Mail from the United Kingdom bearing CD’s of great joy, Fairport Convention’s two new albums as we used to call them. One a copy of Babbacombe Lee Live Again, perhaps the greatest folk-rock opera if anyone needed one and the other a revisit of several Fairport favorites called By Popular Request. Now new Fairport Convention can be a double edged sword, it can be a wondrous excursion into English folk-song or a middle of the road competent album of OK songs.
So what is it this time? Well you cannott ever go wrong with live Fairport, unless the band are too refreshed and even then it can be fun. Babbacombe Lee was always one of my favorites and this live version updates it enough to make it new but is true enough to the original to make it what is should be the band having fun with an old favorite too. It is made all the more enjoyable by having been the center piece of last years Cropredy when Tom , Paul and I stood on hallowed ground once again to revel.
So on to the real dangerous item, Fairport revisit old favorites. This should also be a given you might think but not necessarily so as other such revisits have not been so successful, in fact they have often been the worst moment on otherwise alright albums.
So what makes this effort different. It is that it finally seems that the band have stopped acting like they are apologizing for not being the band we all loved in the 70’s and for some the 80’s, Maart is gone Swarb is gone as are all those other ex-members and what we have is an exciting band that can continue a legacy that is rich and add to it.
Fairport have looked at what made these songs the fans favorites, kept the seed of the original and embellished the songs with a new maturity and the love that they deserve. Let’s face it this band is a more accomplished band, they sing better, if without the dirty cackle of Swarb, and they can still rock the way they are supposed to. They have matured which is not always good but they are still a great band and this album is a good primer although some may be shocked when they seek out the original albums, which is also a good thing.
On a personal level Fairport Convention have been part of my life since 1979 when I discovered them as a 13 year old, Cropredy has been part of my life since 1982, I still can’t believe my Dad let me go. Hopefully we will make the festival this year but if not well one day we will meet on the ledge.