I am taking a break from the Pink Floyd/ISB series this time, as this year, 2018, has seen the 40th anniversary of the death of Sandy Denny. She actually died on 21 April 1978, in rather odd circumstances outside the door of a ground floor toilet at her house. It had been my intention to post this message on 21 April this year, but unfortunately I was then too preoccupied and busy with the difficult circumstances arising from the death of my father. I wished to mark this occasion because in my view, Sandy Denny was simply the best female singer ever to have been recorded on accessible media. I have said much about her times with Fairport Convention way above in this blog, and indeed her time with the ill-starred Fotheringay. Today I just want o highlight her single work and posthumous releases.
Her first LP was recorded in 1967 and was released in the UK some years later as “The Original Sandy Denny”:
This 20 year old girl already had an astonishing voice, exhibiting the “restrained power” which is a reasonable way of trying to describe her style, but the “power” bit was to the fore here. The versions of “Rambling Boy” and “Last Thing on My Mind” which she belts out on this record are in each case the best version ever recorded, by a mile.
In 1968 she was recruited by the Strawbs, and they recorded one LP, in Denmark, called “All Our Own Work”:
This is simply one of the most joyous, joyful LPs ever released, a unique combination of Sandy Denny and Dave Cousins; who knows where this might have gone had she not joined Fairport Convention a few weeks later?
There is much way above in his blog about the Fairport Convention and Fotheringay days, qv.
After the sad demise of Fotheringay, in 1971, Sandy Denny released her first well-known solo album “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens”, with the addition of some of her old colleagues, notably Richard Thompson:
Whenever the talents of Denny and Thompson were combined, pure magic always ensued, and there are few better examples of this than Track 2 on Side 1 “Blackwaterside”, which is quite simply one of the finest and most enjoyable bits of music ever recorded.
The following year, 1972, Sandy Denny released her second well known LP “Sandy”:
There is nothing on this to touch “Blackwaterside”, but overall in my view it is a slightly better album than its predecessor, as every track is brilliant in its own way.
In 1973, shortly before her brief return to Fairport Convention, she released the lovely “Like An Old Fashioned Waltz”:
This is a truly beautiful, peaceful album, with no trace of rock on it. The title track is one of the best that Sandy Denny ever wrote, and sets the tone for the whole record.
After leaving Fairport Convention for the second time, Sandy released her last LP not very long before she died, titled “Rendezvous”:
This is the weakest of her albums, and some stress and strain can be detected in her vocals, but it is still Sandy Denny, and a very fine record indeed.
Posthumously came the box sets, the first of which was a 4 LP set called “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?”:
I was later able to get a 3 CD version of this. It is a splendid collection of stuff, some previously unreleased, of which the best by a mile is the version of “You Never Wanted Me” (” Fairport Convention, BBC recording 1968″), uniquely featuring Ian Matthews. This is possibly my favourite track of all time, the only arguable challenger being “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” on “Unhalfbricking”.
In the early days of CDs, a splendid box set came out called ” A Boxful Of Treasures”:
Again, this is a most pleasing collection, again including some previously unreleased tracks, but none of these touches “You Never Wanted Me”.
The final, definitive box set was released about 3 years ago, comprising 19 CDs! I was fortunate enough to be able to acquire on of these:
It does what is says on the cover, and is undoubtedly a tour de force. However, it does not include that elusive “You Never Wanted Me”, which as far as I know was only ever available on that first compilation.
We all die someday; Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in 1958, the “day the music died” according to Don Maclean’s epic single “American Pie”. Shortly after that, a chap called Bill Haley (whom I hope to mention again in some later post) achieved some brief notoriety as being the first pop star to die naturally of old age. 1970 saw the death of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. In 1977 Marc Bolan (qv above) and Elvis Presley died. Notwithstanding all this, I was shocked by Sandy’s death. I never saw her in the flesh, any more than I ever saw Martin Lamble, the original drummer with Fairport Convention, who died in a car crash on the M1 in 1969 (qv above), although I have so seen all the other members of the line-ups she was with, with the curious exception of the man who was her husband when she died, Trevor Lucas. As a Christian, for me to live is Christ, to die is gain, so I am actually looking forward to being dead. Any death is still fairly grim for those not yet dead, though.
Sic transit Gloria mundi.