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cover Just Misses 5 Stars
House Full (Live, 1970)
Fairport Convention
Having seen close approximations of all of them at Cropredy, Fairport live in any of its incarnations seems to have been an awesome thing.

But this was the noblest Fairport of them all, in terms of sheer virtuosity and jaw-dropping chops -- and this album documents that to the hilt. This would be a 5-star album except that the sound is a bit thin and dry... and, even at that, it just misses.

((If the mobile truck had been there for some of the moments mentioned in the liner notes - like the night they pulled Linda Ronstadt on stage and did all of her songs, or the night that Swarb's old mates in Led Zeppelin showed up, it would be five stars anyway..))

It flat doesn't get any tighter and solider on stage, and with  guitarists Richard Thompson & Simon Nicol and the Three Daves -- Swarbrick on his demon fiddle dancing with & around RT and SN's guitars and Pegg on bass & Mattacks on thundering drums providing a bottom and a beat that has to be experienced to be appreciated -- Fairport mounted a sonic attack that is almost frightening coming from a "folk" band.

Granted, absent Sandy Denny, neither Richard nor Swarb really fills that gap on vocals, but what this band has in its own right that the "Liege & Leaf" Fairport didn't exploit as fully is its sheer power and virtuosity.

"Matty Groves" is a classic Fairport raveup, "Sir Patrick Spens" is a nice reading of a "trad.arr." ballad, "Mason's Apron" a nice instrumental... But "Sloth", at something like twelve minutes is simply incredible.  (Though, again, at their Cropredy Festival i once timed a rendition at eighteen minutes plus...)

"House Full" is an important document of a transitional time in Fairport's history, as is its 1970 studio complement, "Full House"; both are necessary to your collection if you're buying more than one album -- but this is the one to buy if you can only afford one today.