Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Fairport Convention - Gladys Leap (1985 England) @320

Gladys' Leap is Fairport Convention's comeback album, the line-up featuring Nicol, Pegg, Mattacks, and guest / soon-to-be member Ric Sanders, who had the unenviable task of replacing the irreplacable on fiddle/violin.

So yes, Swarbrick's voice as well as playing is missed, he had such a distinctive vocal, and had after all led Fairport throughout the entire previous decade.

The sound of this album is a tad 80's, but only a tad. Really, apart from Swarbrick being entirely absent Gladys' Leap sounds very much as if Fairport had never disbanded back in 1979 or so. Very weird, really.

Mostly reliant on external compositions, Fairport did start a tradition here of having highly thought-of British folk singer/songwriters submitting songs for them to perform. Here, it's Ralph McTell, who donates "Bird from the Mountain", and co-writes "Wat Tyler" with Simon Nicol. "The Hiring Fair" is also a Fairport/McTell co-write.

Album opener "How Many Times" was penned by long-gone former band member Richard Thompson. So were Fairport really back, or had they become a charity institution, where other folk performers would drop by, then pop out again?

"Honour and Praise" proves to be a dull 5 minutes after the reasonably good opening numbers that were reminiscent of the old Fairport. "The Hiring Fair" is another matter, a serious folk composition ranking alongside classic Fairport songs of times gone by, if lacking the same fire. It's still beautifully performed mind, the keyboard/piano lines are a really nice touch, marrying well with the acoustic guitar.

The first noticeable fiddle arrives during the instrumental medley, a mostly self-penned trio of tunes that are well-constructed yet hardly rank alongside the old Fairport medleys. Again, Swarbrick is missed, however well his replacement does at times.

"My Feet Are Set for Dancing" is the sound of an entirely different band - guest vocalist Cathy Lesurf has a decent voice, yet the track clearly wasn't the direction Fairport should pursue, and thankfully they never did again. And synth sounds permeate the otherwise acceptable folk of "Wat Tyler".

That leaves Thompson to enrich "Head in a Sack" with his typically distinctive guitar sound. A lot has changed since he last played on a Fairport Convention album.
Reviewed by Adrian Denning

01 - How Many Times
02 - Bird From The Mountain
03 - Honour And Praise
04 - The Hiring Fair
05 - Instrumental Medley '85
06 - My Feet Are Set For Dancing
07 - Wat Tyler
08 - Head In A Sack

Bass, Bouzouki, Mandolin, Vocals – Dave Pegg
Drums, Keyboards – Dave Mattacks
Guitar, Vocals – Simon Nicol
Lead Guitar – Richard Thompson (tracks: 8)
Violin – Ric Sanders (tracks: 2, 4, 5)
Vocals – Cathy Lesurf (tracks: 6)


CrimsonKing said...

Gladys Leap

Buck said...

Thank you, CrimsonKing! It's really good to hear this again. I thought it was a hopeless quest to find this. You've made my day!

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