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Fairport Convention: Maidstone 1970
& Matthews Southern Comfort

Fairport Convention: Maidstone 1970
Voiceprint Records/MVD Enterainment Group
1971 - 2007?
1:78 anamprphic enhanced
32 min.
Street Date February 19, 2008

Directed by Tony Palmer

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Savant doesn't normally review music performance discs but made an exception in this case; at UCLA my roommate Steve Sharon introduced me to records by the UK electric folk-rock groups Fairport Convention and their offshoot band Steeleye Span, and I've never forgotten their distinctive sound -- folk ballads and dancing songs orchestrated with electric instruments.

My knowledge of the band is so limited that it's wiser to simply let readers know what is and isn't on this new DVD from Voiceprint Records and the MVD Entertainment Group. Fairport Convention: Maidstone 1970 is a filmed record of a performance at the Maidstone festival in the summer of 1970. This just after the release of their album Full House, and after the departure of founding member Ashley Hutchings, who had left to form Steeleye Span. The bad news is that the actual concert film is only 32 minutes long, and two of the seven songs heard are by Matthews Southern Comfort, another offshoot of Fairport Convention led by Iain Matthews. A Beeb-type narrator (John Peel?) talks over the first minute or so of the first song. The music all sounds good, but we hear only a bit of the band's vocal harmonies, as heard on the great album Angel Delight.

What makes the disc unique is that it is said to be the only filmic performance record of Fairport Convention. Much later they were taped at the yearly Cropedy Festival concerts that the band began in 1977. Disbanded in 1979 but reformed in 1985, the group is still together. The band membership has changed frequently over the years, leaving this one film to attest to their glory days immediately following Liege and Lief, with the "Full House" lineup of artists. Having faces to go with the names of these talented musicians is in itself a good thing.

The songs:

Various Jigs & Reels
Sir Patrick Spens
Now Be Thankful

My Front Pages
Southern Comfort

Flatback Caper
Jenny's Chicken & The Mason's Apron

As you can see, it's not a lot of content. The performances are good and the direction (by the noted Tony Palmer) is reasonable, but the enhanced 1:78 image is somewhat faded and 'digitally distressed'; to wit, it has a strange texture that Savant associates with a video master that has been radically reformatted. No specific compositions point to a 1:33 image that has been cropped and blown up for video, but that's what it looks like. The audio is monophonic and a bit on the flat side, although fairly well balanced. If this is a 16mm show filmed on the rough at a festival, the audio isn't bad -- it's better than some of the pieces in Monterey Pop where instruments or vocalists are almost entirely off-mic.

Director Tony Palmer spends perhaps five minutes of a sixteen-minute interview talking specifically about this show, which apparently screened on London TV once or twice and then never again. No original production date remains on the show, and the IMDB lists it as a 2008 release. Palmer talks about shooting the concert on a sunny day and not much else; we're expected to already be familiar with his eventful directing career. A trip to the web will be necessary to learn more about the interesting Fairport Convention story.

Fairport Convention fans may be curious to see this memento from their early days. Just be forewarned that it's not a thing of beauty, and it's rather brief, too.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Fairport Convention: Maidstone 1970 rates:
Movie: Good --
Video: Fair +++
Sound: Good --
Supplements: Interview with Tony Palmer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: March 16, 2008

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2008 Glenn Erickson

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