Reviewed by Lee H Smith
Why review a 25 year old album by the veteran, defiantly non-Christian, folk rockers? Read on. John 'Babbacombe' Lee was the sort of person that Christian bestsellers are written about -except that, as far as I'm aware, they never have been. His experience of life and of the deliverance of God is so tangible that, surely by now, some Christian or other should have written a biography - but nothing seems to be currently available. John Lee was an ordinary young man who lived at the back end of the 19th century. There was nothing very extraordinary about him, he had no high-powered job, was no royal heir to any throne and didn't have particularly bright career prospects when he was invalided out of the Navy. But he will be forever remembered for February 4th, 1885. He had been found guilty of murdering his employer and, being sentenced to hang for his atrocious crime, was imprisoned in a small cell to await his sentence. The only problem - he was innocent. And he said so. In fact, he called on God to be a witness of the fact before all those present in the courtroom the day of his sentencing. But he resigned himself to his fate until the night before his execution. It was then he dreamed - no, he had a vision. He saw himself in a garden, going towards his own execution and the Lord Jesus appeared to him and said, very simply, that the following morning they wouldn't be able to hang him. He said that He was going to step in and vindicate John Lee before all who knew what had taken place. When he awoke, the dream stayed with him. So vivid was it that he told it - half jokingly - to the prison guard who escorted him to the scaffold. And - well, I'm sure you can write your own ending - they couldn't hang him. The mechanism worked perfectly well when his head wasn't in the noose, but when they tried it with him in it, it just wouldn't budge an inch. So is the story of John Lee. But, what of the music. 25 years ago, Fairport Convention were probably the leaders in folk rock. You can feel the tension build up as mood music is used to convey the loneliness of the cell, the eeriness of the dream, the dramatic tension of the hanging. Certainly worth a listen - and as it's so old, the rrp is only a tenner. The one thing I can't believe is that a bunch of non-Christians wrote it!
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