Special Edition Vinyl Reissues
The four solo albums from the much-loved and greatly missed Sandy Denny are now available over 50 years after the first of them was recorded.
Originally released between 1971 and 1977 these records - The North Star Grass Man and the Ravens - Sandy - Like an Old-Fashioned Waltz and Rendezvous - are central to British roots music.
Known for her time as vocalist in Fairport Convention and respected globally as Robert Plant’s first Alison Krauss (duetting with him on Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore). Sandy Denny left a beguiling, ever evolving body of work. Kate Bush was to name check her in song and Denny’s influence can be heard in generations of singer - songwriters.
After leaving Fairport Convention in late 1969 Sandy Denny formed Fotheringay with husband Trevor Lucas after one UK top 20 LP in the summer of 1970, the band split while recording a follow up, leaving Denny free to make her first solo album. A beguiling mixture of covers and originals, The North Star, is one of THE essential British Folk-Rock albums from the dreamlike, “Late November”, to the plaintive, “Next Time Around”, to her reading of the traditional standard, “Blackwaterside”, the album is a near perfect capture of the talent on the scene at that juncture; including Richard Thompson’s unmistakable guitar playing, John Wood’s production and Harry Robinson’s string arrangements. Released in September 1971 it would be Denny’s lone UK top 50 album success. It’s reputation has understandably grown exponentially over the years.
From its David Bailey cover photo inwards, the following year’s, Sandy is arguably the definitive Sandy Denny album. It adds some special guests into its mix - “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow from the Flying Burrito Brothers enhances “It’ll Take a Long Time” with his unmistakable pedal steel playing and New Orleans legend Allan Toussaint adds a brass arrangement to, “For Nobody to Hear” but it is Denny’s album.
Often, it is impossible not to be stopped in your tracks by that beautiful, long gone yet so-full-of-life-voice, especially on two of her career bests - “The Lady” and “Listen, Listen“.
Although recorded throughout the previous year, Like An Old Fashioned Waltz was released in early 1974, soon after Denny had re-joined Fairport Convention. Unashamedly a romantic sentimental album, it contains her much loved tracks, “Solo” and “No End”, and a rollicking version of Fats Waller’s “Until the Real Thing Comes Along” and it has an all star lineup with Diz Disley on guitar, Danny Thompson on bass and Tony Coe on sax. The other cover on the album was that of the Inkspots’, “Whispering Grass” which emphasised Like An Old Fashioned Waltz’s warm autumnal nostalgia.
From the power chords that open it, 1977’s “Rendezvous” aimed squarely at giving Denny her commercial breakthrough. It demonstrates an artist evolving. “Gold Dust” really underlines how Denny could be viewed as the British Joni Mitchell and it’s late-night jazz funk backing (with Steve Winwood on Clavinet) offers a beguiling glimpse of where Denny may have travelled next. Rendezvous closes with, “No More Sad Refrains”, which updated her late 60’s ballad style. As Denny died tragically young less than a year after the album’s release, it became a poignant full stop to such a promising career.
Robert Plant with whom Sandy performed, made what I feel is the most eloquent quote that encapsulates the real Sandy Denny.
“She was able to go from a very deep point in a song to this beautiful falsetto, this high pitch where she has got absolutely total control”.
I certainly can’t add any words for the career cut short tragically all too soon.