<--Previous Review Click Here to Return to Index of Reviews
Click Here to Return to Home Page
Next Review-->
Click the Cover Picture or Title to purchase this item from Amazon.com -- a new browser window will open.

My Birfday Present It Was, Precious -- On My Birfday It Come To Me...

Box Cover Image
Fairport unConventional
Fairport Convention
{Special Box Set for their 35th Anniversary}

My own history with Fairport goes back thirty of their thirty-five years -- or even thirty-one if you count my being turned off by the cover of "Full House" in the Navy Exchange in 1971 and not buying it (though i corrected that mistake a little later, see my "Full House" review for more of that story)...

Now, many Fairport albums and two trips to Cropredy, Oxfordshire for their annual music festival/reunion gig (one of which was 1992, their 25th anniversary, memorialised in its own 2-CD set, as was the 30th anniversary, with a 3-disc box.)

Anyway, there i was browsing something somewhere on-line, and i came across reference to this set, which i immediately looked up on Amazon to see if what i had read was true; as it happened, Amazon told me that there was Even More than what i had read suggested. Kate happened to look over when i began whimpering over the thought that i really couldn't afford it, and asked me why i sounded as if i were in pain. I pointed her to the description of the album, and to the price.

She pointed out that my birthday was coming up soon.

And two days before my birthday, there it was in the mailbox.

{When i posted this review on Amazon, everything before this was cut by their moderators.}

My birfday present it was, precious -- on my birfday {well, almost} it come to me... My Precioussss...

[EXIT, pursued by an orc]

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there's always the nervous feeling that any listing of personnel more than about a day old could be seriously out of date), including commentary on each album at the appropriate points.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 is obvious that they don their trousers unipedally in a manner similar 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 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) and 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 on the chart as such, and he doesn't number the various incarnations of Fairport and Steeleye Span referenced. All the same, a fantastic piece of work (you have to see it to appreciate how densely packed it is with information); Pete's original seems to have been about four feet by three feet, and he packed every inch of that twelve square feet with beautifully-lettered hand-printed information, wisecracks and historical sidelights. Even reduced as it is here, it's readable and informative. He remarks at the end that it's current as of when he did it -- and says "...if you change the lineup one more time, you can find yourself another f***in' genealogist!"

And the first 5000 (mine was three-thousand-something) included a coupon for another disc, featuring guest stars from Cropredy. (Hope it includes the long long version of "John Barleycorn" they once did with Ian Anderson...)

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

Oh, yeah -- the music!

Disc 1 -- "Fairport -- A History"; a chronological overview

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

Disc 3 -- "A Fairport History"; sixteen folk tracks that take us back to 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.

The sound quality on some the cuts on this set is less-than-pristine (i noticed this particularly on at least one cut which seemed likely to have been recorded from an AM radio broadcast, with severe peak distortion). This can be a bit off-putting, 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 tending that way) 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.

Now i can hardly wait for my bonus disc.