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FAIRPORT CONVENTION "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?"
Woodworm Records WRCD025

This is Fairport's first album since the surprise departure of multi-instrumentalist, Maartin Allcock, and it is an impressive piece of work. The addition of Chris Leslie has given the band a folkier sound to replace the "tinny" quality which characterised some of their post-reunion output, Leslie's interplay with Ric Sanders is a feature of the album, notably on The Bowman's Retreat - a pacy sequence of tunes written by Sanders himself as a vehicle for the new fiddler partnership.

This is a CD full of surprises. Tull's classic "Life is a Long Song" is an interesting showcase for the broad vocal range within the band now and the live Cropredy 1995 recording of Heard it Through the Grapevine", featuring Richard Thompson and Roy Wood is a gem. Elsewhere there are polished arrangements of trad. material, some Django Rheinhardt-style jazz and on "Dangerous", simple thumping rock. "Spanish Main" is a folk-rocker in the mould of Matty Groves but the only sop to nostalgia is the title tracks. Nobody would deny that the song works better with the voice of a Denny, Dyble or Clayton but founder-member, Simon Nicol, who has lived through the band's quite harrowing history, growls real poignancy into the lyrics.

Fairport could have been forgiven for playing safe with a retrospective piece to mark this, their 30th year. Instead they have come up with something more ambitious: a celebration of the trademark musical catholicity which has fuelled their motivation down the decades. Tastefully produced, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" should be filed with the very best of Fairport Convention's post '85 work.

Fred Redwood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.