Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fairport Convention: Now Be Thankful

For Thanksgiving Week, the Traditional Tuesday feature is by veteran English folk-rockers Fairport Convention. “Now Be Thankful” was written by former FC members Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick and was released as a single in the UK, but not in the US. Swarbrick, who played fiddle and mandolin with Fairport, sang the original. Today’s live version features multi-instrumentalist Chris Leslie on lead vocals.

Me and Chris Leslie in 2006

The original version of the song was recorded during the sessions that produced the Full House album and was released only as a single in September 1970. It did not appear on an album in the UK until the 1972 compilation, “History of Fairport Convention” was released. It was not released in the US until 1976 when it appeared on the USA only compilation, “Fairport Chronicles.”

Me and Simon Nicol in 2006; Simon played on the original recording

I became aware of Fairport when my brother gave me about 30 albums from his collection and a nifty 12-string electric Dan Electro Bellzouki following his move back to Pennsylvania in the fall of 1972.

The albums represented a wide variety of music that included everything from doo-wop to hard rock. The group of albums contained the debut album by Fairport Convention which became one of my favorites of the whole lot. Although not considered their best work, I still believe this first LP stacks up very well – although it is much different from the band’s later recordings.

Studio Version with Dave Swarbrick

During spring 1973, I was pursuing the selection of import albums at Heads Together in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill and found and purchased “History of Fairport Convention.” This became my introduction to Fairport’s traditional side as well as their song “Now be Thankful.”

As an aside, Fairport attempted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records with “Now be Thankful’s” flip side – an instrumental titled, “Sir B. McKenzie's Daughter's Lament For The 77th Mounted Lancer's Retreat From The Straits Of Loch Knombe, In The Year Of Our Lord 1727, On The Occasion Of The Announcement Of Her Marriage To The Laird Of Kinleakie.” Hoping for the longest song title, Guinness did not recognize the title as being legitimate.

Me and Ric Sanders of Fairport Convention in 2006

There are a number of interpretations of the lyrics and their meaning and there appears to be a medieval Christian connection. Back in the early 90s, my brother Chuck and I performed it for a Thanksgiving service at our home congregation.

When the stone
is grown too cold to kneel
In crystal waters I'll be bound
Cold as stone, weary to the sounds upon the wheel

Now be thankful for good things below
Now be thankful to your maker
For the rose, the red rose blooms for all to know

When the fire is grown too fierce to breathe
In burning embers I'll be bound
Fierce as fire, weary to the sounds upon the wheel

Now be thankful for good things below
Now be thankful to your maker
For the rose, the red rose blooms for all to know

1 comment:

  1. I suggest the second line in fire reads "In burning irons I'll be bound"