Fairport Convention

Cropredy: The Best and the Guests

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Not for sale in stores, this CD was only available as a free bonus disc via a write-in offer with the first 5,000 copies sold of the Fairport Convention box set Fairport Unconventional. As the title implies, it's a compilation of performances from the Fairport-hosted Cropredy Festival, featuring performances teaming Fairport with guest vocalists and instrumentalists, as well as a few tracks done by guests without Fairport support. The material stretches from the early '80s to the late '90s, taking in guest shots by high-profile figures like Robert Plant, Richard Thompson (who of course was in Fairport in their early years), Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Ralph McTell, Ian Anderson, Danny Thompson, and Roy Harper. There are also several guests who aren't too well known, like singer Vikki Clayton. Of course, this is more of a souvenir for the fans -- and there are many devoted Fairport fans -- than a release that could be treated as a serious musical statement or document. The sound is okay, but variable and sometimes not stellar. The performances and songs are amenable, but not extremely exciting. Still, it's a representative sampling of sounds that predominate at Cropredy, from traditional fiddle folk and straightforward British folk-rock to Elvis Presley covers (Robert Plant doing "Mess o' Blues" and Andy Fairweather-Lowe "Mystery Train"). There are also oddities like Vikki Clayton sounding close to Sandy Denny on "Late November," Ian Anderson guesting on "Matty Groves," and Gary Brooker doing Procol Harum's smash "Whiter Shade of Pale."

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