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Fotheringay

I'll bet you thought I was done reviewing CDs after Thursday's barrage? Think again. This one has been in the queue since August, even before my review of Henry the Human Fly. In the comments, I mentioned another important reissue by Fledgling records.

Fotheringay is the band Sandy Denny formed after she left Fairport Convention for the first time. Within months, they had this self-titled debut album out. It sounds remarkably like Fairport Convention, except it is more singer-songwriter oriented (while still being a true band record) and has no fiddle on it. What it does have is mostly great songs sung by Denny and Australian-born singer-songwriter Trevor Lucas who would soon marry Denny. Only one of the songs, "Banks of the Nile", is traditional.

Denny contributes a handful of meditative, piano-driven songs, sung as always with her cool, velvety voice. I don't actually find her a great interpretor of the songs; I'd rate Linda Thompson much higher as far as that's concerned. But there's no denying that her voice sounded damned good and communicated her own melancholy well.
Lucas's specialty is midtempo story-songs with strong choruses. It works really well on "The Ballad of Ned Kelly", but rather less well on "Peace in the End", co-written with Denny. The hippy sentiments in that song haven't aged well, to say the least. Lucas's powerful baritone voice is a pleasure to listen to though, especially on another slightly hippy-ish (though much less so) piece, Gordon Lightfoot's "The Way I Feel".
The band, overall, sounds a lot like Fairport Convention, and all but one of them would end up in that group a few years later (though in drummer Gerry Conway's case, he would initially only play on Rosie by default, because unused Fotheringay tapes were reworked into tracks on that album. However, he would become Fairport's drummer in the late 1990s). They're very solid, especially considering that they'd only been together for a short time. The pace at which bands worked in the early 1970s was amazingly fast. The standout performer in the group was American-born guitarist Jerry Donahue, whose fast, clear playing would make him a much-in-demand session musician later.

Unlike with their reissue of Henry the Human Fly, Fledgling have added 4 bonus tracks to the record, from a festival gig in Rotterdam in 1970. As usual with bonus tracks, they add little to the record and even give a less than favorable impression of Sandy Denny's vocal qualities. I'd have been much more interested in hearing the original versions of the tracks that ended up on Rosie with Pat Donaldson's bass parts restored, assuming of course that those parts haven't been wiped to make space for Dave Pegg's.

Comments (4)

Squiddhartha:

Thanks for the review!

Conway and Pegg, of course, constitute the primary crossover between Fairport and Tull, though Martin Allcock got mixed in as well for a while.

... and Mattacks, and Sanders if you count studio sessions. Chris Leslie played on Ian Anderson's 1995 solo "Divinities" tour, so the crossovers go on and on.

Squiddhartha:

It's all a happy incestuous little bunch, and I for one am not complaining!

I'm coming to believe that the Full House line-up of Fairport Convention, or at least the combination of Thompson, Nicol, Pegg and Mattacks, was one of the best rock bands that ever existed, and that any record that features those 4 playing together can be bought sight unseen without any risk of disappointment.

One more review to go, as soon as I'm done drawing the latest Floor episode.

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