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Feature Review #12
Birthday Present, Yay!

Fairport Unconventional
Fairport Convention
This is one of the most incredible boxed sets i've had the good fortune to own; Free Reed look rather like a British Bear Family on the basis of this set and of others listed in the catalog that came with it.

The 180-page book, which covers Fairport's history from beginning to present (well, presstime; given the band's background, there's always the nervous feeling that any listing of personnel more than about a day old could be seriously out of date)(And, indeed now, some years later, it *is*), including commentary on each album at the appropriate points. While certainly respectful of the band's history and influential position, and obviously friendly with the members, author Nigel Schofield doesn't fall into the trap of being overly reverential, and is not above more-or-less gently twitting them when it becomes obvious that they don their trousers unipedally in a manner not dissimilar to the rest of us.

The Cropredy memories book is a nice touch; having been there in '90 and '92, i can attest that it is A Lot Of Fun, even in a downpour (and didn't we just have one in '90).

Pete Frame's "Fairport Family Tree" is an expansion of the one he did entitled "Resolving the Fairport Confusion", which is reprinted in his first "Family Trees" book (and, in a streamlined form, on the cover/inlay of the "History of Fairport Convention" compilation), which followed the band up till their breakup in '79. In order, presumably, to get in all of the most-directly-related data on Fairport's lineups and its members' other projects, and related bands and projects, some of the more peripheral material included on the original tree is MIA -- i find a minor mention in a note of "The Bunch", but they do not appear as a separate entry on the chart as such, and he doesn't number the various incarnations of Fairport and Steeleye Span referenced, as he did on that earlier rendering. All the same, a fantastic piece of work. (You have to see it to appreciate how densely packed it is with information.) He ends it with a note to the effect that, if they make any more lineup changes they can just "...(something) well get themselves a new biographer..."

Great package. Seems as if there ought to be something else to talk about, though...

Oh, yeah -- the music!

Disc 1 -- "Fairport -- A History"; a chronological overview of the history of the band, using lesser-known versions of their standards.

Disc 2 -- "Rareport Convention"; hard to find and unreleased material from many sources, including private collections and radio and TV sessions.

Disc 3 -- "A Fairport History"; sixteen folk tracks that take us back and narrate/coment on various key moments in British history.

Disc 4 -- "Classic Convention"; which is rare and non-standard versions of what is described as the "core Fairport reportoire", including a completely outrageous version of "Matty Groves", which was created by editing together a whole bunch of versions in chronological order and intercut with a radio police drama narrative version of the story.

The sound quality on some the cuts on this set is less-than-pristine (i noticed this particularly on at least one cut which was obviously recorded from an AM radio broadcast, with severe peak distortion). This could be a bit off-putting if this were your first exposure to Fairport, but, since at least one reason to have this collection is for the historical/completist value of the performances it documents, many people (i confess to being one) will be happy merely to have these 72 tracks in any form at all.

That said, most of the cuts are at least decent-sounding, ranging upward to pristine.

I, like any Fairport fan, can list a number of items i would like to have seen included on these discs, if only to have them all in one place, but many or even most of them -- Simon's practical joke on Swarb, which appears on the 30th Anniversary box set, for instance -- are already available in more-or-less accessible form, somewhere.

This set is, mostly, The Other Stuff... and i'm glad to see it.

(Back when the British original of this became available, i mentioned it to my wife and a week later, it was my birthday present.)