Fairport Convention: Rising For The Moon (Deluxe Edition) – album review

Fairport Convention: Rising For The Moon (Deluxe Edition)
CD
Released – 26th August 2013

Fairport Convention’s ‘Rising for the Moon’ was originally released in 1975, to some considerable acclaim. The Guardian judged the album ‘their best for six years… it ought to re-establish Fairport Convention as a significant British band’. It didn’t, but it’s a great album, now re-released in a deluxe edition. Dom Walsh enjoy revisiting for Louder Than War.

This album was notable as it was the last to feature Sandy Denny. Although Sandy had left the band in 1969, she rejoined them on their 1974 tour and invariably entered the studio with them. With Trevor Lucas (Sandy’s husband) and Jerry Donahue on guitar backed by Dave Pegg on bass, the line up was already strong. The legendary Dave Swarbrick was still manning the fiddle, with Dave Mattacks and Bruce Rowland sharing drum duties as Mattacks departed during recording sessions. There was a lot of potential in the band, even though they had lost the likes of Ashley Hutchings and the immensely talented Richard Thompson in years gone by.

Fairport Convention: Rising For The Moon (Deluxe Edition) – album review

Although the line up had largely changed, Rising For The Moon delivers an excellent array of songs, although for the first time, no traditional compositions. The excellent title track is a fantastic opener that the current line up re-recorded on their 2012 album, Festival Bell. An early highlight of the album is White Dress. Written by Dave Swarbrick and regular Fairport Convention contributor Ralph McTell, the song is sung so beautifully by Denny. It is a song with aching beauty, and an overlooked diamond in the rough of the Fairport back catalogue. Notably, it was the only 7” release from the album. Swarbrick’s vocal contribution on Let It Go displays his ability as one of the best and most recognisable voices in English folk rock. This can be placed alongside other gems such as the title track from 1973’s Rosie and Nine’s Hexamshire Lass (which appears on disc two of this reissue). Two Sandy Denny compositions (‘Stranger to Himself’ and ‘What is True’) take up the centre of the album, with the upbeat, Lucas penned Iron Lion picking up the pace with it’s guitar heavy drive and rock and roll feel. Swarbrick takes vocal duties on Night Time Girl, which is led by his fiddle and Pegg’s bass. The closing track on the album is the epic ‘One More Chance;’ a track that really allows Jerry Donahue to shine on guitar. Clocking in at a princely 8 minutes, this is a track that harks back to the bands output of several years previous. An opening piano melody and more heartbreakingly good vocals from Denny, make for a quite magnificent track.

Overall, the album is often overlooked next to previous efforts, which is fair enough when you have landmark albums in your discography like ‘Liege & Leif’ and ‘Unhalfbricking.’ That being said, the album is a great listen and still sounds very fresh and full of quality song writing.

Along side the original album is the real highlight of this re-issue for many Fairport fans; a collection of unheard of demos and a stunning live set from the LA Troubadour in 1974 after Sandy Denny had reunited with the band.

Fairport Convention: Rising For The Moon (Deluxe Edition) – album review

The set not only contains some of Fairport Convention‘s greatest compositions in the utterly timeless ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ and ‘Matty Groves’; it also contains nods to many of the band members solo endeavours. Fotheringay’s ‘Ballad of Ned Kelly’ and ‘John The Gun’ both make an appearance, as well as ‘Down Where The Drunkards Roll;’ a Richard and Linda Thompson track that Lucas provided backing vocals for on the ‘I Want To See Bright Lights’ album. In addition to this, Denny airs ‘Solo’ and the title track from ‘Like An Old Fashioned Waltz.’ Another treat for Sandy Denny fans is a version of ‘Crazy Lady Blues’ with a previously unheard extra verse of the song. All are delivered with her inimitable grace and splendour. An impassioned version of Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heavens Door’ and Muscle Shoals Studio staple; ‘Six Days on the Road’ are delivered with aplomb.

Suitable superlatives are sparse when describing the greatness of ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes.’ The lyrics and the vocal are simply majestic and soaring. It is one of Fairport’s most well known tracks, and this 1974 line up of Fairport Convention show off the song’s superior quality. The great thing about this rendition of the song is that it allows Denny to flourish. The band plays second fiddle to their spectacular songstress. Denny claims on the disc that it’s the only song that had ever made her any money. The penultimate track of the live set is one of Liege & Leif’s many classic songs; ‘Matty Groves.’ The English folk ballad which was given a folk rock makeover by the band in 1969 is again conveyed in pristine fashion by this line up. Swarbrick’s swirling fiddle and frantic guitar work make for a mesmerising rendition of the song which is wholly unique from the original composition. The set closes with the band showing their rockier side on a cover of ‘That’ll Be the Day.’

Overall, this re-issue does justice to an overlooked Fairport album, but also displays a musically gifted line up in their complete glory on the live disc. Swarbrick’s fiddle work is legendary, and the six string contributions from Donahue and Lucas are superb. The rhythm section of the band completes the mix with Sandy Denny showing why she is quite simply one of England’s greatest singers ever. The extra disc of live material is worth a purchase alone. Denny, Lucas and Donahue all departed the band in 1975, so this collection is a rare delight for the ears.

 

Fairport Convention can be found at their website and at their Facebook and MySpace pages.

All words by Dom Walsh. More work by Dom on Louder Than War can be found here.

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