Friday, 18 October 2019

Fairport Convention - Full House (1970)

Can't find her maidenhead....

  

Released in July 1970

This was one of British folk rock’s finest moments influencing many groups thereafter such as Steeleye Span, The Albion Country Band, The Strawbs and Pentangle. Of course, there were several of the musicians from this album scattered around subsequently on albums by those groups. It featured a strong electric guitar and rock drum sound and followed on from the successful Liege And Lief album. This time, however, the group had no female vocalist, as Sandy Denny had left to form Fotheringay. The line up was Dave Swarbrick, Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks and Simon Nicol.

If anything this was a more powerful, rock-driven album than its predecessor. While that album was culturally more important, maybe this was actually the better one. It was certainly one of the best folk rock albums of all time.

TRACK LISTING


1. Walk Awhile
2. Doctor Of Physick
3. Dirty Linen
4. Sloth
5. Sir Patrick Spens
6. Flatback Caper
7. Poor Will & the Jolly Hangman
8. Flowers Of The Forest                                        

BONUS TRACKS

9. Now Be Thankful
10. Sir B. MacKenzie's Daughter's Lament...
11. Bonny Bunch Of Roses

Walk Awhile is a lively and melodic opener, a typical folk rock song of the era. Lots of acoustic guitars, merged with electric riffs and harmonious shared vocals. There is some killer violin on it too. In places it is almost like folk psychedelia in its swirling rock instrumentation. Doctor Of Physick is a narrative tale of a girl telling her doctor she “woke up and can’t find her maidenhead…”. Oh dear, who can have come a visiting after dark? It sounds so much like a traditional ballad, lyrically, but it is actually a Thompson/Swarbrick composition. It is the album’s most Steeleye Span-sounding number. Dirty Linen is an appealing jig of an instrumental with the usual changes of pace throughout its time.

Sloth is simply electric folk of the highest quality, featuring some storming, stabbing electric guitar over a solid rock drum beat. It lasts over nine minutes. Check out that delicious deep, but subtle bass line too. It is a song packed full of atmosphere and folky gravitas. It took folk rock to a new level.


Sir Patrick Spens is a violin-driven tale of a sailor, who, unsurprisingly, perhaps, drowns at sea. It is a Scottish ballad from those collated by Francis Child. It features some sumptuous folk violin. Great drums too. Flatback Caper is a jaunty piece of extended fiddle instrumental backed by some rhythmic drums. It again changes pace several times over its six minutes or so.

Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman is a sombre narrative played out over another impressively strong folk rock backing. We are encouraged by Thompson and Swarbrick to raise our glasses to the jolly hangman. Not so sure about that. Richard Thompson kicked up a fuss about his guitar solo, which he didn’t like and tried to get the track taken off the album. The eventual album found it replaced by Flowers Of The Forest. It was re-added to later releases of the album, thankfully. Nit picking, precious folkies, eh? The afore-mentioned Flowers Of The Forest is a gentle, traditional, bucolic folk number that ends the original album. Beneath its apparently peaceful theme, however lies a Scottish lament about English lies and deception.

The bonus tracks include the hymnal sounding Now Be Thankful; an instrumental whose title was so long because it was an attempt to get into The Guinness Book Of Records so I will just refer to it as Sir B. Mackenzie’s Daughter and Bonny Bunch Of Roses, a nine minute slow ballad about The Irish, Napoleon Bonaparte and England, Scotland and Wales in the 19th century and their turbulent relationships. It is an anonymous ballad written by someone with Irish sympathies, one would presume, from both its lyrics and indeed its lilting but mournful melody.

As I said, one of British folk rock's seminal albums.

B+

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