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Liege and Lief – Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention Liege and Lief

Liege & Lief

(1969), 10/10
After briefly contemplating breaking up following the serious van accident that claimed the life of drummer Martin Lamble, Fairport Convention recruited new drummer Dave Mattacks. Dave Swarbrick was also bought on board as an official member, leading the group into a more folk-focused sound. Delving deeper into the traditional vein that bought ‘A Sailor’s Life’ on the previous record, bassist Ashley Hutchings ransacked archives of obscure folk songs to unearth suitable material for the group to use.

While ‘A Sailor’s Life’ felt like primarily an experiment, these covers are much more entertaining, with Denny infusing plenty of drama into the epics ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Tam Lin’ and Swarbrick leading a run through the Celtic hoe down ‘Toss The Feathers’. ‘Matty Groves’ tells the story of an unfaithful wife’s sticky end (“But bury my lady at the top/For she was of noble kin”), before opening out into a prime Thompson and Swarbrick jam. The atmospheric ‘Reynardine’ is another winner, while the two low-key Thompson songs dovetail nicely into the record and feel like they could have been dug up from sometime in the 14th century as well.

Fairport Convention had been steadily building up to this peak since they began, and perhaps realising they would never top it, underwent their most significant lineup changes yet, with Denny and Hutchings leaving to form Fotheringay and Steeleye Span respectively. Still, this is a very impressive peak, and if you have any interest in British folk rock you need to hear Liege & Lief immediately.

7 thoughts on “Liege and Lief – Fairport Convention Leave a comment

    • It rules; the first song is a bit cheesy, but there are great rollicking folk epics like Matty Groves and Tam Lin. I think it got voted the greatest British folk rock album of all time, ahead of Shirley Collins’ No Roses and The Albion Band’s Rise Up Like The Sun.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll take your recommendation on it and what I’ve heard (Polls scare me). When I was playing the cuts you posted it always reminds me that I should play this music more. It’s good. Quality stuff. Thanks for the reminder of this band and their music. Guess I’ll be going to a Fairport Convention. (never heard of the two artists you mentioned. Worth checking out?)

        Liked by 1 person

        • You might enjoy Albion Band’s Rise Up Like The Sun – it’s got a bunch of Fairport alumni on it – Hutchings, Nicol, and Mattacks are all in the band, while Richard Thompson guests and contributed a song (‘Time To Ring Some Changes’). It has a different vibe, as it was recorded 10 years after the Fairport stuff, but I dig it.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah it sounds up my alley. Will check it out for sure. Can’t go wrong with these musicians. I love the folk and traditional roots over there. I listened to a lot of Silly Wizard, Chieftains etc over the years. I’m a huge bluegrass guy and over there is where it came from. You had me going for a bit when you mentioned ‘Airplane’. I’m really not up on their music. Do they play some of the same style as FC?

          Liked by 1 person

        • The first Fairport Convention album has a West Coast USA vibe to it – they don’t sound very British on that one. I find Jefferson Airplane dated and over-rated, but Surrealistic Pillow is solid enough.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah I have the first FC album. It has a few covers on it that gives it that feel. Airplanes music never caught me. You summed it up pretty good. (CB trys to stay away from commenting on bands he doesn’t dig). Something interesting that I didn’t know. Ian MacDonald, Crimson fame was in the band. It is all starting to make sense. I told you about MacDonald and Giles being a real good album. Love these little discoveries. Think I’ll listen to Fairport right now. Time for a stroll in the sunshine.

          Liked by 1 person

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