on April 30, 2003
This is the first album Fairport recorded after Sandy Denny and Ashley Hutchings (co-founder member, who went on to form Steeleye Span and the Albion Country Band) departed, and the last studio album to feature Richard Thompson. In Sandy's absence (she had left to form Fotheringay, which would last but one album), the remaining group would have to pool their vocal talents the best they could to fill her void. Also, Dave Pegg had taken up bass chores in the group, and proved himself a fine replacement for Hutchings.
Admittedly, the vocals are a bit shaky--most of the lead vocal chores were handled by Dave Swarbrick, fiddler extraordinaire--but RT began to come into his own here as well; he and Swarbrick collaborated on several compositions here ("Walk Awhile," which features lead vocals from all except drummer Dave Mattacks; "Sloth," a powerful piece that also explored Fairport's improvisational talents; the ominous "Doctor of Physick"). It may not be immediately memorable, but it will grow on you.
Also, the original album programme is featured here, with "Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman," originally withdrawn at the last minute on RT's request, restored to its place as track 7 (originally track 3, side 2, on the first 5000 pressings); plus, four bonus tracks, in the form of mono and stereo mixes of the single A-side "Now Be Thankful," its long-windedly-titled B-side "Sir B. McKenzie..." and Fairport's first attempt at "The Bonny Bunch of Roses," recorded at Phil Spector's Gold Star Studios during a residency at the L.A. Troubadour in May, 1970. And I've always loved RT's rather odd liner notes, a sort of medieval games almanac.
This, then, was where Fairport proved they did indeed have a future after Sandy. Granted, it would be an awkward and uneven future, but this, at least, helped the band to cement their position as the first true English folk-rock band.
on November 30, 2002
In 1970, Fairport Convention lost a founding king (the remarkably talented Ashley Hutchings) and a lead singing queen (the transcendent Sandy Denny), so you can forgive most people for thinking they would just fold. But they still had their ace (Richard Thompson), went to the deck, and most certainly came up with a Full House.
This is a fantastic album. Where "Liege & Lief" kicked the door open, this one comes storming through. Superb singing, incredible playing. This reissue is excellent. The sound is crisp and beautiful, a vast improvement over any previous edition. The intended running order has been restored, including the vagabond "Poor Will & the Jolly Hangman". The bonus tracks are great...the rare single "Now Be Thankful" is here in all it's monophonic glory (an overcooked stereo remix is here as well, but that's best avoided), as well as it's elaborately titled instrumental b-side. The absolutely stunning "Bonny Bunch of Roses" is indeed the rose on this cake.
Take your hand out of your mouth and your finger out of your eye and BUY THIS!! You won't be sorry.
"Full House" was the fifth album by Fairport Convention but represented a significant new chapter in the group's history because for the first time it was without a female singer. At this point Sandy Denny and Ashley Hutchings had left the group and you would have thought that losing the premier folk singer of her generation in Denny would have been a fatal blow. "Full House" disproves that without much problem as Fairport Convention continued to prove itself the premier folk-rock group in England. The new singers were Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick who wrote most of the songs on the album. Along with Dave Pegg and Simon Nicol they do some nice harmonies, especially on the trio of traditional songs, "Sir Patrick Spens," "Flatback Caper," and "The Flowers of the Forest." Granted, the vocal are a bit less, in terms of the leads, but the instrumentation is certainly superior with this incarnation of the group, which is clear with the opening track "Walk Awhile." The showpiece here is the nine-minute "Sloth," written by the entire group (including drummer Dave Mattacks) and allowing all of the group members to show off their musical abilities. Any borderline considerations with regards to ranking because of the shakeup in the group's composition are rendered moot by the four bonus tracks of Fairport Convention music added to this 1970 release, including mono and stereo version of "Now Be Thankful" and another pair of traditional tunes, including the wonderfully named "Sir B. McKenzie's Daughter's Lament for the 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat." Granted, "Full House" is still half-a-notch below "Unhalfbricking" and "Liege and Leif," but it is still a superb album of British folk rock.
on March 26, 2002
The first album Fairport Convention made after singer Sandy Denny and bassist Ashley Hutchings left, and the last before guitarist Richard Thompson left, this album rocked harder than any other Fairport album. But the album has always been missing a little something in terms of pacing. And, knowing that a couple of classic songs from the sessions were left off the album (in British tradition, the single "Now Be Thankful" was left off the LP, while Thompson, in a fit of pique, wouldn't let producer Joe Boyd include "Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman"), I've been wanting for years to hear how this album would sound with the songs restored. And here it is. The album also includes "Sir B. McKenzie" (the full title once held the Guinness record for longest song title), the B-side of the "Now Be Thankful" single, and "The Bonny Bunch of Roses." The second half of the album is much stronger with these songs added. The songwriting team of Thompson and violinist Dave Swarbrick was at its peak, with the Fairport classics "Walk Awhile" and "Sloth", the eerie "Doctor of Physick", and the lovely "Now Be Thankful." Except for "Now Be Thankful", sung beautifully by Swarbrick, the vocals are mostly a group effort by Swarbrick, Thompson, rhythm guitarist Simon Nicol, and bassist Dave Pegg (whose bass playing is miles beyond Hutchings'). The traditional "Sir Patrick Spens" is great, and the medleys of jigs and reels "Dirty Linen" and "Flatback Caper" are excellent.
on November 2, 2001
This classic album from 1970 didn't just get much better in its expanded form--it changed its complexion radically. Not only are we treated to the extra cuts, including the marvelous "Poor Will & the Jolly Hangman" in its Full House rendition (with harmony vocals from Swarb and without the Linda Thompson additions which altered the cut on RT's "guitar, vocal" LP) but the song sequencing has been changed slightly and the overall feel of the album changed surprisingly. The album has a darker, more somber feel to it but it also highlights the uptempo instrumentals more because of the change of tone. "Now Be Thankful" fits sonically and stylistically (the extra stereo mix is not very good though) and "Bonny Bunch of Roses" plods along for 10 minutes but fits in perfectly. What remains most noteworthy though is the album just feels different and emerges much improved.
on March 11, 2002
I already had this album on CD, but it has always been a favorite Fairport album. I took a chance on the basis of the bonus tracks, and I was very impressed with the improved sound quality of the remastered version. Both instrumentally and vocally the difference is audible/palpable when given a track-by-track comparison, it is like being there. Given that none of the band was keen on being the lead vocalist, they did an excellent job of trading off and harmonizing on some of the best Swarbrick/Thompson compositions. Of the bonus cuts, Bonny Bunch of Roses is a far superior version to the same song used as title cut of that later Fairport album. I'd agree that the stereo mix of Now Be Thankful isn't much better than an echo-y version bouncing off a bathroom wall, but hearing the cleaned up mono version and the restored Poor Will make this definitely worth the price.
on July 18, 2013
A band exploding with talent! Imagine yourself on the village green listening to this group of singing minstrels. Not folkies in the molds of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie or early Dylan. More Jethro Tull circa their Songs From the Wood days though, perhaps, with a more authentic flair. Not a casual listen but an album that will draw you into the music given a chance. Highly recommended.
on July 14, 2014
How can you go wrong with a great song like "Sloth"?