Fairport Convention - Liege & Lief LP
The trajectory that Fairport Convention took in the space of four albums and two years is one of the most remarkable in British popular music. These records contain some of the most storied names not just in British, but world music. From a bunch of school friends setting out to be "the British Jefferson Airplane," over the course of their first quartet of releases, the group metamorphosed into the leading exponents of British folk rock. In the way American folk and blues had looked back to gospel songs and spirituals, Fairport mined a seam a traditional English folk song, and then combined them with rock rhythms to create something ground-breaking and quickly emulated. For many, this is the first time the considerable talents of Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Ashley Hutchings, Ian Matthews, Dave Swarbrick and Dave Mattacks would have been heard on record.
In May 1969, the band were involved in a fatal car accident which killed their drummer Martin Lamble and Thompson's girlfriend, Jeannie Franklyn. In a state of obvious shock, Fairport decided to carry on, making Swarbrick a permanent member and adding drummer Dave Mattacks. Ashley Hutchings submerged himself in traditional British music and, as a result, fourth album Liege & Lief contained five traditional tracks, and three originals in the folk style. It established the template that Fairport would follow and is one of the most influential albums in British rock. The eight-minute masterpiece Matty Groves built "On A Sailor's Life" and gave Fairport another long-lasting anthem. By the time the album was released, Sandy Denny and Ashley Hutchings had both left the group, and another chapter was to begin.