Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fri aft music #4

Well, the weather outside is frightful -- pouring rain, 40 mph wind gusts, in short a typical Washington April....
Started Fri aft w/ the Ntire 2nd side of Gong's YOU (1974) after Rastro's urging a wk ago. Havta admit that "Isle of Everywhere" does cook & bubble right along, w/ more nice sax work from Didier Mahlerbe -- it's even almost (is this the right word?) funky. Summa this same feel/sound can B found on the title track of Gong's SHAMAL album, released a yr later. It's WAY less spacey, way closer 2 a "normal" jazz-rock album, but there's some good stuff on it....
As 4 the other stuff, I still think the vocals R silly, but I like Daevid Allen's "narrating" voice near the Nd: "So there goes Zero the Hero with the Pothead Pixies and the Octave Doctors...." & man this band had talent 2 burn. So, mayB I just haven't bn playing it loud enuf....
Moved then 2 Eno's "China My China" on TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN -- as cute & odd as NEthing else I've heard by Eno, & the middle section w/ Eno's rhythmic typing underpinning Phil Manzanera's guitar solo is probly the high point of the track. But Manzanera's gtr gets faded-out just as it's getting really WEIRD....
Then a replay of Eno's "Third Uncle," mainly 4 the driving rhythm & Freddie Smith's Xcellent drumming.... Probly my fave of Eno's stuff I've heard so far....
Then: Since about 1983 I've thot British folk-rock band Fairport Convention's FAIRPORT CHRONICLES was 1a the best best-of packages ever. Tho not everything on it's a knockout, every side's worth hearing, & the best stuff is pretty amazing. I'd always wanted 2 hear more of their stuff, so when I got a chance 2 get their MEET ON THE LEDGE: THE CLASSIC YEARS 2-CD best-of cheap, I grabbed it. Nded up playing a dozen trax on Fri aft.
The package includes 32 songs, 20 of them w/ Sandy Denny, the haunted voice who I thot WAS Fairport 4 awhile til I was tripped-up by Richard Thompson's stinging gtr & bitter lyrics, Ian Matthews' smooth vocals, Dave Mattacks' solid drumming, etc.
I started w/ the stuff I knew from CHRONICLES. Bob Dylan's "I'll Keep it With Mine" still sounds dramatic & gorgeous, w/ powerful group-vocal choruses, & it wasn't til this listening that it hit me that in the last verse Dylan is basically begging 4 some1 2 stay w/ him -- in his own obscure sorta way. & I've bn playing this song regularly since 1983....
A distant aquaintance 1nce called Fairport "morbid" while listening 2 this song -- & it's true that they do dwell on the dark side of things quite a bit. Their best work is about shattered love affairs, tragedies, fate, loss, hard work w/ no reward. They lost their original drummer Martin Lamble in a van wreck that also killed Thompson's girlfriend. They hadda lotta bad luck. Sandy Denny died after falling down a flight of stairs in her home back in 1977. Summa this obsession w/ fate & the dark side of things can definitely B heard in their music. But if my friend thot "I'll Keep it With Mine" was morbid, it's probly a good thing he didn't hear summa the darker stuff -- "Meet on the Ledge" or "Genesis Hall" or, Ghod save us all, Dylan's "Percy's Song."
"Tale in Hard Time" isn't 1 of these. Tho Thompson's lyrics R kinda grim, Ian Matthews' smooth vocals lighten it up, & the choruses R great. & I'd like 2 know who plays the magical piano/harpsichord/celeste/whatever-it-is that brightens the choruses. Nobody's credited, tho Denny plays piano on some other trax....
The mournful, resigned "Meet on the Ledge" has summa Thompson's grimmest & best lyrics ever. & it Cms 2 C ahead 2 the tragedies that'll dog Fairport as their career develops....
"Come All Ye" is probly my fave Fairport track ever, a song about how & why the band plays, w/ little portraits of each member. It may sound kinda hokey, but Denny's vocals R great & the choruses R rousing.
Then I worked my way in2 the stuff I hadn't heard B4. Denny, founder Ashley Hutchings & Thompson all left the band within a yr or so of each other at the start of the '70s. Denny returned 2 the band in '75 4 the album RISING FOR THE MOON. 4 trax from this album R placed at the Nd of the set. They're good, but it's EZ 2 C why the album wasn't a resounding success. These songs R almost 2 clean & clear. They needed 2 dirty it up & rock out more. A little Richard Thompson gtr mighta helped.
As is, there's not much 2 make these songs stand out, tho the band's in good 4m as always & Glyn Johns' production is as able as ever. The long instrumental coda 2 Denny's 8-min "One More Chance" almost makes it, but the others R merely avg -- Xcept 4 Denny's brief, regret-filled funeral march "Stranger to Himself." It can stand w/ their best stuff.
Summa the others R kinda a mixed bag. The best thing about "Rosie" is the backing vocals by Denny & Linda Peters-Thompson. I wasn't that big a fan of the later band w/ fiddler Dave Swarbrick in charge.
"Mr. Lacey" is kinda a silly blues, but it lightens things up. "Book Song" is kinda Simon&Garfunkel-ish. "Crazy Man Michael" is more darkness from Thompson. "Matty Groves" is a traditional piece about infidelity, class prejudice & injustice, w/ another long instrumental coda. Denny's singing is passionate.
I ran outta time, but I was gonna go on 2 the epic "A Sailor's Life" & some others, but that'll havta wait til next time. I miss summa the trax from CHRONICLES, specially the 1's that mighta lightened things up here a bit. Dylan's "Million Dollar Bash" is a hilarious, shambolic per4mance where each Fairport member gets a chance 2 sing their best Dylan impression. & summa the solo & group projects included in that old best-of R pretty great 2: The Bunch's "My Girl the Month of May" & "Learning the Game" (The Bunch was basically Fairport + 1/2 a dozen guests), Sandy's gorgeous solo "Listen, Listen," & her later band Fotheringay's dramatic cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Way I Feel" -- mosta the guys in that band later Bcame members of Fairport NEway....
...& I was gonna play King Crimson's "The Sheltering Sky" again 4 the 1st time inna few yrs. But next time 4 sure....

