In September 1972 I embarked upon the start of the second year of a 2 year “A”Level course. “A” Levels were very hard in those days; it was almost unheard of for anyone to get 3 “A” grades. I was very disheartened by school, therefore, and was reeling from the experience of girlfriends 22 and 23, and was still under the impression that Fairport Convention had ceased to exist.
Within a week or two, however, things (apart from school) started looking up (albeit only apparently, as things turned out, in most respects). Money was a little easier by this time, largely by virtue of a very lucrative baby-sitting job I had been fortunate enough to secure. I was able to buy some splendid LPs, notably the new release “Below The Salt”, an excellent record [see previous post of long ago] which confirmed that at least Steeleye Span had survived. There was also “WIldflowers” by Judy Collins, which has since become my favourite LP of all time, and one to which I hope to return here at some point, in great detail. One other of note was a double album comprising re-releases of the first two Tyrannosaurus Rex LPs: “Prophets Seers and Sages, the Angel of the Ages” and ” My People Were Fair and had Sky in Their Hair But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows” respectively.
Most importantly, on 14 October 1972 I started going out with girlfriend 24, more of whom soon.
However, back to the main plot. I also at this time bought a brand new release double LP called “The History of Fairport Convention”. The story of this one will continue in a few posts time, after some mainly visual diversions.
In this soporific blog we are in the course of a long project comparing the fortunes of Fairport Convention and Fleetwood Mac in the 1970s, starting with Fairport Convention, which section will be very much longer than the latter one. We are about to reach the autumn of 1972, when curiously we encounter a bit of an overlap between the two sections, courtesy of a chap called Pete Frame.
Just a few words today to finish up on this one, with some details of the bonus tracks on the expanded luxury CD. There are 5 of these:
11. “Here In Silence”
12. “Man Of Iron”
13. “Sweet Rosemary” (Demo)
14. “Ecoute, ecoute”
15. “It’ll Take A Long Time” (live with Fairport Convention [!]
Track 13 is self-explanatory, and Track 14 is of course “Listen, Listen” sung in French.
Tracks 11 and 12 are respectively the “B” and “A” sides of a single, both taken from a film soundtrack.
For the provenance of Track 15, we must wait until we reach 1974….
Side 2 of the LP is as near perfect a vinyl album side as you can ever find, all the songs on it, incidentally, written by Sandy Denny.
Track 1 is “Listen, Listen” (3.57), a brilliant song with a wonderful tune, inspired lyrics and a splendid arrangement. This can be said of all the songs on Side 2.
Track 2 is “The Lady” (4.00), a slower piece of immense beauty.
Track 3 is a most pleasantly rambling thing called “Bushes and Briars”, a phrase which has its origin in ancient English folk song, denoting the troublesome state land gets into when it’s left to its own devices. This comes in at 3.52 minutes.
The penultimate track on the LP is “It Suits Me Well” (5.05), a romany inspired whimsy, and again sheer joy to listen to.
The album ends with a classic song titled “The Music Weaver” (3.20), a majestic offering with soaring strings, forming a memorable and fitting cadence to the record.
Track 4 on Side 1 is Sandy’s fantastic version of Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” (3.54), this being the one on the LP where the pedal steel guitar is most used. Indeed, here it almost dominates the song, which would in any other circumstance make it sound like slushy country & western stuff of the worst sort. With Sandy’s voice, however, this is most certainly not the effect; on the contrary, it is a strong folk-rock masterpiece, and sheer joy to listen to.
Side 2 ends with a very odd song, Track 5, “Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood” (4.25). This is a long, droning monastic chant of a thing, with some vocal over-tracking, and for me the least pleasant track on the record. I have to say, nevertheless, that I know several people who rate this as one of the best things Sandy Denny ever did. Chaq’un a son gout, I guess.
Now to the music on this gem of an album.
It opens with “It’ll take a long time” (5.14), a near perfect Sandy Denny song, brilliant tune, magic words, and the first experience of the amazing pedal steel guitar.
Next comes “Sweet Rosemary” (2.27), a very different but equally good Sandy Denny composition, here primarily set to acoustic guitar and Swarbrick violin.
Track 3 is “For Nobody to Hear” (4.12), a lively offering with some classic Thompson guitar work, not quie as good as the first two, but very nearly so. Although credited to Sandy Denny, I can’t help thinking that Thompson had a hand in the composition here.
Today, the other details from the back cover, starting with the track listing:
It’ll take a long time
For nobody to hear
Tomorrow is a long time*
Quiet joys of brotherhood+
Bushes & Briars
It suits me well
The music weaver
All songs by Sandy Denny except
+words by Richard Farina; music trad. arr. Sandy Denny
*words and music by Bob Dylan
P Island Records Ltd 1972
String arrangements by Harry Robinson
Brass arrangement by Allen Toussaint
Produced by Trevor Lucas
Engineered by John Wood, Sound Techniques
Photography by David Bailey [no less!]
In addition to the LP, I did buy the original CD release as well, but gave this away to a mate of mine when I got the deluxe expanded version, which came out with the other three. It also features, of course, in the 19 CD Box Set, a copy of which I am fortunate enough to own. More of the CDs in due course.
It will be recalled that this is the fifth of five albums which constituted glimmers of hope in the gloomy summer of 1972. Of them, this is probably my favourite, for two principlal reasons. Firstly, all the songs on the album are either excellent or very good; there are, for example, no attempts at rock’n'roll. However, there is nothing equal to the brilliance of “Blackwaterside” on “The North Star…”.
The second reason lies in the personae dramatis, who are listed in the text on the back cover:
“Sandy Denny – vocals, piano, acoustic guitars
Richard Thompson – guitars, mandolin
Pat Donaldon – bass
Timi Donald – drums
Dave Swarbrick – solo violin
Pete Kleinlow – pedal steel
John Bundrick – organ, piano
Linda Peters – backing vocals [she was soon to become Linda Thompson]“.
It will be seen, therefore, that inter alia we have here the key members of the “Liege & Lief” line up of Fairport Convention.
This LP was released in the summer of 1972, and the happy thought occurred to me that these people could still work together; perhaps all was not lost, after all.