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Liege & Lief

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Editors’ Notes

After recording three albums fairly indicative of the ‘60s, the members of Fairport Convention did away with covering songs by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Emitt Rhodes and all the rest to embark upon a sound that kissed new life into the roots of traditional British folk and medieval music. With their fourth studio album Liege and Lief, they turned to the archives of the English Folk Dance and Song Society maintained by Cecil Sharp, the founding father of England’s folklore revival. But rather than pursue the path already paved by recreationists, the Fairports infused rock ‘n’ roll’s electric guitars and libidinous rhythms to birth British folk-rock. This all begins with the opening “Come All Ye” (one of only two original compositions here), where the lovely Sandy Denny’s gossamer inflections invite other musicians “To rouse the spirit of the air/ And move the rolling skies.”  Their interpretation of “The Lark In The Morning/Rakish Paddy/Fox Hunter’s Jig/Toss the Feathers” starts with stellar fiddle playing by Dave Swarbrick before “Tam Lin” comes in boasting Richard Thompson’s best guitar leads on the album.

Customer Reviews

Fairport Unconventional

Both a transitional album for Fairport and Brit 'Folk-Rock'. For a band that became reknowned for personnel change as much as repertoire, Liege & Lief is pretty consistent. Sandy Denny had pretty much taken the crown (tiara?) of folk female vocal after Ian Matthews had left (the dual vocals never being my favorite, and part of the early "UK Airplane" moniker). Swarbrick had solidly introduced the fiddle into the sound - esp. after Unhalfbricking - and Mattacks was a new mature sound in the drum/rhythm seat. They couldn't get much better, in this format, than this and most people agree. Although Denny was to leave (returning later) for the next installment, "Full House", it set the reeling folk fiddle freak outs, courtesy of Swarbrick at his best, in stone, and then Richard Thompson departed closing the door on the best era.

Best of British Folk-Rock

That Fairport was, in its brief peak, the best British folk-rock band ever is pretty much undisputed. The only arguments are about which was their best LP. Personally this is my second fave, after Full House, which curiously seems unavailable here, and seems even more curiously to be generally underrated by fans -- I guess cuz Sandy Denny isn't on it. This is very very good, the LP on which they broke away from their American folk-rock influences and really flew, and Denny did have a lovely voice perfectly suited to the old-timey material. I just think Full House rocks harder and is more solid musically -- for me, it's the height of the genre.

Fairport Convention at their most powerful

The US folk rock scene (Bob Dylan & the Byrds) truly inspired the British folk rockers. The British tend to use more of the long historied songs from the classed society of royals & serfs as well as pagan religious infuences. Richard Thompson has the best guitar tone ever on this album & Sandy Denny is uncomparable. This album is a must have! Other artists to check out if you are new to this music are Steeleye Span (more traditional), Pentangle (more jazzy) and Gryphon (more progressive).


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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