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35th Anniversary Album (XXXV)
Artist: Fairport Convention
Label: Compass Records
Folk rock pioneers Fairport Convention have been around a long time long enough to have been part of the original British Revolution in music. Founded in 1967, they have been combining elements of rock and roll, and traditional English and Irish tunes, to form their unique sound. XXXV is an overview of fourteen of the songs that made them famous.
"Madeleine," an Irish traditional, open the album. A sad tale of lovers parting, "My Love is in America," follows. "The Happy Man" is a pub song with two instrumental numbers mixed in. "Portmeirion" is a Welsh-flavored song with a flute solo by Ian Anderson (Yes).
The band's career may be summed up in "The Crowd," an extended track about performing in front of people the vocals here are much like that of James Taylor or a more subdued Mike Scott (The Waterboys). Poetic license is taken on "The Banks of Sweet Primrose," where the author manages to make "find" and "wind" (as in "the west wind") rhyme. "Primrose" is a saga about a chance meeting between a man and a woman in a field. "I Wandered By a Brookside" is another chance meeting, with a slightly different theme.
"The Deserter" is an anti-war protest tune, which presents the irony of the deserter being shot because he would not shoot other people…. "The Light of Day" is another pub tale this one about friends and bragging and the bet that ensues. Sort of an English "Devil Went Down to Georgia," it shows how one of the bettors outsmarts the others and wins the bet.
Rife with harmonies (particularly in "Talking About My Love"), and great acoustic instrumentation, XXXV is a nice summary of a long career for those familiar with the band and a satisfying introduction for those new to the group. Hopefully, I'll still be around for LXX, to be released in 2037. ;)
Brian A. Smith 3/25/2002