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Babbacombe Lee Live Again

Fairport Convention

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Album Review

Fairport Convention's only concept album was built around the story of John "Babbacombe" Lee, a convicted killer who survived three attempts to hang him. Cut by the four-man Fairport lineup of Simon Nicol, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Mattacks, and Dave Pegg, the original album was a self-contained work with a specific beginning and ending. It's also never been much more than cult item in the group's early catalog, despite some spirited playing on "Little Did I Think," "I Was Sixteen, Pt. 2," "St. Ninian's Isle/Trumpet Hornpipe," and "Sailor's Alphabet." The slipcased "Island Remasters" keeps the concept and the original album's content intact — with killer sound as expected, and each song now getting its own index number — and appends a pair of bonus tracks that justify the purchase. The first is "Farewell to a Poor Man's Son," a "lost" song by the group from the BBC program on John Lee that was the inspiration for the album, and "Breakfast in Mayfair," both from an earlier lineup of the band featuring Jerry Donahue. Additionally, "Breakfast in Mayfair" features Sandy Denny's singing, in a haunting falsetto. Those tracks, unfortunately, have not been preserved from first-generation archival sources, and some restoration has been necessary, and they still don't sound as crisp as the rest of the official album now does. But since there were no other suitable sources, this is the only way you're ever likely to hear those two addenda to the original album.

Customer Reviews


This is an incredible record upon which I stumbled only recently, having long been a fan of the original. I admit I half-expected a faded, shabby run-through, but what I got was a revelation - a technicolour re-interpretation of a true classic. The entire band is on fire, but special mention must go to Chris Leslie, taking over Dave Swarbrick's original vocal duties with near-outrageous aplomb. Case in point is Cell Song, a song whose emotion has been cranked up to heartbreaking levels by the deft hands of these master-musicians. If you can get to the end of this without a dry eye, you've got problems. Stunning.


Formed: 1967 in London, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The best British folk-rock band of the late '60s, Fairport Convention did more than any other act to develop a truly British variation on the folk-rock prototype by drawing upon traditional material and styles indigenous to the British Isles. While the revved-up renditions of traditional British folk tunes drew the most critical attention, the group members were also (at least at the outset) talented songwriters as well as interpreters. They were comfortable with conventional harmony-based folk-rock...
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