cage, the Everyman Cinema, Marine Ices (of course!). But when he listed "What we played", he ended up with "....anything other groups wouldn't touch". This was a band that would play a number from the Everly Brothers on a BBC session. That wouldn't have been cool enough for any other band in those days.

But what was the music like? Surely that's what really mattered. Well each side on the original two-sider started strongly. Side 1 with "Time will show the wiser", originally from the virtually unknown Emmitt Rhodes. Sung by Ian Matthews with the others harmonising beautifully, the song has the feel of the Byrds with Gene Clark at the mike, and not a million miles from power pop, though that wasn't a route that the group was to go down. It probably added to the reasoning of those critics who were keen on drawing analogies between Fairport and the Byrds. The side 2 opener was Joni Mitchell`s "Chelsea Morning". Joni's own first album, which did NOT contain this track, came out at roughly the same time as the Fairport album so there's a load of people out there (like self) who relate more to the Fairport version than the original. And it's a good version. Judy Dyble's voice floats nicely over a sympathetic backing.

Other highlights include the second Joni Mitchell song, "I don't know where I stand". Judy's voice again fits well with the song and it's unusual chord structure - typical of Joni - there's also a lovely doubletracked break from Thompson. The other interesting non-original is "One Sure Thing" written by Dylan bassist Harvey Brooks with Jim Glover of the folk duo Jim & Jean. Both the highly obscure, Jim & Jean plus Brooks were members of the New York folk scene which was mutating into folk rock. It's an understated and somewhat chilly song - the full punch line is "He used to be my one sure thing" - sung with English understatement by Ms Dyble with minimal backing, that is until Thompson comes in with, again doubletracked, soaring and sort of scary lead guitar; Judy's vocal picks up the beat for a few seconds, and then drops back to quiet mode for the close. An unexpected mini-concerto even.

The other non-original I hadn't mentioned is "Jack O'Diamonds". This is an intriguing one. There was a traditional song of this name which recorded by a whole load of people including Lonnie Donegan. However Bob Dylan had a poem of this name on the rear of the cover of "Another Side of......." which used some of the words of the song. Reportedly Dylan gave the poem to Ben Carruthers - an actor who was in "The Dirty Dozen" - who recorded it with his band, "The Deep". It's this version that Fairport have gotten hold of somehow. It has rather an ominous feel to it. The nearest I can think is the Byrds version of "This Wheel's on fire". And I was trying to avoid Byrds comparisons!?!?!?

Of the originals, both "If" and "It's alright Ma, it's only witchcraft" have a sophisticated jug band feel, not unlike the Loving Spoonful. Contrary to the title of "It's alright..." there's no obvious Dylan reference, but the song`s a good `un and Richard stretches out nicely. In contrast "Decameron" and "Sun Shade" are very quiet songs with the latter featuring jazzy phrasing from Thompson. Indeed it is Thompson who is responsible for all these songs, albeit with co-writers. Not at all bad for first recorded efforts. Thompson is also named in the credits for "The Lobster" the instrumental which immediately follows "Sun Shade". I say instrumental but there are a couple of sung verses interspersing the guitar work.. Richard's obviously been listening to the new US psychedelic axe men but this is all his own work - it's certainly not obviously derivative. The two short instrumentals "Portfolio" and "M1 Breakdown" which ended the original sides 1 and 2 respectively are slight. It's very tempting to compare these tracks and their positioning to the Byrds - McGuinn was prone to whimsical touches almost invariably in such positions on albums.

This was the original album. Listening to it now I ask myself, if I'd bought something sounding like this from an American band on, say, the Elektra label, would have I been impressed with it? The answer is an unqualified yes. And I still am. As Hutchings said, you wouldn't have heard any other Brit band play these songs, even if they'd found some of them.

