Friday, May 30, 2014

SIDE PROJECTS : Fairport Connections

Buy some early Fairport

OK, there is no such band as Fairport Connections, but, challenged by Darius' post below, I thought it pertinent to address the revolving door policy of UK folk-rock, in particular that arising out of the still going Fairport Convention, arguably the godfathers of the mafiosi still intrinsically associated with the tradition, even if not strictly still members of their former band.. Since 1967, starting off as an English Jefferson Airplane, if you will, within a year or 2 they had invented folk-rock, utilising and building on an electrified folk tradition of the british isles. Altho' this piece is not, per se, about them, here is the consummate example of their traditional stylistic progression, from Liege and Lief, the groundbreaking 1969 LP, voted "Most Influential Folk LP of all Time" at the British Folk Awards in 2006. This line up of the late Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol, Ashley "Tyger" Hutchings, Dave Swarbrick and Dave Mattacks was probably their anti-nadir, with a legacy that lasts to this day, usually most prominently at their yearly Cropredy Festival, where, despite Simon Nicol being the sole custodian of the original flame, those still able usually still attend, within whatsover role they are currently occupying in the musical world, culminating in a marathon all bodies on deck finale. Never has the Hotel California spirit of "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave" been more aptly realised.

Anyhow, to task, my plan today is to introduce the 2 earliest side projects of this dynasty, together with a couple of other tasters. The early 2 are about as far from each other as you can get, being faithful evocations, if a little modernised, of rock and roll and of morris dancing, unlikely bedfellows to say the least.

"Rock On" in 1972 was attributed to "The Bunch" and was a collection of their favourite covers by Elvis, the Everleys, Buddy Holly and many more. Featuring most of Fairport, this also included the later to be Linda Thompson and other past and future alumni. Here's Sandy Denny and the aforementioned Linda together. Was it a financial success? Probably not, but it sounded a lot of fun.

And The Bunch

Almost as a riposte, Ashley Hutchings produced the 1st of a dynasty of LPs, starting with "Morris On", later in that same year, roping in, again, Mattacks and Richard Thompson. A completely different kettle of fish, this remains probably an aquired taste. Unfortunately, I have that taste, in spades .This ran to Son of, Grandson of and Greatgrandson of, as well as a live outing, based on a touring version, still performing within the last 5 years or so.

And Morris On

So what else evolved from Fairport? Arguably the 2 biggest would have been Ashley Hutchings' Albion (Country/Dance) Bands and the whole phenomenon of Richard Thompson, starting off as a duo with his then wife, Linda, and subsequently his solo and band careers. Whilst distinct entities in their own right, I feel they fulfil a place in this piece, through the virtue of many a still active Fairporter concomitantly appearing in the ranks of either, or both, bands as well, and still also in Fairport. (As an aside, the later rhythm section of Dave Mattacks on drums, Dave Pegg on bass and Simon Nicol on guitar were virtually the houseband of Island Records in the 70s, appearing on just about everything.)  Here are examples of The Albion Band and of The Richard Thompson Big Band, and rather than describing the convoluted who's who, I direct you back to the family tree in the 1st link above.

Confused? So what, just enjoy. And why the picture of cricketers at the head of the page? Well, that is because the annual festival generally completes with a sunday cricket match, involving many of the musicians involved. Richard Thompson is said to be a demon bowler, which may mean little to US readers. Now you can't quite see the Grateful Dead doing that, can you?

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