What I consider the best book ever written on this English not quite just folk band was never actually released as a book. Confused? Well let me sort out this matter. Back in 2002, the thirty-five anniversary of the band, Free Reed Music released a birthday box set called Fairport Unconventional which our reviewer said of that:
We are reviewing the music, four CDs, that are to be found within the box. Fairport Convention are celebrating their 35th anniversary this year, and Free Reed pays them tribute with a sometimes arcane, never obvious, always interesting selection of tunes all digitally remastered, over 95% unavailable elsewhere.
As amazing as the music lovingly collected in this box set is, the one hundred and seventy page book is in its own way even better. Shaped to fit the box set as you can see by the photo of the box set, it’s a full history of the band as written by Schofeld who’s very obviously a diehard fan as he amusingly with an introduction entitled ‘Fairport Convention: A recipe for success’ which includes this choice tidbit: ’11 lead guitarists, 11 lead vocalists, 6 fiddle players, 7 drummers, 5 keyboard players, 2 bass players’ which makes the band not all that different than any band that’s lasted thirty-five years such as the Breton fest noz bands.
Following that introduction, we get a history in fifty pages of the band up to the early Oughts. There’s such raaties as a poster for their very first gig on the 27th of May 1967, a passel of photos of the band individually and collectively including a great one of Ashley Hutchins in 1967, and a look at their evolving repertoire down the many decades. Not to mention a detailed history of the band as well.
This is followed up by Nigel with a look at the four discs here but I’m going to just refer you again to our review as that will give you all you need to know about these recordings before you read the track by track overview here. There’s an amusing one page fantasy by Nigel on discs that might’ve been such as Fairport Sings Dylan or Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Rollers compiled from the many, many such numbers they’ve done particularly live.
There’s many other wonderful things to read here such as the Schofeld interview with Ashley Hutchings, the founder of the band which is followed up with Fairporters Simon Pegg and Dave Nicole reminiscing Andy Farquharson about then band. There’s even a look at where those musicians who didn’t stay with the band were up to Kat the time of this printing.
A quiche check at online marketplaces shows that you can still copies of the box set for not a whole more than it went for thirteen years which makes it a tremendous deal!
(Free Reed Music, 2003)