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Fame and Glory
Mattie Grooves MGCD049.

This album celebrates Fairport’s association with Breton composer Alan Simon’s five recordings from the 1998 Excalibur Song Cycle through to Anne de Bretagne in 2008. The 15 tracks, re-recordings (4 being live) of songs and tunes from across the 5 albums, are studded with featured guests including drummer Dave Mattacks, guitarists Martin Barre and James Wood, Breton Dan Ar Braz, singer Jacqui McShee, flautists Alan Simon and Flook, and harpist Andreas Vollenweider. Simon’s words are reproduced in a brightly coloured booklet replete with medieval and martial iconography, capturing the magical, martial and mythical themes of the songs (thankfully without approaching the fey faerie of that slightly scary Celtomanic sub culture one finds in parts of Brittany today!) His music is animated by Fairport with their customary skill and sophisticated arrangements.

So, there’s consummate musicianship, often with great power and energy, some quite exhilarating violin, and deft basswork. The recording quality is clear and bright and captures a varied range of moods and dynamics that provide wide interest. The soundscape does at times echo some of the guitar centred musical fusion that has emanated from Brittany in the last couple of decades - but never that species of fusion involving the piercing life force of the Breton bombarde and biniou kozh – and there’s a brief spasm of very French sound from Laurent Tixier’s hurdy-gurdy.  Always, however, there are the recognisable underpinnings of the Fairport sound and, at times, a more ambient and jazzy feel akin to Jacqui McShee’s contemporary Pentangle.

Kevin T Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.