The trajectory that Fairport Convention took in the space of four albums and two years is one of the most remarkable in British popular music.
These records contain some of the most storied names not just in British, but world music. From a bunch of school friends setting out to be ‘the British Jefferson Airplane’, over the course of their first quartet of releases, the group metamorphosed into the leading exponents of British folk rock. In the way American folk and blues had looked back to gospel songs and spirituals, Fairport mined a seam a traditional English folk song, and then combined them with rock rhythms to create something ground- breaking and quickly emulated. For many, this is the first time the considerable talents of Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Ashley Hutchings, Ian Matthews, Dave Swarbrick and Dave Mattacks would have been heard on record. Although all of that would have been difficult to ascertain on their jaunty, hippy 1968 Polydor debut Fairport Convention. Recorded in November 1967, it’s a lovely sunny, suburban take on the summer of love; the vocal blend of Ian Matthews and Judy Dyble, the guitar interplay of Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson and rhythm section of Ashley Hutchings and Martin Lamble highlights their incredible potential. There are two covers of Joni Mitchell’s songs, when Mitchell was something of an obscure overseas delicacy – Chelsea Morning, highlights Dyble’s sweet delivery, while the drifting, ruminative guitar on I Don’t Know Where I Stand points again to the group’s longevity.