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AllMusic Review: Unhalfbricking was, if only in retrospect, a transitional album for the young Fairport Convention, in which the group shed its closest ties to its American folk-rock influences and started to edge toward a more traditional British folk-slanted sound. That shift wouldn’t be definitive until their next album, Liege & Lief. But the strongest link to the American folk-rock harmony approach left with the departure of Ian Matthews, who left shortly after the sessions for Unhalfbricking began. The mixture of obscure American folk-rock songs, original material, and traditional interpretations that had fallen into place with What We Did on Our Holidays earlier in the year was actually still intact, if not as balanced. Sandy Denny’s two compositions, her famous “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” and the far less celebrated but magnetically brooding “Autopsy,” were among the record’s highlights. So too were the goofball French Cajun cover of Bob Dylan’s “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” (here retitled “Si Tu Dois Partir,” and a British hit) and the magnificent reading of Dylan’s “Percy’s Song,” though the bash through Dylan’s “Million Dollar Bash” was less effective. Richard Thompson’s pair of songs, however, were less memorable. The clear signpost to the future was their 11-minute take on the traditional song “A Sailor’s Life,” with guest fiddle by Dave Swarbrick, soon to join Fairport himself and make his own strong contribution toward reshaping the band’s sound. — little creek casino resort

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Genesis Hall” Richard Thompson 3:41
2. “Si Tu Dois Partir” Bob Dylan 2:22
3. “Autopsy” Sandy Denny 4:27
4. “A Sailor’s Life” traditional, arranged by Denny, Thompson, Simon Nicol, Ashley Hutchings, Martin Lamble 11:20
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “Cajun Woman” Thompson 2:43
6. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” Denny 5:13
7. “Percy’s Song” Dylan 6:55
8. “Million Dollar Bash” Dylan 2:56

 

Schill Score: 8/10

 

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Fairport Convention – Liege And Lief (1969)

AllMusic Review: In the decades since its original release, more than one writer has declared Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief the definitive British folk-rock album, a distinction it holds at least in part because it grants equal importance to all three parts of that formula. While Fairport had begun dipping their toes into British traditional folk with their stellar version of “A Sailor’s Life” on Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief found them diving head first into the possibilities of England’s musical past, with Ashley Hutchings digging through the archives at the Cecil Sharp House in search of musical treasure, and the musicians (in particular vocalist Sandy Denny) eagerly embracing the dark mysteries of this music. (Only two of the album’s eight songs were group originals, though “Crazy Man Michael” and “Come All Ye” hardly stand out from their antique counterparts.) Liege & Lief was also recorded after a tour bus crash claimed the lives of original Fairport drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson’s girlfriend; as the members of the group worked to shake off the tragedy (and break in new drummer Dave Mattacks and full-time fiddler Dave Swarbrick), they became a stronger and more adventurous unit, less interested in the neo-Jefferson Airplane direction of their earlier work and firmly committed to fusing time-worn folk with electric instruments while honoring both. And while Liege & Lief was the most purely folk-oriented Fairport Convention album to date, it also rocked hard in a thoroughly original and uncompromising way; the “Lark in the Morning” medley swings unrelentingly, the group’s crashing dynamics wring every last ounce of drama from “Tam Lin” and “Matty Groves,” and Thompson and Swarbrick’s soloing is dazzling throughout. Liege & Lief introduced a large new audience to the beauty of British folk, but Fairport Convention’s interpretations spoke of the present as much as the past, and the result was timeless music in the best sense of the term. — Mark Deming

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Come All Ye” Sandy Denny, Ashley Hutchings 4:55
2. “Reynardine” traditional; arranged by Fairport Convention 4:33
3. “Matty Groves” traditional; arranged by Fairport Convention 8:08
4. “Farewell, Farewell” words: Richard Thompson; tune: traditional 2:38
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “The Deserter” traditional; arranged by Fairport Convention 4:10
6. “Medley”

  • I. “The Lark in the Morning”
  • II. “Rakish Paddy”
  • III. “Foxhunter’s Jig”
  • IV. “Toss the Feathers”
traditional; arranged by Dave Swarbrick 4:00
7. “Tam Lin” traditional; arranged by Dave Swarbrick 7:20
8. “Crazy Man Michael” words: Richard Thompson; tune: Dave Swarbrick 4:35
Total length: 40:33

 

Schill Score: 7.5/10

 

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