86 of 87 people found the following review helpful
`Unhalfbricking' by the original Fairport Convention is the album with which they caught everyone's attention, as it has three exceptionally strong components going for it. First are the two songs by Sandy Denny, `Autopsy' and the memorable `Who Knows Where the Time Goes'. Second are the two songs by Richard Thompson. Third are the performances of three Bob Dylan songs which Mr. Dylan rarely performs himself.
After this great start with modern compositions and with such great chemistry between the principles in this group, it is surprising why they went off to do classic English folksongs in their most famous album, `Liege and Leif' and why Denny and Thompson spun off to do their own thing. I'm sure that they had their reasons, but that meant they never quite duplicated the quality of work on this album and the others the original group did together. So, the reincarnations of `Fairport Convention' have been making a career out of performing `Matty Groves' over and over again.
Getting back to `Unhalfbricking', I can still remember running into the British Import LP when I was under the spell of both `The Incredible String Band' and `The Pentangle' plus Bert and John and all those British folkies. So, the promise of more of the same was too good to pass up, before I happened to notice the heavy presence of Bob Dylan songs on the album. I do confess that the great cover photo of the walled lawn and the church tower in the background had a lot to do with my purchase.
I can't remember my exact impressions upon first hearing the album, except that I was tickled by the Dylan pieces and very much moved by the `Who Knows Where the Time Goes'. Listening to the album now, after 36 years, I wonder why no one does this kind of stuff anymore. I am not as much in tune with popular music today as I was in the 1960s, but I really miss having no fresh faces which strike me now as strongly as Dylan, Phil Ochs, Richard Farina, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, Robin Williamson, Denny and Thompson, and so on did at that time.
I really envy you, fair reader, if you are discovering the original Fairport Convention for the first time. They successfully capture a part of the Zeitgeist of the 1960s, which is so precious to those who lived through it. I hope you love these performances as much as I do.
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Fairport Convention was far and away the best British folk-rock band of the late Sixties, combining elegant covers of other artists, such as Bob Dylan, who wrote three of the ten tracks on this album, with exquisite original compositions, most notably by Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. The group's problem has been the ever-changing lineup. On "Unhalfbricking," the third of four albums the group released in 1969, the lineup is arguable the best Fairport Convention ever had to offer, but that same year powerhouse drummer Martin Lamble was killed in an accident involving the band's equipment van.
Fairport Convention's style of harmony-based folk-rock was obviously influenced by American groups like the Byrds, mixing electric and acoustic guitars. With the addition of Sandy Denny, known for both her solo work and briefly as a member of the Strawbs, the group added the premier British folk-rock singer of her generation. Denny offers up two of her finest works on this album, "Autopsy" but my clear cut favorite on "Unhalfbricking" is Thompson's 9-minute "Sailor's Life." This it the group's epic work, the one song on which their musical legacy should be judged. The only things that really work against this album are the fact that, by contemporary standards, it is so "short," with only 10 tracks. There is also the question of how well you like the Dylan covers; I do not find them to be anything special, especially in light of the other offerings. "Si Tu Dois Partir" is the best of the trio, even if you find doing Dylan in French to be a bit odd.
Final Note: This is one occasion where I would argue for the purchase of a specific album rather than a greatest hits collection. This is mainly because I have not see a Fairport Convention collection that has the four above referenced songs on it. Oh, and, no, I have no idea what the title for this album means.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 1999
There are more focused records in their catalog ("Liege & Lief") and even more 1960s type offerings (the self-titled debut) but this one stands out to me as the calling card for the Richard Thompson-era FC.
There are too many covers and some really long arrangements here but, to me, this is Fairport's best. On "Sailors Life" and "Genesis Hall" you get two of the most eerie songs on record. On the three Dylan songs you get real weird homages to their idol. Some how it all works.
Thompson's future strength as a songwriter is evident on "Genesis Hall" and the band's eventual gravitation to straight English folk becomes partially realized here.
