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25 Years of the Festival
Special Offer: all 4 CDs £16
Fairport Convention's Official Website
CDs: Bruised & Beaten Songs, Farewell 'Farewell', Blow Again, The Winding Road,
|Steppin' out - Peter Fyfe
Fairport Convention - Cropredy Capers (Free Reed Records FRQCD 25)
One of the proudest moments in my chequered career as a folk-rock enthusiast was the time I took the stage alongside my brother Chris and fiddler Bill Perring to perform as The Kitchen Band supporting Fairport at their (we thought then) final Farewell Festival in August 1979. Little were we to know that this was in fact the beginning of one of the finest Folk-Rock influenced festivals to emerge in Europe (or any other country for that matter).
I was to play that same stage on a further two occasions, with Eavesdropper in 1983 and Collaboration in 1988.
Now, you may wonder why I'm telling you all this - well, firstly I wanted to remind myself of those 'glory' year's and secondly to illustrate that Nigel Schofield has once again succeeded brilliantly in cataloguing the whole shebang in the 138 page book that accompanies this 4-disk collection. For those of you yet to be acquainted, Nigel along with his mate Neil Wayne have produced some of the finest collections of multi-disk presentations that we as journalists and you as the public can't wait to get our hands on.
What we have come to expect of these packages (and receive in spades!) is a considerably detailed - but never less than entertaining - trawl through a history of "where were you when…?" scenarios. The nostalgia element that runs throughout this collection (possibly more so than most) and just a selection of random choices from my rather fuzzy memory (well, who wouldn't be after a few pints of Wadworth's best?) will illustrate the point of purchasing this rather illuminating set of recordings.
Dispense with the somewhat dubious quality of some of the tracks (there are 65 tracks after all) and at times cringingly out-of-tune bonhomie ("Bridge Over The River (Ash) Cherwell") that were always staple fare at the re-unions but try and concentrate on the fond memories the songs and tunes will invoke.
There are the obligatory 'guest' appearances featuring amongst others Dave Cousins, Robert Plant and the effervescent Joe Brown in fine fettle on 'Midnight Special', mind you, for me the stand-out track on this particular disk is Bob Fox's version of 'The Rambling Rover'. There's plenty here for everyone who can remember pitching their tent at the festival and even if you weren't there you can imagine (with a little help from the enclosed cardboard cut-out of the festival site) that you were by downing a pint or five and dancing like a whirling dervish round the front room.
A round of applause for all concerned.
Dublin Evening Herald - Sarah McQuaid
Fairport Convention: Cropredy Capers (Free Reed Records)
Closet Blue Peter enthusiasts may now rejoice: the new Cropredy Capers boxed set from Fairport Convention contains a dinky cut-out-and-build cardboard model of the annual festival site. There's also a 136-page full colour book with festival history, band interviews, annual weather reports and other riveting miscellany, plus a 48-page guide to the village of Cropredy.
Oh, and by the way, there are four CDs included, too. Taken from digital masters recorded at Cropredy over the years, the featured tracks include some neat tricks, such as an edited cover of Bob Dylan's 'Million Dollar Bash' that imperceptibly blends versions recorded in 1983, 1992, 1997 and 2002. Elsewhere, there's a sound montage that spans the full 25 years of the festival.
The first 2,000 sets sold via Free Reed's mail-order service in advance of the official release on August 16 are personally signed by all members of the band: see www.free-reed.co.uk or ring +44 870 429 9237 for details.
Green Man - Paul Brandon
Fairport Convention and Assorted Guests - Cropredy Capers
'This is the story of the twenty five August weekends which led me there --the story of a band falling apart and coming together, of miracles and mishaps, of weather from the sublime to the ridiculous, of a village whose name became a byword for a spirit of community --of friends and fans, of fields and folkies, of Festivals and Fairport.' -- Nigel Schofield
My luck in actually seeing Fairport Convention live has been mixed. On one hand, as far as I can recall I never got to catch them in my native England (I say 'as far as I can recall' because one or three of the festivals I attended have, alas, blurred into a collage of images, sounds and smells, thanks to a few liberal applications of real ale, and I have trouble remembering anything ). And on the other, I was lucky enough to see them many times over the five-day Woodford Folk Festival here in Queensland a few years back (without Dave Swarbrick, unfortunately).
