Fairport Convention may have disbanded officially in 1979, but buoyed by the ongoing success of their annual Cropredy Folk Festival, they kept plugging away, and by 1985 had returned to making new studio albums. This two-disc compilation chronicles the band's lengthy afterlife, drawing tracks from their albums Gladys' Leap (1985), Expletive Delighted! (1986), Red and Gold (1989), The Five Seasons (1990), and Old-New-Borrowed-Blue (1996). (Nothing from 1995's Jewel in the Crown is included.) Ironically, the lineup that produced these records was steadier than the ones that made the group's previous 14 albums, anchored by founding member guitarist/singer Simon Nicol and longtime members Dave Pegg (bass) and Dave Mattacks (drums), and featuring technically proficient newcomers Martin Allcock (multiple instruments) and Ric Sanders (fiddle). Freed of the commercial considerations that pressured the band when they had a higher profile and a contract with a big record label, this version of Fairport Convention could delve into what had become the group's natural strength, their investigation of British folk music both in its traditional form and in an evolved state. They might play reels, but the fiddle would be electrified and given lots of echo; they might sing songs of British history like "Red and Gold" and "Wat Tyler," but they would be newly written ones by Ralph McTell. The old Fairport Convention had been many different bands in one, some of them spectacularly good. This was a single, coherent unit, never as flashy as before, but much more solid and consistent. That consistency is reflected in this latter-day best-of, which provides a good survey of the band that Fairport Convention has become.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2