Fairport Convention 'Myths and Heroes' Review
By fonzleclay, Feb 1 2015 09:22PM
The other day I received my copy of Fairport Convention's new album Myths and Heroes.
The one thing you can certainly say about this album is that it is widely anticipated. It's strange to think that it was way back in August 2013 that Bass player Dave Pegg wrote this in the Cropredy programme:
"We hope to start work on a new Fairport album early next year which might be ready for our May tour and if not certainly by Cropredy time."
That, of course, turned out to not be true because early last year Pegg injured his finger in an accident involving a dishwasher, which as you can imagine delayed the process somewhat. But even then, it didn't stop them trying. Dave's son Matt (of Procol Harum) filled in for him during the band's Wintour, which meant learning four brand new songs that were destined for the album. The band took those four songs to the studio in March soon after finishing the tour, and Matt's contributions were included in the final album and rightly so.
Basically, it's been a year and a half of teasing. Cropredy 2014 saw the introduction of another brand new song in the set and finally we got a title for the album. So the question is did the album live up to the hype? I would say so.
I'll start by saying that the band's last album of new material Festival Bell is one of my absolute favourite albums, and certainly the best that the current line-up has produced, in my opinion. If I remember rightly, the anticipation for that album was less so. It was there, certainly, but I don't remember anyone being particularly won over by any of the material we'd heard up to the point of release. Which made the album all the more strong for me, because it surprised me. Myths and Heroes was different, purely because all the new songs in the live set were so good that I knew the album was going to be good. I wasn't disappointed at all, just maybe not as surprised as I was with Festival Bell.
Right, enough of that, let's look at what's good. There are no tracks on this album that I don't like. There are some that I like more than others, but that doesn't mean there isn't something I like about all of them. Pacing is obviously important when it comes to putting an album together as you don't want all the best tracks grouped together. Thankfully in this case there isn't a dull moment! Personal favourites for me include the title track Myths and Heroes, Chris Leslie's nautical epic Grace and Favour, Anna Ryder's Bring Me Back My Feathers, Ralph McTell's beautifully metaphorical song Clear Water, the surprisingly rocky arrangement of The Fylde Mountain Time / Roger Bucknall's Polka and the real standout track in my opinion is James Wood's Weightless based on the Alfonso Cuaron film Gravity (I like the song a lot more than the film but that's just me).
The album was produced by John Gale, who has been working with Fairport for the last few years, having mixed their live sound and produced three of their albums, and I have to say he's outdone himself this time. The album has a really big and beautiful sound, particularly on the vocals, some of the harmonies on the album sound absolutely stunning. I give John a lot of credit, and while we're on the subject of credit I want to point out how much Chris Leslie has improved as a songwriter. I've always like his songs, but lately he seems to be getting a lot more inventive, I know I've mentioned it already but Grace and Favour has me gripped every time I hear it. And Simon Nicol deserves an awful lot of credit too, he plays a lot more Electric Guitar on this album than we are used to, a sign that he is gaining more confidence in his abilities, maybe?
It is safe to say that I really like this album. Not quite as much as I like Festival Bell, but it's not far behind. It's not an album for the sake of an album. It's more than just a collection of half-arsed songs thrown together for the sake of putting out something new. It's proof that the greatest Folk-Rock band in history are still the greatest Folk-Rock band going and are showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. I'm very much looking forward to hearing the new songs performed live.
PS. If you're interested, I'm uploading a cover of Ralph McTell's Clear Water from the album on Thursday. Head over to my channel if you want to check it out.
Having heard the album I must say your review is spot on.