Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Island Records: White Dress

One of my favorite bands of all time – Fairport Convention – recorded for Island Records from their second album (“What We Did on our Holidays”) to their thirteenth (“Live at the L.A. Troubadour”). In the US, however, most of these albums were issued on A&M as Island didn’t yet have a presence in the US. Even after Island began releasing its material on its own US arm, Fairport Convention remained with A&M until after the release of the album “Nine.”

“Rising for the Moon” was their first album released on Island in the US and may have only been their only album proper to be issued by the US arm of the label. “Gottle O’Geer,” credited as Fairport featuring Dave Swarbrick on the US version, was in all intents and purposes a solo album by Swarbrick that was issued under the band’s moniker. I don’t believe that “Live at the L.A. Troubadour” was issued in the US as I only remember seeing it only as an import – but I could be wrong about this.

I remember buying “Rising for the Moon” in Huntington, WV during the summer of 1976 as a cutout. I loved this album as it was a return of Sandy Denny to the band and would prove her last official output with Fairport. This version of the band was an amalgamation of the three Daves (Swarbrick, Pegg, and Mattacks) and 3/5 of Fotheringay with Sandy Denny, her husband Trevor Lucas, and lead guitarist Jerry Donahue.

Drummer Dave Mattacks left the band during the recording of the album and was replaced with Bruce Rowland. If you look at the cover, the caricature of the drummer has his back to viewer – my guess is that this was done so as not to draw attention that the band had a transition of drummers during the period.

Today’s feature song was penned by Dave Swarbrick for Sandy Denny and was released as a single in the UK, but not in the US. “White Dress” is often credited to Swarbrick and Ralph McTell as he rewrote the tune for his own recording of the song in 1979. The Fairport version has Swarbrick as the only author.

I love the arrangement of this tune. While it could be Pegg playing the mandolin, I believe it is Dave Swarbrick – he is featured as such on the video. I think he is also playing the dulcimer on it, but I cannot be for certain. There is a certain quality in the rhythm that screams that an Autoharp is present, but none are in the credits. It may be a strummed piano strings by Sandy – a technique that Keith Emerson used on the song “Take a Pebble.”

Sandy’s vocals are also double tracked during the final verse. Dave Mattacks is the drummer on the cut, but Bruce Rowland is shown in the video. Trevor Lucas is seen playing an Ovation 12-string in the video as well. This is a beautiful tune, but wouldn’t have charted in the US – as our market never fully accepted the talent of Fairport Convention. Pity.

Incomplete Video of the Song

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