Some things are so special you have to take your time to find. Old records are like encapsulated memories, little time capsules of your life. Some are so special they can immediately take you back to a time a place.
I have a list as do most people who collect anything, right at the top of that list is the desire for a really good copy of What We Did On Our Holiday’s by Fairport Convention. Everything about the album is perfect, the artwork, the song selection but most importantly the lineup of that most changeable of bands Fairport Convention.
Nicol, Thompson, Hutchings, Denny and Lamble the folk-rock super-group. It is a perfect band, folkie enough but with definite West Coast psychedelic leanings. It is how the Airplane should sound, the perfect Dylan and Mitchell covers band and yet so English. The covers are perfect, the original songs are sublime, an album that demands to be listened to again and again.
In various incarnations Fairport Convention would go on to make more important albums. Some are at the top of some peoples list of greatest folk rock albums of all time, most explosive live band. They are that most confusing band with more members than a football team. However in 1969 they made this album that is precisely balanced between rock and folk, but has not launched a movement. It is innocent enough to have the title of every English school child’s return to school essay, but world weary enough to cover I’ll Keep It With Mine.
I have been looking for an original but they are all too pricey unless you get the odd A&M album entitled Fairport Convention. without the charming artwork.The Simply Vinyl and 4 Men With Beards pressings had mixed reviews. Then I found a reference to a Tapestry pressing from Germany. Only 500 made apparently. I found one ordered it and it arrived with a nice big scratch across the second band on side 2 which is Nottamun Town which has something suspiciously like a sitar solo but is probably Richard Thompson on guitar. I despaired but emailed the seller with little hope, they promptly dispatched another that is perfect and my belief in humanity was restored. It is a wonderful pressing, everything is clear and the sound awesome, Martin Lamble’s drumming shines throughout the album.
So here it is my second perfect album along with After the Gold Rush. It immediately transports me back to a field in Oxfordshire, every house it has ever been played in and every cuddle on the couch to explain how important this album is to me. The beginning of a love affair with a band that are simultaneously annoying in their caprices and amazing in their ability to perform live so many styles and varieties of music.
It is a beautiful simple album without the future violin pyrotechnics, drinking songs and raucous laughter of future lineups and the tragedy to follow. It is a moment in time before the seventies when possibilities outnumbered the chance of being held back. A time when the other band from Muswell Hill managed with the right producer to make a classic.
All that is left is to find the perfect copy of Unhalfbricking, Liege and Lief and Full House, of course it is unlikely to end there as the completest in me will take over.
Take a look below to see how wonderful a Fairport performance at Cropredy can be given the right circumstances and the English summer sun.