Fairport Convention: Simon Nicol (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Richard Thompson (vocals, electric guitar); Dave Swarbrick (vocals, mandolin, fiddle); Dave Pegg (bass guitar, background vocals); Dave Mattacks, Bruce Rowland (drums).
Additional personnel: Judy Dyble (vocals); Ralph McTell (electric guitar).
Fairport Convention officially disbanded in 1979, only to become the hosts of a yearly folk festival/reunion concert every August in England. This album is taken from their August 15, 1981 show, featuring core original Fairport members Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson plus original female singer Judy Dyble, plus later members Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks, and Bruce Rowland, and it's a good recapitulation of the band's style, with such numbers new to their repertoire as Bob Dylan's "Country Pie" and Thompson's "Woman or a Man." The presence of Dyble alone was something of a history lesson for newer fans, most of whom were scarcely aware of her participation in the group at the start, prior to Sandy Denny's joining -- Dyble even had to be introduced to the audience and her significance explained. And as with most of these "mega-Fairport" concerts, the cohesion of the players seems startling, considering the number of layers of different lineups and generations represented on-stage -- Thompson's presence is prominent, however, through his guitar playing and the raw, lean quality that his instrument brings to a performance that should have sounded a bit bloated, given the sheer number of musicians. It's precisely that quality that was missing from the band's official live release A Fairport Live Convention and its remixed version (Live Convention), and helps make this reunion so rewarding, capturing an attribute of the early band's work that only the oldest fans ever got to hear on-stage. Dyble's presence is also welcome, and the repertory -- which ranges across the group's history and extends out to folk and rock & roll standards -- is a delight as well. ~ William Ruhlmann & Bruce Eder