Lost opportunities abound for some bands. Fairport Convention may be the band with the most lost in English folk-rock. Always a strong band with two of England’s most original songwriters in Denny and Thompson and an album in Liege and Lief that is considered the most important folk-rock album on more lists than you can figure. A revolving door of lineups and some strange business choices resulted for many years in a band that’s talent and ability define the idea of cult band. They have now finally settled on a lineup that may not be the most creative but is the most consistent but that is for another post and probably a longer one.
For many Liege and Lief is the album to go to. It is maybe their most important they have produced but I have never really enjoyed the production or sound of the album regardless of format. If you really want to hear the power and the glory of Fairport go to Full House. It also just sounds better than Liege and Lief .An album made by a band that on the cusp of success lost it’s founder and guide in Ashley Hutchings and it’s lead singer and front person in Sandy Denny. Dave Pegg replaced Hutching’s on bass and they went into the studio to record an album which is in my opinion stronger than Liege and Lief.
Seven tracks, two Swarbrick/Thompson compositions two sets of tunes, two traditional songs and the psychedelic masterpiece that is Sloth. Now Be Thankful was recorded at this time along with Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman but not considered for the album which may be the biggest crime perpetrated by Fairport Convention ever.
This is the point in Fairport’s career they most resembled the Band. A group of musicians living and breathing the music. This lineup was a powerhouse live which is why if you get Full House you also need House Full, Live at the LA Troubadour. They are companion pieces. An epic studio album and a live album with a band that sounds like it cannot be restrained.
Zeppelin apparently attended several of the shows at the Troubadour and somewhere in bootleg fantasy land or more likely Pegg’s closet is a recording of the beer fueled jam that has Page attempting to keep up with Thompson on jigs, reels and rock and roll standards. It is better it has never been heard so the legend can grow of that night, some things really are better to be mythical.
The original version of House Full on Island has the bands worst ever cover. It was also the record that caused me to be ejected from the sixth form common room for playing it to the massed Joy Division fans as they sat in a gloomy huddle in the corner on a hot July day in their overcoats and with their very concerned looks. I like to think it was because they could not stand the collective joy of five world class musicians playing those trad jigs at break neck speed but there may have been other reasons. Among which may have been I was less than gentle with their record as I removed it from the player. In those days taking a record to school was risky business. Not only did you risk the ridicule of your peer group but you risked damage once your two songs were up.