Three Cropredy Reviews - August, 1997

Martin Smith reports:

A quick Cropredy Review; I'm too knackered to write any more than this. Talk about hot, boy! It was scorchio throughout, and very crowded too. They closed the gates on Saturday and put up House Full notices (or should that be Full House?) But all went well as far I could see (but I'm no expert. This was only my second year)

Fairport were terrific. On Friday night they played 90 minutes with the Liege & Lief line up helped out by Vicky Clayton. RT played a mean Mr Lacey, they did a rewritten Million Dollar Bash, and a load off Liege & Lief including an impressive Matty Groves and the instrumental medley. The sound was a bit dodgy when they cranked it up, but it was nice to hear RT, Nicol Hutchings and Swarb singing together, they were great.

Saturday's Fairport gig was a blast, and a marathon as well. They played best part of 4 hours 15 minutes. Ashley was the stage announcer, dressed up like a BBC newsreader. They did a chronological set, playing selections from all stages of the career. Our Hero played Cut Across Shorty with the GP's, and also a good version of Sloth, Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman, Walk Awhile. The sound was excellent, possibly different bloke on the knobs?

Man of the Match has to be Dave Mattacks who played almost 6 hours of music, including some keyboard work. He's a colossus. Silver medal to Simon Nicol who was on stage nearly as much, sang very well, and played an impressive lead guitar when given the opportunity.

Last year I didn't care for the Fairport line-up much, I thought Maartin Allcock's heavy metal leanings mangled everything. But the new line-up is good, although Ric still gives it some bombast given a chance. Chris Leslie is a fine musician, an asset to any band, as he showed earlier when depping for Joe Broughton in the Albion Band's set.

Obviously we were deprived of RT doing his current stuff, but it was fascinating to see him and his mates playing the old tunes.

Surprise highlights of the festival for your humble correspondent; Dan ar Braz played and sang a stonking version of "Rain" by the Beatles, accompanied by Pegg, Mattacks and Chris Leslie on electric 12 string. And John Otway (who I thought would be awful but wasn't) turned somersaults whilst playing guitar during "Cor Baby thats really free"

Other acts (Friday): Pressgang passed me by. Kristina Olson was excellent. Osibisa were great fun. Julian Dawson; a trouper is the kindest thing I can say. Great ryhthm section though, Mark Griffiths and Gerry Conway. Saw Doctors, good crack, they'd go a long way on their charm alone.

Other acts (Saturday): Bushbury Mountain Daredevils were excellent, Albions likewise. Last gig for Julie Matthews and Chris While who are destined for big things. Tempest were amazing, very Spinal Tap, but tight as a bee's ass. Huw and Tony Williams were good value, Liza Carthy was (IMHO) disappointing, and I thought it was poor form to not introduce the band, whilst introducing herself several times. Give that girl a slap! Otway and Barrett were just daft.

Surreal moment; the lady looking after the hopelessly inadequate toilet block in our field was wearing rubber gloves and a T-shirt reading "Same shit, different day" Job satisfaction or what?

Call me a simpleton if you like, but at noon yesterday I was sunbathing on a hillside in Oxfordshire, drinking cold lager and listening to a shit-kicking hillbilly band from Bourneville Tennessee (OK then, Birmingham) and I was thinking to myself "What can be better than this?"

If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and if you weren't, you missed a belter.

Cheers everybody, Martin

Derrick Leigh reports:

There was too much about this year's Cropredy to fit in an e-mail, so here are a few edited highlights. Boy was it hot!

Friday's early retrospective set was carried ably by RT. Top moment on guitar was his playout of Cohen's Susanne, for me. Judy Dyble's voice was, frankly, an embarrassment but top marks at least for being there and braving it out. The most inauthentic part of it was the quality of RT's voice; most authentic was the sound on the Liege and Lief stuff. It felt exactly how they used to sound. Some of the early songs will probably never be performed again in such a fashion. Most touching moment was the timing of Fotheringay, played just as the sun set.

Best of the other bands was the Albion Band, though Chris While and Julie Matthews are now leaving to go duo. Chris's voice is superbly strong, how much it reminds me at moments of Sandy. Osibisa on Friday were a good warm-up for FC. The Saw Doctors were lyrically good, with a great opening number "Give Me the Good News", but musically not as good as others have led me to expect. Well worth more listening. I fell asleep on Saturday and missed the Kings of Calicutt and Otway/Barrett. Never mind, Wild Willy is from my home town.

Saturday's FC set was memorable, with a hot mini-set by the GPs. Sunday saw FC thrashed at cricket. RT took a good catch down his throat behind square, but had a nightmare otherwise. He was taken off after being pasted (one over cost about 20 runs), then was out first ball. Most amusing sight was Nancy's US charabang being led in single file to their reserved marquee. Their part was to get beaten at Aunt Sally. We English have to invent games to win them. It was a pleasant afternoon down by the river, with Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy there. I left rather sad, as though some ghost of Fairport past had been exorcised.


Tom Nelligan reports:

Do they still call it jetlag if you're five hours *ahead* of everyone else? At least the fact that I was up before the sun this morning gave me a chance to catch up on the huge pile of e-mail that was awaiting my return from England. As always, Cropredy was worth the 3,000-mile trip from Massachusetts, in spite of this year's blasting heat and the severely challenged sanitary facilities.

One thing that I don't think has been sufficiently emphasized yet was RT's obvious enjoyment of what he was doing with his old mates last weekend. More often than not he was grinning from ear to ear on stage, especially when the semi-original Fairport lineups went through the hits of 1967-69. While he's been out of the band for 25 of its 30 years, and clearly would prefer to be known in the context of his contemporary work rather than what he did as a teenager, he seemed to play and sing everything with incredible emotion and fire, sharing the audience's enthusiasm for his Fairport contributions and reinventing them with all the power of his current skills. His guitar and vocals on "Time Will Show The Wiser" and "Poor Will and The Jolly Hangman" were particularly wondrous, with both songs having improved dramatically from their slightly dated-sounding original arrangements. Thanks, Richard, for taking the time to recreate the old stuff for those of us who were on the wrong side of the Atlantic to hear it live the first time around. I'm really looking forward to the anticipated festival CD. And I'd also like to echo Pam's thoughts in this morningis digest about the ties that join the worldwide community that comes together at Cropredy. I think that a lot of us who have been there a few times, especially those of us who travel long distances, find it as magical as the music. See you all there again next year, I hope.

--Tom Nelligan