So titled because, chronologically speaking, it immediately predates 1975's Rising for the Moon album, Before the Moon is a two-CD recounting of two nights in Denver, CO, in 1974, with Sandy Denny back in the Fairport fold for the first time in five years. Historically, then, it ranks as one of the key documents of the band's 1970s history, both introducing a couple of songs from the band's still-unrecorded next studio album to the set (the title track and "One More Chance"), and highlighting one of Denny's most powerful solo recordings, the now not-so-aptly titled "Solo." This particular tour has already received one live album, 1974's Live Convention. It must be said, however, that in terms of the actual performance, Before the Moon beats it hands down -- only the somewhat muddy sound quality, and some atrocious typos in the track listing ("Matty Grooves") let the side down, but both are largely cosmetic distractions. The epic "Matty Groves" (correct spelling) and "Sloth" are both among the group's career-best renderings, while another Denny song, "Like an Old Fashioned Waltz," makes one wish there was a formal Fairport studio take of the number. Elsewhere, Dylan's "Down in the Flood" is a joyous explosion, and the instrumental numbers do nothing less than make you wish you'd been there on the night. You probably weren't -- but this collection does make a great substitute.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2