I must have bought ‘If I Had A Ribbon Bow’ shortly after it came out – I had to wait a week or so until Sticklands record shop in Hoop Lane got it in for me (my treasured copy BELOW). ‘Ribbon Bow’ remains a quirkily terrific song with beautiful lead vocals from Judy, subtle jazz guitar, some nice vibes care of Tristan Fry and a longing sigh at the end.
The first, eponymous ‘Fairport Convention’ followed a couple of months later in mid-’68 and this strikes me now as a much underrated collection. The tracks were a mixture of classic American songwriting along with embryonic writing from Fairport members. Fairport’s coverage of US writers was never less than superb and in 40 years no other artists could cover Joni Mitchell, Cohen or Dylan like Fairport.
Taken purely on merits the songs could be broken down into interesting (The Lobster, Chelsea Morning, Sun Shade, One Sure Thing) and inspired (It’s Alright Ma It’s Only Witchcraft, Decameron, If, Jack O’Diamonds, I Don’t Know Where I Stand,
Time Will Show The Wiser). What makes the
selection so good is the seamless meld of folk to jazz
to rock to psychedelia to progressive.
I always thought that Ian Matthews and Judy (and then Sandy) was the perfect male-female blend; Tyger Hutchings' bass lines were brilliant and unobtrusive; Simon Nicol’s work underscored Richard Thompson’s flights from harsh rock to fluid brilliance and Martin Lamble’s versatile drumming was as near perfect for a young man of 17-18 years old.
Listen to the album and then listen again, more carefully – there is so much to treasure. Finally, listen to the great Harvey Brooks-Jim Glover track ‘One Sure Thing’ and then seek out The Conspirators recent version of that (and buy it) which.....neatly leads back to the Conspirators guest lead singer.....Judy Dyble, voice just as lovely as ever.
Journos and fans alike judge the 1st Fairport album harshly, especially in comparison to the legendary ‘What We Did On Our Holidays’. Well.....bollocks! After playing the album a couple of times over this past weekend and with riffs worming around my brain, I still LOVE the 1st album, it compares very favourably and it takes me back to the happiest 2-3 years of my life.........
The Holly Bush, Hampstead, walking on the Heath, smelly basketball boots, cotton paisley shirts, earnestly reading Huxley and Sartre, The Everyman, Hampstead, the 102 bus snaking its way through North London, buying import albums from Old Compton Street and....innocence!
Here's a clip of Judy with Fairport from 1967:
Enough of the past. Now, blogging back to the future.