Part of my opening my mind to pre-punk music has been the joy of discovering Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson – not to mention the work they did together in Fairport Convention in the 1960s.
So…Two bits of news to share with you.
Firstly, nearly forty years after its’ release, Sandy Denny’s first solo album The North Star Grassman and the Ravens is being re-issued as a two CD deluxe set. According to the press release: ” Disc One of the deluxe edition features the original 1971 album with four bonus tracks. These include a band demo of ‘Next Time Around’, an early version of the song with Andy Johns at the helm, and a duet with Richard Thompson on Ernest Tubb’s ’Walking The Floor Over You’, both of which first appeared on last year’s acclaimed limited edition 19 CD boxed set. An unreleased instrumental version of the traditional ’Lord Bateman’ (left unfinished without Sandy’s vocal) appears here for the very first time. Disc Two brings together all the original songs on the album in an acoustic setting. Beginning with further rare demos from last year’s boxed set including: ‘The Sea Captain’, ‘The Optimist’, Wretched Wilbur’, ‘Crazy Lady Blues’ and an accappella demo of the traditional ‘Lord Bateman’, worked on during the album sessions. Also included are a further two traditional songs recorded for the BBC during this period, firstly ‘The Lowlands of Holland’ from a BBC session recorded for Bob Harris (sequenced here with another two BBC session performances of ‘Late November’ and ‘Blackwaterside’). And ‘Bruton Town’ taken from a BBC recording of Sandy ‘In Concert’, recorded at the Paris Theatre in March 1972 where the title track from the album, ’John The Gun’ and ‘Next Time Around’ are also performed.”
Meanwhile, the very same day, Richard Thompson releases a four CD, 80-track box set entitled Live At the BBC, the tracklisting for which can be seen here. Many of the tracks feature his then-wife Linda.
Tomorrow will see one of the few box sets to rival Orange Juice’s Coals To Newcastle – Sandy Denny’s Sandy Denny.
Viewed as an inspiration by artists as diverse as Marc Almond and Thurston Moore, she was probably the most important British female singer in the British folk scene. Her awesome song ‘Who Knows Where the Times Goes’ was astonishingly, one of the earliest songs she ever wrote. If it (rightly) amazes you that Kate Bush wrote ‘the Man With the Child In his Eyes’ at the age of twelve, then marvel at the fact that this song could be written by someone younger then fifty. If this song does not move you, you are without a soul. As with many artists who died young, it is, as ever, pointless wondering if this was a premonition of her own untimely death, of a brain haemorrhage, in 1978. She was aged just 31.
19 CDs in total (yes you DID read that right, 19!) this boxset contains all the studio stuff that she did over her eleven year career, with the Strawbs, solo, with Fotheringay and of course, with Fairport Convention on three of the greatest albums ever – What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking and, of course, Liege and Lief.
According to the record company: “This superb limited edition box set includes 19 CDs, 11 of which feature Sandy’s complete studio recordings with Alex Campbell, Johnny Silvo, Fotheringay, Strawbs, Fairport Convention and solo with additional content – outtakes, demos and live recordings. There are 8 CDs of bonus material – unreleased songs, demos, unreleased BBC recordings, alternate takes, live recordings, acoustic versions, and rare radio interviews. This set includes the legendarily ‘long lost’ Lord Bateman.
Lavishly packed, this unique collection features all new artwork. It comes with a 72 page 11″ square hardback book containing over 100 rare and mostly unseen photographs, Sandy’s handwritten lyrics (many of which are unrecorded songs) and fascinating memorabilia. Each CD is housed in an individual gatefold digipack sleeve. The box also contains reproductions of a beautiful original Island press pack, an exceptionally rare A3 promo colour poster for Northstar Grassman And The Ravens, a set of Postcards, the receipt for the purchase of her first piano and one of Sandy’s handwritten notebooks.”
Granted, at a limited edition of 1,000 and a RRP of about £150 you’ll have to be pretty into Sandy Denny (and pretty well-off) but that shouldn’t take away from how well this has been put together, musically. I was sent a digital download of all 19 CDs. You can read the tracklisting here. It doesn’t contain ‘The Battle Of Evermore’, which she deutted on with Led Zeppelin; as for the last 39 years, you can find this on Led Zeppelin IV.
This song was ranked No.1 in Radio 2’s list of the all-time greatest folk songs. No wonder…
Fairport Convention -‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’
This song is also known as ‘Little Musgrave’ and has been recorded by James Yorkston, amongst many others.
Fairport convention -‘Matty groves’
If you can’t afford it (though it may be worth asking your library to buy it), then do yourself a favour and get at least Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief, Unhalfbricking, and What We Did On Our Holidays; Fotheringay’s Fotheringay and her own North Star Grassman and the Ravens.