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Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Second Is Better Than First. Part 12.


George writes:

Good grief, from experimental kraut rock to english psychedelic and folk rock. My (former) good friend must be beside himself with joy! I was really put on to this band by a former friend and co-founder of our curry club. It only had three members. He recommended today’  better album to me, and it led me to a few other early Fairport Convention albums.

The debut has been likened to Jefferson Airplane, which is a bit harsh given how terrible the latter band were. But it is certainly not a folk rock album, there’s a Byrds-lite song (If stomp), definite folk songs (such as Decameron, and their murdered version of Chelsea Morning)  The female vocal, from Judy Dyble, is rather  nondescript, and it is obvious the band improved in this area with her replacement by Sandy Denny, although they definitely suffered in the on-stage knitting department with Ms Dyble’s departure. Here’s one of the more Jefferson Airplane-like songs from the album:

Fairport Convention - Jack o' diamonds

The next track, Portfolio, has elements of Syd Barret.era Pink Floyd!  The debut is rather a strange album, it’s lack of consistency in musical style makes it almost a compilation album of different genres. And given the overall weakness of the songs it gets a bit tedious.

There is no doubting that What We Did On Our Holidays is a folk-rock album (oh dear GOD WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS mutters CC), packed with splendid songs of the genre, and the rather out of place blues-ish track Mr Lacey, which in itself is a perfectly fine song. That track is sandwiched between Fotheringay and the wonderful Book Song:

Fairport Convention - Book song

How good is that??? This is the first Fairport Convention album to feature Sandy Denny (who never really released much of worth when she left the group a couple of years later). The songs where  she has the lead vocal have something special, although Richard Thomson’s guitar-playing helps a little bit.

Fairport Convention - She moves through the fair

And it would rather perverse not to include the best song on the album (Meet On The Ledge) which is exactly what I am doing today..

Billy the farm cat is walking about with a mouse in his mouth

It’s a splendid album, and easily an example Second Is Better Than First

Thank you kindly

CC writes folk- rock easily trumps experimental kraut rock in my book.

Anything involving Sandy Denny is alright by me. Whereas she obviously never topped Who Knows Where The Time Goes she had some very good solo songs


  1. "Meet on the Ledge" is timeless although I feel it was more suited to the Fairports' 3rd album "Unhalfbricking" - my favourite with every track a gem.

    1. Unhalfbricking too is a fine album. I wonder if CC is up to "3rd is best" series'

    2. Or "the difficualt 3rd album"series?

  2. I do enjoy some FC too, George- have to be in the right mood but they were certainly classy. Also the Fotheringay album, from with the track Banks Of The Nile never fails to make me cry...
    Love 'Meet On The Ledge' too - though I can't help seeing the title in my head as 'Meat On The Ledge' (which really wouldn't appeal at all).

  3. "Sandy Denny (who never really released much of worth when she left the group a couple of years later)" You really need to listen (listen)...
    Sandy Denny left Fairport to create the band Fotheringay. Their eponymous album is an absolute belter. All killer - no filler. A second Fothergay lp was released about a decade back made up from 1971 studio tapes. Nothing to complain about on that one either.
    Sandy's 1st solo lp "Northstar, Grassman and the Ravens" is a stunning lp. Her follow-ups are equally fine (Sandy, Like an Old Fashioned Waltz). I am no fan of her final lp "Rendezvous" which is a bit AOR/MOR-ish. Even "Rendezvous" but it wasn't a total loss though... it had this track "All Our Days"... and "Late November" from Northstar, Grassman & the Ravens...