I Love This!!!
ExtravaganzaSD | 01/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am the first person reviewing this edition of the album, but if you want more opinions look at the other older editions offered through Amazon for other people's reviews. What amazes me is that some people REALLY hate this album. I just don't understand why. No, Richard Thompson isn't on this. No Sandy Denny was out of the band as well (although she does show up in one of the bonus tracks recorded upon her return.) But what a job Swarb, Peggy, Simon and Dave do on this album. I really wish this lineup had stuck together for awhile longer.
Yes it is a concept album ... and that could be a bad thing. It works though. Unlike other pompous concept albums and rock operas of the era the songs on this are really concise and memorable. The whole album is pretty sympathetic to the character John "Babbacombe" Lee ... a historical figure who was a convicted murdered who claimed to be innocent of the charges. After three unsuccessful attempts at execution by hanging he had his death sentence commuted to 20 years.
There are extremely long notes from Mr. Lee himself describing his sad tale. Of course, it is very possible that John Lee was a sociopathic liar and was in fact guilty as sin (if you do an internet search for Babbacombe Lee there is a lot of info on the case on the internet) and one can't help but wonder if Fairport is doing the whole thing with a wink in their eye. Who knows. This is great stuff ... great rock (Simon Nicol really steps up as a guitarist), great ballads (I just love Swarb's Irish tenor voice) , great reels and jigs, and even a wonderful sea chanty. If you like Full House and Angel Delight this is a must have.
The two bonus tracks are great ... one is an outtake from the album and the other, although a repeat, features Sandy Denny on vocals. The only sad thing is they are second generation tapes from a TV performance and the sound quality is poor (but still very listenable.)
I guess I can sort of understand why some don't like this. It is very different from "What We Did on Our Holidays" (which I love) and Sandy Denny's stuff (which I really love.) But I also love a lot of 60s Brit Pop-Art albums like The Faces "Odgens Nut Gone Flake", The Bee Gees "Odessa" and The Kinks "Village Green Preservation Society" and "Arthur" albums. If you are a fan of that sort of thing this might turn out to be your favorite Fairport album of all. And even if you have no idea what I am talking about when I mention those albums .... this is still worth a listen.