Fairport Convention

Cropredy Capers: 25 Years of Fairport Convention and Friends at Cropredy Festival

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Cropredy, the annual festival run by Fairport Convention, has become legendary over the years, not only for it's reconvening of the many different permutations of the band, but also for guests and surprises. While not everything is here, obviously, this stunning four-CD box set captures many of the highlights. Fairport are the featured artists, both as themselves and also in the backing guises they've taken behind artists like Cockney Rebel's Steve Harley and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin (and they acquit themselves quite admirably, with plenty of spirit and more than a little humor). The four discs are themed, and the vast proportion of the material hasn't seen the light of day before. Listening is almost like Christmas, having to pick your way through all the delights, whether it's the version of "Million Dollar Bash" lovingly assembled from performances in different years, or a take on "Fotheringay" with singer Vikki Clayton capably filling the shoes of the late Sandy Denny. There's plenty of fun to be had on the 'covers' CD, where the band offers not only traditional folk, but everything from "Swimming Song" with Loudon Wainwright to "Midnight Special" with veteran British rocker Joe Brown. But this is a set full of joy and wit, and not only on disc. The superb packing even includes a booklet with a walk around the village of Cropredy and a cardboard build-your-own-festival-site kit (wonderful for those long evenings) in addition to a superbly detailed book about the festival itself and the songs included. It's a wonderful set, up to the high standard the Free Reed label has established -- and, indeed, up to the standard of Cropredy itself.

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