Additionally, "Unhalfbricking" is to Fairport Convention (and Richard Thompson's career) as "Led Zeppelin III" is to Led Zeppelin: a stepping stone to what would be the path to wonderful things to come.
As a stand-alone work, it is still strong due to its otherworldly sound and diversity. It is a hidden late 1960s classic and some of Sandy Denny's finest moments.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2003
This is my favourite Fairport album, for all the reasons that are given in the reviews below. What Fairport were trying to do (especially Sandy Denny) was to write modern material, but in a folk influenced style; a very difficult task. The strains would show when she left the band after Liege and Lief. Unhalfbricking is halfway between the folk pop of their first two albums and the all out folk rock of Liege and Lief. A Sailor's Life is my favourite track with an extended coda in the style of Cream (this band could really rock when they wanted to) and a beautiful vocal by Sandy in the first half.I think I can also have a go at explaining the title; "halfbricking" is the style of garden wall you see the couple standing against on the album cover (Sandy's parents by the way!). As such it stands for middle class suburban conformity. Unhalfbricking is, well, the opposite!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This album, as usual for the Fairports, marked a personnel change for the band with the departure of vocalist Ian Matthews who went on to form Southern Comfort and who had a hit in Britain with his version of Woodstock.
In a number of ways the album was a turning point in the band's career. Rapidly building on their reputation as a live act, the album is an expression of their maturity as performers and songwriters and their confidence as leaders in the folk-rock field.
The album opens with a Richard Thompson song, Genesis Hall, with it's unusual form and lyrics, sung almost as a dirge by Sandy Denny. To begin an album with a somewhat experimental track was certainly novel and had some nice touches from Thompson.
The next track, Si Tu Dois Partir - Bob Dylan in French no less became a minor hit for the band who were televised on a pop show, Top of the Pops with Underground DJ John Peel purporting, if not actually, to play the spoons. A catchy chorus helped it to sound like a French folk song!
A Sandy Denny composition, "Autopsy" followed with a jazzy feel to it, a lush Denny vocal going along with some neat guitar. This is certainly an indication of Sandy's expanding musical interests.
The only taditional song on the album, " A Sailor's Life" follows with a traditional folk vocal by Sandy expressing a sad refrain while the rest of the band produce an almost Velvet Underground type of backing before turning to a growing, strengthening combination - also showing the band's interest in extended playing - a powerful song indeed.
Cajun Woman, another Thompson song is again innovative showing his development from his folk-rock roots and indicating future direction.
For me the highlight of this album is the Sandy Denny song "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" which has become a poignant regular feature of the Fairport repetoire. This a haunting song with wonderful lyrics and great playng.
The two final cuts on this album are both Dylan songs, "Percy's Song" and "Million Dollar Bash", the first done in a traditional style and the second shows the band having a lot of fun. A great way to end the album
For me every one of these tracks is a lasting testament to this band and all of it's members, past and present. In a way it epitomises everything one has come to associate with the Fairport family.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2006
If you are looking for outstanding Fairport Convention, or Brit Folk, or if you just like music, this is an exemplary example. This album explains why those of us from the 60's continue to say that the music today (and the last 15 years) generally blows. You cannot name a single group that even approaches the beauty of this album. Five stars isn't enough. Trade in all your Britany Sneers and J Blows cd's; get this one and listen to a woman who can sing.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2004
As Ashley Hutchings says in the notes, this 3rd Fairport album contains various different styles that somehow, by luck?, hang very well together.
It`s an album that ends the beginning era of the band. With the following album "Liege and Leaf", also released in 1969, Fairport Convention established themselves as pioneers of English folk rock.
On the this album there are still clear influences from American country, pop and rock`n roll. Songs like "Cajun Woman" and "Million Dollar Bash" would not have fitted later Fairport releases.
This is an album of transition. The last to feature drummer Martin Lamble, who sadly was killed in a car-accident, and singer Ian Matthews.
