You can’t escape how you discover music. I remember being a senior in high school and stopping in after school at Doctor Freud’s (our local record store) and searching around the entire shop for something unusual. After a while my English teacher, Mr. Golembeski, entered the store and started looking around. Now, you should understand that he is the reason I am pursuing an English major. He is also the man who taught me about obscure British music.He started looking through the used CDs and stumbled upon a CD that made him exclaim, “Look at this! Who would possibly get rid of this masterpiece? Brad, have you ever heard of this album?” I looked at the cover and confirmed that I had not and he asked the guy behind the counter to put it on; the music that followed was some of the purest music I had ever heard: The band was Fairport Convention and the album was the fantastically perfect “Liege and Leif.”
I spent the rest of my high school career listening to “Liege and Leif”; I poured over the amazing melodies, the fiddle and guitar leads, and I marveled at the lyrics. See, Fairport Convention literally invented British folk-rock. They took old folk songs sung by bards in small British towns in the 1800s and 1900s and put rock and roll behind it. They created a sound that Fleetwood Mac often attempted to – but could never – realize.
So here I am in London wandering the streets and I stumble into a rare record shop, and there it is, staring me in the face: Fairport Convention’s “The Cropredy Box,” a three-disc set recorded in 1997 for their 30-year anniversary. This set compiles their best songs done live. Yeah, some of it is rough and some verses are missed, and no, the angel Sandy Denny’s voice is nowhere to be found since she has passed.
Not only are there 33 songs, there is also a verbal history throughout the show letting you know who was in the band at the time of the ever-changing and evolving lineup. All the best songs are there: “Come All Ye,” “Matty Groves,” “Now Be Thankful,” “Rosie,” and “Meet on the Ledge.” Even “Sloth,” which always seemed to resemble its name, finds an amazing power in the live setting.
I was very happy to find this set, as it is the perfect companion to their anthology “Meet on the Ledge.” Fairport Convention is my favorite band from the ’60s and ’70s. Who needs The Beatles or Led Zeppelin when you have that sweet folk music that sounds older than time?