Album review: FAIRPORT CONVENTION – Moat On The Ledge

Fairport Convention - Moat On The Ledge

Eagle Rock [Released 24.03.14]

Another good value 3-in-1 CD box set from Eagle Records that gathers together two live albums from Fairport Convention (who have had a lot of live albums released through the years!) and the band’s ‘XXXV’ studio album, released originally in 2002 to mark the band’s 35th anniversary.

‘Moat On The Ledge – Live at Broughton Castle’ (***1/2) was originally released in 1982 and has had various re-issues since. It was recorded at the band’s 1981 reunion concert with the line-up of Simon Nicol, Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg and two drummers – Dave Mattacks and Bruce Rowland.

It’s not the full set featuring only nine songs, although the lovely version of ‘Both Sides Now’ featuring Judy Dyble on vocals makes the album. Other highlights include Richard Thompson on lead vocals for ‘Poor Will & the Jolly Hangman’ and the band’s live staple ‘Matty Groves’. The rousing rock ‘n’ roll finale ‘High School Confidential’ (with Ralph McTell joining the band on stage) finishes the album off in style.

‘From Cropredy to Portmeirion’ (****) was recorded on the band’s 1990 tour with the line-up of Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Ric Sanders, Dave Mattacks and Maartin Allcock. The setlist was geared heavily to their post-1985 output since they reformed with the classics like ‘Matty Groves’ forming part of a medley, although the classic ‘Meet On The Ledge’ ends their set. There is plenty to enjoy from the Raplh McTell penned ‘Bird From A Mountain’ through to the instrumental ‘Portmeirion’. There is a lovely cover of ‘From A Distance’ on here too.

They were (and still are!) a highly talented group of singers and musicians who rarely disappoint live and this is a perfect round-up of the band’s output between 1985 and 1990 performed live.

‘XXXV’ (****) the band’s 2002 studio album is one of their better later albums. When Chris Leslie joined the band he added not only his singing and playing talents, but also his songwriting with two songs on here including ‘My Love Is In America’ that features Chris While and Julie Matthews on vocals.

‘Portmeirion’ gets a revamp and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson guests on flute, whilst ‘The Deserter’ is one of those tales of everyday life this band do so well. Past members Dave Swarbrick and Richard Thompson penned ‘Now Be Thankful’, an album highlight as you;d expect given the songwriters involved. There are two live bonus songs including ‘The Widow of Westmorland’s Daughter’, one of my personal favorite Fairport songs – well via that prolific folk ‘writer’ Trad.arr.

Review by Jason Ritchie

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