Longtime member Dave Swarbrick appears here for the first time, though only as studio musician on four songs. But his influence cannot be overrated; check out "A Sailor`s Life" . New drummer Dave Mattacks also appears for the first time, though only on one of the bonus tracks, which is actually an outtake from "Liege and Leaf"
Sandy Denny contributes classics like "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" and "Autopsy".
Richard Thompson`s best song here is "Genesis Hall".
My favourite is Dylan`s "Percy Song" with it`s beautiful vocals and great building up!
The band`s only hit record "Si Tu Dois Partir" is also there. It?s a free-and-easy cover of Dylan`s "If You Gotta Go, Go Now"
Both bonus tracks a good, fit the rest of the album fine!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2004
when I first bought it. I had heard the BBC version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes, and was intrigued by Fairport Convention, so I purchased this album, as it was a toss-up between this one and What We Did on our Holidays. I listened to it, and really was horribly disappointed in it.
Then, after picking it up a few months later for another listen, it started to grow on me. Now, I swear I play it at least once a week, if not more often. IT REALLY SNEAKS UP ON YOU. Not even mentioning the subtle beauty of Sandy Denny's voice, the guitar work is fantastic.
Songs I like the least:
Percy's Song - too long, but the story the songs tells makes it listenable.
Si Tu Dois Partir - I don't speak French, and didn't realize it was a Bob Dylan song. But musically, it's FUN to listen to.
Who Knows Where the Time Goes - the emotion in Sandy Denny's voice really makes it a wonderful tune
A Sailor's Life - at first I thought it was too long and drawn out. It is by far my favorite. There's just so much in it to listen to.
Autopsy - I like the time change in the song. Not to many rock songs are in 3/4 time.
Million Dollar Bash - just a cool song, musically and lyrically
Overall, it's a nice album to listen to. Fairport Convention is such a complex band. Worth the listen.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 1999
Fairport Convention, circa this album, has my vote for the title of Best Band in History: to this day, no one else has even approached their level of raw talent, unstoppable energy, and that nameless "something" that holds it all together. The originals on "Unhalfbricking" are outstanding (if you're not moved by Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes," you're dead), the three Dylan covers are even better, and the one traditional tune, "A Sailor's Life," is still, almost 30 years later, the standard by which all folk rock can be measured (made even more amazing by the fact that it was done in one straight take in the studio). All told, albums just don't get any more perfect than this.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2009
This is a folk album. This is a folk rock album. This is a folk jazz album. This is an Irish and English folk ablum. This is a 1960s album.
And this is a classic album. If people tend to overuse the word classic--myself included-it is sure not here. What brings Unhalfbrikling to the very top of the pile is not its use of so many different genres, although this is clearly undeniable. And its not the drumming, which is so smooth in both rock and jazz styles, it transends both. And it is not Sandy Denny's bell voice, which is so soft and so warm, but so clear and unaffected, it is a perfect instrument.
And it is not ONLY "Autopsy" a perfectly played, emotionally stirring jazz blues, or "Sailors Life" which mixes the most rustic music with the most sophistacated playing.
It is not only, even, "Who Know's Where The Time Goes," one of rock's most beautiful ballads--so hearfelt it brings tears to the eyes, but so genuine and deep and cleanly played, it was the perfect peice for 1969 FM progressive radio. Friendly as a country campfire with its slide guitar, but a sterling slice of jazz dynamics and subtlety.
What it IS is that Unhalfbrickling was one of those albums made on one of those days in 1969, when all the planets--including ours- were in the right place. You had to be good, and Fairport Convention was even better. You had to be origional, and Fraiport were inventive geniuses. You had to be able to play, and these players were masters. You had to be genuine, and Fairport was, bone deep. This is the music of the ages, but Unhalfbrikling shows all, and I mean capitol A, of what was best about rock in 1969. The synergy is from another world, but in the most earthly of ways.
Right time, right place, right songs, right band.