3 comments:

rastronomicals said...

Just bought Liege & Lief at the Itunes store--like with the Nektar, the excellent career-spanning retrospective you review wasn't available, so I hope I picked the best original! If Allmusic is on target, and considering the album's leadoff is your favorite Fairport track I probably did.

I've long known the names of Fairport and Denny and especially Thompson, but never took the plunge.

Thanks for providing the impetus, I expect the stuff will be great.

R Smith said...

Meet On The Ledge is a great comp that shows the rise and fall of Fairport and most of the songs on that album are their best. In my way I still perfer What We Did On Our Holidays as their best album although its nice to know that Universal has kept L & L in print over the years.

Their first album featuring Judy Dyble doing female counterpoint is spotty but they do cover choice material from the likes of Joni Mitchell and Emmitt Rhodes. Losing Richard Thompson after Full House didn't help things and although Denny did return for Rising For The Moon and Fairport Live they did lack Thompson's mad genius. The Dave Swarbrick/Fairport album Gottle O Geer was found in the cutouts and basically you're not missing much from that record. It points to The Band sound but I think I compare it more to Velvet Underground's Squeeze as a case in point simply of the fact that no original Fairport members were around in the making of that album.

Once they reformed in 1985, they did make a good record in Gladys Leap and it does benefit from two Richard Thompson songs. Not something that you have to have but I do pull that out from time to time to listen to, it's not bad.

tad said...

Crabby!: Tanx 4 D input, as always. Who knew U were a British folk-rock fan?
All the critics Cmta agree that Fairport lost a lotta their drive after Thompson & Denny left, then sorta rebounded about 20 yrs later. They still hold an annual reunion concert every yr in Britain, & they're still putting out albums....

R: OK, I'm crossin my fingers, hope U like. From the collections I've got, I've heard about 1/2 of L&L, which has the reputation of "founding" British electric-folk-rock, the 1st time Fairport REALLY mixed old traditional folksongs w/ electric instruments. The 1/2 I've heard is pretty great, & the critics Cmta agree that the mix & its later influence is pretty strong. 2 bad the lineup couldn't keep it 2gether after that....
Denny & Thompson went on2 solo careers (neither of which I've heard enuf of), & Ashley Hutchings went on 2 4m Steeleye Span & The Albion Band. Steeleye at their best did some great stuff ("Allison Gross," "All Around My Hat," "One Misty Moisty Morning," "Fighting for Strangers," "Thomas the Rhymer"), but overall I think they're a lot more heavy-handed & clunky than Fairport. Not fluid enuf, & the gtrs R sometimes 2 heavy & not very imaginative. Haven't heard the Albions at all, but I'm looking.... -- TAD.