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Simon Evans reviews the latest CDs

Fairport_Convention_House_For_SaleFairport Convention - Full House for Sale (Matty Grooves)

In early 1970, not for the first time or last time, the members of Fairport Convention were at a crossroads. Having just released an album, Liege and Lief, that effectively created a whole new genre – British folk-rock – they had lost two key members, bassist Ashley Hutchings and vocalist Sandy Denny, who had both left to pursue new musical ventures. Regrouping with a new bass guitarist, Dave Pegg, the band decided to plough on as a five-piece, with violinist Dave Swarbrick, drummer Dave Mattacks and guitarists Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol completing the line-up.

Together they came up with the album Full House, regarded by a sizable number of Fairport fans as the band’s finest hour. A winning mixture of instrumentals and self-penned songs that somehow managed to sound as though they had been written centuries earlier, the album was like nothing before or since – mainly because, even before it had been released, Richard Thompson had upped sticks to embark on a solo career, leaving Fairport fans to ponder what might have been.

Last summer, to mark the 50th anniversary of the record’s release (delayed two years by Covid) the surviving members of the Full House line-up, augmented by Fairport’s current fiddler Chris Leslie, reconvened at the Cropredy Festival to perform the album in its entirety, with the addition of two tracks omitted from the original LP. The results are captured on this live recording and it’s a real treat, immaculately performed as you would expect, if lacking some of the fire of the original.

Personally I would love to have heard the album performed in its entirety by the late Eighties and early Nineties line-up, a time when the band embraced a more muscular, rock sound before embracing the more genteel folkiness of recent times. Still, you can’t have everything, and this is still a welcome trip down memory lane for Fairport fans of a certain age, especially the menacing version of Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman, a track that was inexplicably left off the original album. To be honest it’s worth the price of admission on its own.


Genesis_BBC_BroadcastsGenesis - BBC Broadcasts (UMC-Virgin)

This five-disc set, comprising live performance and studio sessions spanning the years 1970 to 1998 recorded for Auntie Beeb, is essentially aimed at fans of a band that started out in the Seventies as one of the harbingers of English progressive rock and ended up as one of the biggest pop bands of the Eighties. The emphasis is very much on the latter, with the early years, when the group was fronted by Peter Gabriel, mainly being confined to the first disc. This may upset some aficionados, as will the fact that many of the live performances have been truncated, mainly, one suspects, to avoid undue repetition. This is especially the case with a 1980 Lyceum gig, which effectively marked the transition of the band from purveyors of complex long-form pieces to a pop hit-machine, so it’s to be hoped there may be scope in future for a full release, of this show in particular. The inclusion of sets from the band’s appearances at the 1978 and 1992 Knebworth festivals more than compensate, however, for these omissions, and, all told, this is a fascinating document of one of the most consistently interesting bands of the past 50 years.

Pink_Floyd_Dark_Side_of_the_Moon_Live_at_Wembley_1974Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon Live at Wembley 1974 (PLG-UK)

Originally released as part of a 2011 box set, this excellent live recording has now been released as a standalone CD and vinyl record marking the 50th anniversary of the Floyd’s landmark album Dark Side of the Moon. Recorded a year after that album’s release it finds the band developing ideas from that recording in interesting new ways – the instrumental On The Run for instance becomes a major electronic freak-out worthy of Tangerine Dream – allowing a recording that has perhaps become over familiar through repetition to become exciting and fresh once again. For those with a couple of hundred pounds to spare it also forms part of a 50th anniversary deluxe box set featuring newly remixed versions, 160-page book, vinyl singles and replica memorabilia.


Classic_rock_renaissanceLondon Symphony Orchestra - Classic Rock Renaissance (BMG)

By the mid-Seventies seemingly everyone in the rock world wanted a symphony orchestra. No recording or tour it seemed was complete without at least a string section, and preferably a few ice dancers thrown in too.

Rock was taking itself very seriously indeed, so the 1978 release of Classic Rock, the brainchild of producers Don Reedman and Jeff Jarratt, was the obvious next step. Rather than rocking up the classics, as per The Nice, Focus and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the album instead wrapped rock and pop classics like Bohemian Rhapsody, Life On Mars and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds in rich classically-tinged orchestral arrangements.

Released on the K-Tel label, it proved to be an enormous hit, reaching Number Three on the album chart, staying on the lists for 39 weeks and spawning nine follow-ups and countless imitators. Now this new 38-track follow-up to the original Classic Rock has been released featuring remastered versions from the original albums as well as classical arrangements of more contemporary songs by the likes of Adele and Coldplay. Steering just the right side of kitsch, it offers a fascinating slant on some of the greatest songs of the past 50 years.

Elton_John_Honky_ChateauElton John - Honky Chateau 50th Anniversary Edition - (UMC-Mercury)

When this album was originally released, in May 1972, it was Elton’s fifth album in just 18 months. Even when you factor in that this included the live album 17-11-70 he was clearly creatively on fire and the songs for this, one of Elton’s finest albums, were – remarkably – written in just four days during the recording sessions. The sound was tighter and funkier than recent recordings, something evident on both the singles taken from the album, Honky Cat and Rocket Man, which is perhaps why it has worn as well as anything in Elton’s extensive back catalogue. Aside from those timeless singles there are some great ‘deep cuts’ too, including Mellow, the gospel ballad Salvation, once considered as a single, and the intimate Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters. Aside from a remastered version of the original album this two-disc special edition includes demos and live performances of several tracks from a 1972 Festival Hall concert.

All the featured albums are available on CD and to stream on Spotify and Amazon Music

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