In the early 1970s, the Glastonbury Fayre Festival in England was known as one of the most hippie-oriented festivals in an era during which they were many. This 1972 triple-LP, issued in a limited edition of 5,000 copies, was often mistakenly believed to be a collection of recordings from the festival. In fact, however, it was a rather ragtag assembly of live recordings and studio recordings, and there's even some doubt whether all or any of the live tracks were of Glastonbury performances. For all that, it's a fairly worthwhile anthology of odds and ends from the tail-end of the psychedelic era, including collectible rarities from some big names (Pete Townshend, David Bowie, the Grateful Dead, Marc Bolan) and bits and pieces from some of the more celebrated British cult acts of the period (Gong, Brinsley Schwarz, Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies, Edgar Broughton, and Mighty Baby). The Pete Townshend track is a demo, "Classified," that's much like the sparse, intimate homemade-sounding recordings from his solo debut Who Came First, though it wouldn't have been among the more outstanding songs from that album. Bowie's "Supermen" is a nice live-in-the-studio version cut during his Ziggy Stardust sessions, though the song had already been released on his previous LP The Man Who Sold the World. The Grateful Dead's 24-minute "Dark Star" is from a live London concert in April 1972, and thus fits in with the sound of the band on their live Europe '72 album.
The rest of the artists are far more in line with the more indulgent, second-division prog-psychedelic acts filling up the bills at such festivals. That doesn't mean, however, that their tracks don't hold some interest, both for their archival value and some intrinsic appeal. With five songs totaling 27 minutes, Gong get almost an LP's worth of space, and unsurprisingly (given mainstay Daevid Allen's roots) sometimes sound like late-'60s/early-'70s Soft Machine, though more avowedly spaced out. The Pink Fairies throw in both pre-punk and sub-Jimi Hendrix riffage on their 20-minute "Do It/Uncle Harry's Last Freak-Out," followed by a similarly lengthy live Edgar Broughton mauling of their minor U.K. hit single "Out Demons Out." Mighty Baby sound a bit like both early-'70s Pink Floyd and Soft Machine at their most drifting on the 16-minute "A Blanket in My Muesli"; Hawkwind cross hard rock and art rock with considerable murkiness on "Silver Machine and Welcome"; Marc Bolan's folky studio cut "Sunken Rags" is a marginal piece; and "Sun Music," by Skin Alley (easily the most obscure band on the record), is kind of nice wistful folk-prog-rock that gets more forceful and Bowiesque at times. In this company, the straightforward country-rock of Brinsley Schwarz's "Love Song" (a studio recording) comes off like a teetotaler in the midst of a crowd of roaring drunks. As a whole, this record is certainly an uneven relic of its age -- in sound quality as well as musical merit -- and a very drawn-out one, running to more than two hours overall. In its own way, however, it accurately represents the uneven but diverse peaks and valleys you'd have been apt to see at festivals like Glastonbury Fayre -- even if little or none of the music on this vinyl was likely recorded there.