Originally released as an independent Italian import in 1992, From Past Archives offers an acceptable peek into Fairport Convention's early years; however, it gets extremely patchy after the samplings from 1970. All of the tracks from this album are live recordings culled from BBC sessions, the Fillmore West, the Troubadour, Royal Albert Hall, and the Cropredy Fest. The BBC sessions are of particular interest because they reveal quite clearly the point in time when Fairport transformed from an acoustic-based pop group with American music affinities to the British folk-rock band that it would remain for decades after. That change occurred sometime between January 6, 1969, and September 23, 1969. Ashley Hutchings' acoustic blues piece "You're Gonna Need My Help" was the sign-off to the band's formative style, while "Sir Patrick Spens" introduced the electric British folk-rock that would become Fairport's trademark for years and would influence countless others, from Steeleye Span to Oysterband to Tempest to Lehto & Wright. As always, the epic-length "Sloth" features sloppy yet dazzling guitar work from Richard Thompson, but due to the inferior sound quality, it doesn't rival the definitive version heard on House Full. Sandy Denny's second stint with the band in the mid-'70s never fulfilled expectations, and is evidenced by her uninspired renditions of "Like an Old Fashioned Waltz" (from her solo album of the same name) and "Rising for the Moon." Only Dave Swarbrick's fiddle rescues the latter from utter mediocrity. Two tracks from the 1984 Cropredy Fest ("John the Gun" and "Doctor of Physick") would foreshadow the band's re-emergence into full-time status; however, neither is stimulating, to say the least. Nothing really stands out on this album as material to be treasured and archived and even completists will be disappointed, not necessarily by the substandard sound quality, but by the sketchy chronology and hatchet editing job of this project.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Sleger