After leaving Fairport Convention in 1969, Iain Matthews strung together a journeyman's career, touring and recording prolifically both as a solo artist and with his country-inflected folk-rock band Matthews Southern Comfort. Apart from a chart-topping cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," his efforts tended to be admired by critics but shunned by the mainstream. One of his most satisfying endeavors was the group Plainsong, a project which ran its entire course during the calendar year of 1972. A collaboration between Matthews and guitarist Andy Roberts, the original quartet also included bassist David Richards and American guitarist Bobby Ronga. Between their formation on December 19, 1971 and their final show on December 29, 1972, Plainsong toured the U.K. and Europe, captured numerous live performances for television and the BBC, and recorded two excellent full-lengths, one of which became a cult classic while the other remained shelved for decades. Released in October, the band's debut for Elektra, In Search of Amelia Earhart, was an inspired meeting of wistful folk-rock songwriting and American country twang filtered through the lush harmonies of three Brits and one New Yorker. Much like Matthews' other fine releases of the era, Plainsong's debut made little commercial impact, even though New Musical Express hailed it as "one of the classic albums of 1972." It had barely been out a month when Ronga was cut loose due to excessive alcohol abuse. Plainsong carried on as a trio and spent that November recording a follow-up album that never saw the light of day. A BBC Radio 1 Sounds of Sunday performance at the end of the year served as their final show, and by January, the band was no more.

Matthews and Roberts later revived Plainsong in the early '90s, by which point the Amelia album had gained some luster among record collectors as an overlooked folk-rock gem. The latter-day Plainsong, while still flying under the radar, enjoyed further success during the '90s and beyond, touring occasionally and releasing a string of well-made albums. Still, there was a special magic to the 1972 lineup, which had burned so brightly before falling apart. Released in 2022, the elaborate box set Following Amelia: The 1972 Recordings & More offers a remastered edition of their debut along with their long-shelved follow-up and copious bonus materials including John Peel and Bob Harris BBC sessions, an entire 1972 Amsterdam concert, and even newly recorded versions by Matthews and Roberts to mark their 50th anniversary. For a band who, in their original incarnation, only existed for one year, Plainsong's career is remarkably well documented, both in recording and biographical detail. Unsung during their brief heyday, Following Amelia is the defining collection of one of British folk-rock's great cult bands.

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