And More...

Liege and Lief, recorded over four sessions in October 1969, was predominantly traditional material with only three tracks written by the group, including Thompson’s Farewell, Farewell and the Swarbrick/Thompson Crazy Man Michael

Sandy Denny’s departure to embark on a solo career was followed by 1970’s Full House which continued the combination of traditional material and collaborations between Swarbrick and Thompson. The album also featured sleeve notes by Thompson a bizarre take on a medieval sports and games almanac in the style of an hallucinating Tolkien (to quote founder member Simon Nicol’s notes on the 2001 CD reissue).

By this stage, since Fairport had failed to deliver more than one album by any given line-up, it probably comes as no surprise to discover that the next realignment involved Thompson’s departure from the band in 1971 preferring work as a session musician and solo artist to a regular gig with a band.

His first solo album (Henry the Human Fly) is, in my humble opinion, some of his best work, despite its alleged status as the worst-selling record released by Warner Brothers. 

I’m not, for a moment denigrating the rest of RT’s extensive catalogue, but Henry is, in its own quiet and inimitable way, as timeless as The Band’s second album (which since it was on high rotation on all the Fairport members' turntables in the early 70s provided a substantial influence on RT’s writing).

Subsequent albums may have included better songs, and there are several tracks on Henry that I tend to avoid, but, in Roll Over Vaughn WilliamsNobody’s WeddingThe Poor Ditching BoyThe New St George and The Old Changing Way the album contains some of my all-time favourite tracks.

Many listeners took issue with Thompson’s vocals on the album, and while I can acknowledge that point of view, the voice gives the impression of some ancient minstrel simultaneously trapped in some kind of time warp in various spots between the twelfth and twentieth centuries.


B© Ian Hughes 2012