Of the four unreleased tracks, "If I had a Ribbon Bow" is best. An unusual song which would have been nice on the original album. Richard shows off his jazz chops again. The group's version of "Suzanne" will surprise you if you've only ever heard the Cohen original. It's about as heavy as the group get. Worth a listen but does plod a bit. On "Morning Glory" Ian Matthews does his best to emulate Tim Buckley but doesn't get close. Well who could? Richard and Mimi's "Reno, Nevada" sung in duet by Ian and Judy is largely used as a vehicle for Richard (and Ashley) to strut their stuff, stretching the song out to nearly eight minutes. I do recall seeing the band in their early days and they used to perform a not dissimilar lengthy version of the Butterfield Band's "East West" (which featured Mike Bloomfield). If I've been less than polite about some of these tracks, apart from "Ribbon Bow", remember these weren't official releases and I'm sure the wrinkles would have been ironed out if they were intended for recorded consumption.
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on 15 March 2004
The early Fairport Convention were a folk-rock band in the American Byrds / Lovin' Spoonful sense of the term, rather than the sense of the electrified traditional music that they would later come to embody. They were billed as England's answer to Jefferson Airplane which wasn't that far off the mark as the music on their first three albums is very similar to the pre-psychedelic Jefferson Airplane. This is their first album, as if you didn't know, and shows the band in a very embryonic form; compared to later work the music sounds rather thin and underproduced, although you can already hear the superlative musicianship that would characterize their glory years. The music is half group compositions and half cover versions of songs by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell among others. The band showed their characteristic good taste in their choice of cover versions, kicking off the album with a storming cover of Emitt Rhodes' 'Time Will Show The Wiser'. This is probably the highlight of the album but there are plenty of other fine moments, notably the brilliant 'Jack O' Diamonds', an exceedingly pleasant 'Chelsea Morning' and the Dylan pastiche 'It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft'. There are also a few duff moments: I've always found 'The Lobster' tedious and 'M1 Breakdown' is simple filler. Although Judy Dyble and Ian MacDonald (aka Matthews) shared lead vocal duties, Dyble's presence isn't very noticeable other than on the three Joni Mitchell cover versions. She had a pleasant enough voice, and very tuneful, but not a strong one; it is no surprise that the band replaced her soon after the album's release.
The repackaging job is quite excellent with an informative booklet containing loads of unltra rare photos of the band in their earliest days. The four bonus tracks are welcome. Another reviewer commented on their quality, but you have to ask how many unreleased songs from the band's earliest days are there? It is very interesting to hear the band's first single 'If I Had A Ribbon Bow' which sounds even less like the Fairport that we know and love than their first album does.
Taken purely on its own merits, 'Fairport Convention' is a fine late 60s mellow folk-rock album. We only judge it harshly in retrospect because we know that less than a year later they would release the superlative 'What We Did On Our Holidays'. If you're a fan of Fairport Convention, getting this is a no-brainer; both the music and the fine repackaging make it a must-have. If you're not familiar with Fairport Convention's work, try 'Liege And Lief', 'Heyday' and 'What We Did On Our Holidays' first and then give this one a go.
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on 8 March 2017
60's UK Psych at its best. An essential item for any 60's collection. To be honest the following albums lead me cold, dont get me wrong, i like folk, and i like folk rock, but listening to medieval folk songs brought up to date with bass and guitar just dont cut it. This debut reminds me of a lot of other artists from the 60's that did a drop dead mind blowing LP, and all the follow ups were disappointing, like say The Nice. I am sorry if Fairport Fans are gonna flame me for this, but I really really try to dig the subsequent albums, but i just dont get it. Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 19 March 2003
This album is the 'pre Sandy Denny' one and finds the early Fairport rooted firmly in the American influenced sixties 'soft rock' sound, to which the wistfully yearning (but occasionally out of tune) voices of Judy Dyble and Ian MacDonald (Matthews) were well suited. Although the original release contained several covers of songs by, among others, the then little-known Joni Mitchell, more than half were originals written by the band and their friends.
It is an interesting collection. The country rock of "If (Stomp)" was written by Richard Thompson and Ian MacDonald but gives no hint of the direction that the band - and Thompson - were heading. It sounds as though it could have come off a Lovin' Spoonful album - and that's an observation, not a criticism. Three of the strongest tracks are "Time Will Show the Wiser", "Jack o' Diamonds" and "One Sure Thing" - which interestingly were all performed superbly by the surviving members of this band at the Cropredy Festival in 2002. Joni Mitchell's "I Don't Know Where I Stand" still sounds good, as does the gentle "Decameron", but the rest of the original album seems rather dated. It is nevertheless very listenable and this was clearly a band that could play - led by Thompson's mature guitar work and Martin Lamble's excellent drumming.
Of the bonus tracks, the version of "Suzanne" was recorded after Dyble left the band and it needed the female voice as a counterpart to Ian Matthews since it sounds rather ordinary. It is not as good as the version on the "Fairport unConventional" boxed set. Both "If I Had a Ribbon Bow" and "Reno Nevada" were on "unConventional", so if you have that then you'll know that this "Reno" is good - but why not have something different here? The single version of "If (Stomp)" is one possibility that springs to mind. The remaining bonus track is a rather mediocre cover of Tim Buckley's "Morning Glory".
This is an enjoyable album, but it does not stand up as well today as the three albums that followed in 1969.
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