FAIRPORT CONVENTION The Classic Collection

The Classic Collection
Union Square METRCD 588

Not quite what it says on the tin. Loads of good Fairport music, but not what you would expect from that title or reading the sleevenotes. In fact the record company badly undersell their own product because hidden away here is a very good live album of the current line up plus what appear to be a few Cropredy rarities.

The sleeve carries a photo of Angel Delight Fairport, who are not featured and, even odder, there is a double-page pic of the short -lived line up from 1972 featuring Roger Hill and Tommy Farnell, who never recorded and have never even turned up on the collections of Fairport rarities. How nice it would be if their rocking version of 'Me With You', or their dance instrumental with three acoustic guitars were available for posterity, but with only a handful of gigs played it seems unlikely anything survives, or perhaps ever existed.

The sleeve notes call this a celebration of this year's "all-time" awards for 'Liege and Lief', but out of thirty tracks only two are from that album. Sandy Denny is trumpeted, and appears once. The photos heavily feature Dave Swarbrick, even though the bulk of the fiddling here is by Ric Sanders, who doesn't appear to get a mention other than some missable references as composer/arranger on some tracks. The sleeve notes mention in passing this is mainly a collection of tracks from Fairport LPs 1985-1995, but oddly doesn't point out that apart from two of the originals the songs are mostly interpretations, and good ones, by the current line-up. A bit of detective work leads me to the conclusion that large chunks of this are Fairport with Chris Leslie from around 1997. There's a very fresh arrangement of 'Matty Groves', with the 'Toss the Feathers' medley adapted as the coda, 'Home is Where the Heart Is', 'Genesis Hall', 'London Danny' and 'Red and Gold'. An enjoyable 'Rocky Road' sounds familiar and might have appeared somewhere else. There's a version of 'Nottuman Town' sung by Richard Thompson and perhaps Judy Dunlop, or Elaine Morgan. And there's 69 minutes of music on one CD and 72 on the other.

Sadly the sleeve notes tell you little, and that could be a sticking point in sales. Since the Woodworm Tapes became available, the Fotheringport Confusion has shifted from band members to recordings as the Fairport output is pushed out and endlessly recycled the way the old Transatlantic catalogue used to be. It must be a disservice to sales. There is a live double Fairport CD, not this one, which I have been puzzling over for months in my local record shop. I think its unreleased stuff, and I will want it, but without engaging a private detective I can't be sure and spend my money elsewhere rather than risk a duplication.

'The Classic Collection' is, I think, mainly new stuff and worth having, but don't take my word for it. The music, of course, is brilliant-modern Fairport on better form than they've been for years

Bob Harragan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 68 of The Living Tradition magazine.