Thursday, 17 October 2019

Fairport Convention - Unhalfbricking (1969)

Si tu dois partir....


Released on 3rd of July 1969

Running time 39.24

This was considered a bridging album for Fairport Convention, one that saw them begin to move from slightly bluesy, slightly psychedelic rock to folk rock. It was only a partial move, however, and there are huge dollops of Americana present, mainly in the shape of the as yet unreleased Bob Dylan tracks (one from The Basement Tapes) that are covered - four tracks in total. So, it cannot really be called a folk rock album at all, in the way that their next album, Liege And Lief, can be, or indeed the one after that, Full House. It is a breezy, airy and harmonious rock-ish album with definite folk ambience in places. It is an album which seeps into your consciousness with each play.


1. Genesis Hall
2. Si Tu Dois Partir
3. Autopsy
4. A Sailor's Life
5. Cajun Woman
6. Who Knows Where The Time Goes
7. Percy's Song
8. Million Dollar Bash                                            


9. Dear Landlord
10. The Ballad Of Easy Rider

Genesis Hall is an atmospheric folk-ish rock number with Sandy Denny's ethereal vocal at its haunting best. The drum sound is insistent and strong. Si Tu Dois Partir takes Bob Dylan's If You Gotta Go, Go Now and turns it into an accordion-driven Cajun-sounding stomp, with the lyrics sung in French. Autopsy is a deliciously rhythmic but mysterious number with another breathy vocal. There are folk influences at play here but not in the traditional folk ballad style, this is a slow-paced rock song that sounds folky. The drums, from Martin Lamble, tragically killed in a motor accident soon after the album's recording, are superb. He was only 19.

The ten minutes plus of A Sailor's Life is the real pointer to future material. It is haunting, almost mystical tale of historical seafaring, sung in typically ghostly fashion by Denny against a slow, rumbling guitar, bass and percussion backing. After three minutes the guitar, bass, drum and violin interplay is sublime. There is a quiet, insistent dignity to this addictive ballad. It was pretty ground breaking stuff in terms of folk rock, being a lot different from the country styles of the American equivalent. This took ancient Celtic musical traditions as its foundations. Check out the bit where they truly rock out around 6:45. All of a sudden they've turned into Led Zeppelin. Outstanding.

The upbeat, lively strains of Cajun Woman is the second example of Cajun influence (not too many albums, certainly in the UK, had such a thing in 1969). It sits a bit incongruously with the rest of the album, however, in its complete difference. You would expect Creedence Clearwater Revival to do this, not Fairport Convention. Denny delivers an enthusiastic vocal and the fiddle is as enthusiastic as you would expect. Who Knows Where The Time Goes brings the pace down on a beautiful, reflective number that is driven along by some subtle, melodic bass. The vocal is lovely. There are hints of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross in the instrumentation.

Now it's time for some Dylan. Percy's Song is a wonderful ballad-style narrative number that sounds a traditional song. It builds up wonderfully, verse by verse. Million Dollar Bash is suitably invigorating and enjoyable. This is where the original album ended, which was a shame, because the excellent cover of Dear Landlord, from John Wesley Harding was worthy of inclusion. The same applies to the inspiring cover of The Byrds' The Ballad Of Easy Rider.

As I said, this was nowhere near as folk rock an album as Liege And Lief or Full House. It sorts of stands on its own, stylistically, difficult to pigeonhole.


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