Cropredy is an unusual beast. Started (officially) in 1979 as a farewell gig for Fairport Convention, it became an annual event, a midsummer dustup for British folk music. It's a small affair, set in a tiny village in Oxfordshire that now attracts around 20,000, far smaller than the chaos of somewhere like Glastonbury. And unlike that festival, the people at Cropredy are really here just to see one band. I could ramble on for a while about the origins of Fairport Convention, the line-up changes, the break-up and reunions -- hell, Dave Swarbrick and the late Sandy Denny warrant books by themselves -- but I won't. This set isn't really intended as an introduction.
First off, I have to point out that this is a collection that charts a festival, not a band. For that you'd probably be better off with the Fairport unConventional set. (Orders at www.free-reed.co.uk/frqcd35) And it's a hefty set. Four themed CDs (Farewell 'Farewell'', capturing the spirit of the festival; Blow Again, featuring the band and guests performing unConventional covers (including a Zeppelin song sung by Plant himself); 'The Winding Road', highlighting their solo careers; and 'Bruised and Beaten Songs', the most-played songs of the festival), a massive 136-page Cropredy Festival History, a guide to the village itself, even a self-assemble model of the festival (I kid not).
The next thing I have to remark upon is the utterly staggering amount of detail that has gone into this. From notes and set lists for every single Fairport Cropredy performance, to fan photos, letters and recollections (some of which are very moving), right down to a chart that plots the theory that it only rains at Cropredy when Richard Thompson plays on the Friday (seems to be true), who sang the Sandy Denny songs when, and which member (or ex-member) attended which year and for what songs. You get the idea of the detail. One thing I was particularly thankful for was the ability to see just which album any of the some 65 tracks originated from. This is truly put together by people who love what they are doing.
And then there is the music.
With live recordings, it comes down to personal preference. I have musician friends who hate the very thought of them, as if somehow the music just shrivels up when taken away from the context of the performance. But I, well, I've always loved them. Because this set straddles shows from 1979 through 2003, the quality changes: From old ceramic microphones to DAT machines, the differences are clear, but not dramatic. And that's all part of the journey. Some of the earlier stuff seems to blow at the speakers a little, but judging by the attention to detail elsewhere, this was no doubt unavoidable. But altogether, the sound quality is wonderful.
Okay, musically, it's all here. From stalwarts like 'Who Knows Where the Time Goes' and 'Matty Groves' to an epic version of 'Sloth' running at an astounding 19 minutes, and of course the tune sets where Swarb or Ric Sanders (or both, oh and let's not forget Chris Leslie) run riot. But it's the odds and sods that make this album. Guest appearances from people like Robert Plant, Maddy Prior, Iain Anderson, Loudon Wainwright III are dropped in among beautiful one-off gems that until now existed only in the memories of the people there on the night. I sat here and listened to all four CDs back to back, something I don't think I've ever done before with a collection, and by the end my face was aching from smiling so much.
One thing's for sure, if you're any sort of admirer of Fairport Convention, then you really ought to have this. It submerges you in something truly special, and makes you look at your savings, wondering if you can somehow afford to spend an August weekend in Oxfordshire.
Oh, and as a parting note, I don't think I've ever felt so homesick for village greens and Wadworth's 6X ale in 10 years of living in Australia.
Daily Telegraph - Colin Randall
"Even by the extravagant standards of boxed sets, Cropredy Capers is remarkable...as obligatory a souvenir as each early album featuring the grievously missed (Sandy) Denny"
The Word - Jim Irvin
"Here's what (Fairport Convention have) been doing on their holidays for the last quarter of a century, distilled into a box so weighty you'd swear it's all there in real time...define(s) a quintessentially English summer gathering"
fROOTS - Simon Jones
"what's here captures the essence of one of the great English festivals, from genesis to peak"
Record Collector - Ken Hunt
"The Fairportian musical highlights are too many & various to list - the essence of one of Britain's most influential bands - and festivals" Four Stars
Time Out - Annie Windley
"What more could you ask for? - Perfectly captures the Cropredy Spirit!"
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