Sound — 9
The self-titled Fairport Convention album is often seen as little more than an interesting prologue to their later works, as it contains none of the English folk material which would define their later sound. Instead, it is heavily based on American west-coast folk-rock, containing covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and other American songwriters. At the time many comparisons were drawn with Jefferson Airplane, mostly due to their use of two lead singers. It was their only album to feature their first lineup of of Ian MacDonald (vocals), Judy Dyble (vocals), Richard Thompson (guitar), Simon Nicol (guitar), Ashley Hutchings (bass) and Simon Lamble (drums). Unjustly overlooked by listeners who consider the band's pre-Denny output insignificant, this is a fine folk-rock effort that takes far more inspiration from West Coast '60s sounds than traditional British folk. Fairport's chief strengths at this early juncture were the group's interpretations, particularly in the harmony vocals, of obscure tunes by American songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Emitt Rhodes, and Jim & Jean. I would say looking at this album now, it is highly crucial to the progressing folk scene and really gives you a nice sense of what folk rock was sounding like at the time and even some hints of psychedelia throughout too. The album was initially recorded in November 1967 and released in 1968 in the UK then 1970 in the US.
Lyrics — 10
Fairport Convention were formed in London in 1967 by Simon Nicol, Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson and Shaun Frater. Frater was soon replaced on the drums by Martin Lambler, and they then brought in singer Judy Dyble. They were soon regularly playing at such underground clubs as UFO and The Electric Garden, and came to the attention of Joe Boyd. Boyd became their manager, and got them signed to Polydor Records. He also persuaded them to recruit a male vocalist to work alongside Dyble, recommending Ian MacDonald (who would later call himself Ian Matthews). By the summer of 1968, their debut album had been released. This album has some great covers as well as some original songs performed with a nice melancholic tone like in "Decameron." There is some soft depressing love song moments like "I Don't Know Where I Stand" with so much string arrangement to back it, it's like all the guitars playing together is just too much in a good way. There is even an Appalachian jug band track on here - "If (Stomp)." The whole album offers a variety of different folk rock stylings in beautiful string work.
Overall Impression — 10
Unfortunately this is the only album to feature Judy Dyble on vocals of Giles Giles and Fripp who would be replaced by Sandy Denny. Judy Dyble does appear on another fantastic folk album called "Morning Way" by Trader Horne released in 1970. The 2003 CD reissue of this record adds four bonus tracks from outtakes, TV performances, and non-LP singles of the era, as well as historical liner notes. This album is more of a rock kind of folk performed in lovely fashion with some autoharp included, the whole transition from folky melodies and goes from the hard to the soft like Jefferson Airplane almost or Moby Grape. Many will say the Fairport's came into their own when Sandy joined the group and to an extent I agree the first time I heard "A Sailors Life" completely dissolved my universe and I mark that as the beginning of my love affair with acid folk but upon reflection and especially after hearing "Trader Horne" Judy Dyble's next project I can also say this that its a crying shame they didn't keep Judy for a few more albums she is obviously one of the most cosmic women who has ever lived. It's a hard decision between Judy Dyble and Sandy Denny but as far as vocals, I definitely think Dyble is unfairly underrated and at least would be able to rival Denny.