SANDY DENNY – I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn (Island 536 735-0)

I've Always Kept A UnicornWhat can I say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? There’s the problem. I have to confess that I’m sometimes uneasy about the way that Sandy Denny’s catalogue has been managed. There are just three tracks among the forty presented here that haven’t been released before and they are demos from The Bunch album. Which means that the barrel has been well and truly scraped clean. There is nothing of any significance left to unearth.

The two CDs are arranged chronologically and present Sandy in acoustic mode – demos, radio sessions and stripped down masters – to offer “the best album Sandy Denny never made”. If you have a taste for Sandy rocking her socks off on ‘Down In The Flood’ you’re out of luck here. The first track is her best known song, ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, recorded in 1967 with The Strawbs. The notes are vague about its origins but it isn’t the version that appears on the album and I suppose that it was possible to extract it from the three-track master. What it is, however, is the voice that Dave Cousins fell in love with, young, fresh and clear and it can be argued that this is the best version of the song that you will ever hear.

With All Our Own Work failing to get a release, Sandy returned to the folk clubs, recording two albums with Alex Campbell and Johnny Silvo and these are represented by two songs written by her then boyfriend, Jackson C Frank. Then Fairport Convention – two demos and two masters which presumably preceded the band’s involvement. Fotheringay is next with two demos and two radio sessions presenting Sandy solo. ‘The Lowlands Of Holland’, solo and unaccompanied, is particularly lovely.

The next six tracks come from her first solo project – two demos, a radio session and three from the BBC’s In Concert programme and the first disc closes with the three demos from The Bunch – guitar and vocal tracks featuring Linda Peters on ‘When Will I Be Loved’.

The second set continues Sandy’s solo career and adds her second stint with Fairport. It opens with ‘Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’, which the band tried out but which Sandy eventually took for herself. Here are some of her best known songs including possibly the best ever version of ‘Bushes And Briars’, more up-tempo than we are used to. It comes from a radio session as does an equally superb piano-led ‘Solo’. There is a piano demo of ‘The End’ which flashes past for all its seven and a half minutes.

The Fairport tracks are all demos, including ‘Rising For The Moon’, ‘One More Chance’ and ‘What Is True?’ but, sadly, no ‘Stranger To Himself’. Oh well, you can’t have everything. The next two tracks are live from Marc Time and I still find the idea of Denny and Bolan in the same studio a bit mind-boggling. Quite what his teenage audience made of ‘Blackwaterside’ I can’t imagine. Sadly, Marc’s introductions are not included. The final track is the last that she ever recorded, Bryn Haworth’s ‘Moments’. This is one of three demos made and features Ralph McTell on guitar.

So, how is my unease?  This set has been put together with a specific purpose and that is to present Sandy’s timeline in solo, acoustic performances. The mastering is excellent – a big hand for Paschal Byrne here – Mick Houghton’s sleeve notes are written from an expert perspective, there are some good photos and it’s true that some of Sandy’s best performances here. I guess that’s good enough.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Late November’ – live in London, 1971:

Fotheringay – Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay

FotheringayBoxSetcoverUniversal Music Catalogue: March 30th 2015

Universal Music catalogue is pleased to announce the release of the definitive Fotheringay collection, Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay, scheduled for release on March 30th 2105. This four-disc set is the most comprehensive compilation yet of the group’s recordings, including hitherto unseen television footage, previously unreleased live recordings from a festival in Rotterdam (both from August 1970) and, for the first time, the official release of the seven existing tracks which Fotheringay recorded in session for BBC radio.

Fotheringay was the group formed by Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas in January 1970, just weeks after she left Fairport Convention on the eve of the release of the landmark Liege & Lief.  Denny and Lucas recruited drummer Gerry Conway who had played alongside Lucas in Eclection before adding bass player Pat Donaldson and guitarist Jerry Donahue.

Fotheringay played its first dates on a concert tour in March 1970, recording their debut album over seven sessions between 18 February and 14 April. Simply titled Fotheringay, it proved to be the group’s sole album during its lifetime, released by Island Records in late June.  Statistically, it was Sandy Denny’s most successful post-Fairport album, spending six weeks on the charts and peaking at No. 18. It featured some of her finest songs and best ever vocal performances on the traditional ‘Banks of the Nile’, and her own ‘The Pond and the Stream’, ‘Winter Winds’, ‘Nothing More’ and ‘The Sea’.  Three months later, Sandy Denny was voted Britain’s Best Female Singer in the prestigious Melody Maker Poll, a feat she repeated the following year.

Although preparations began soon after to record a second album, it was abandoned in January 1971 when Sandy Denny announced she was leaving the group. Fotheringay played its farewell concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 30 January.  It wasn’t entirely the end for Fotheringay. Following renewed interest in Sandy Denny and an unstoppable cult following in the decades since her death in April 1978, Jerry Donahue, Pat Donaldson and Gerry Conway carefully pieced together Fotheringay 2. They quite brilliantly assembled the aborted album from the 1970 master tapes and it was finally released some 34 years later. Fotheringay 2 was ecstatically received, not least for the inclusion of two more of Sandy Denny’s finest songs, ‘John the Gun’ and ‘Late November’ and superb arrangements, sung by Denny and Lucas, of the traditional ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, ‘Eppie Moray’ and Australian bush-folk classic ‘Bold Jack Donahue’.

Both albums have now been gathered together on Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay, each bolstered by a generous selection of demos, rehearsal tapes, alternate takes and mixes. The third disc combines a recording from a festival in Rotterdam in August 1970 with previously unreleased BBC session tracks, including Sandy singing a breathtaking, unaccompanied ‘Lowlands of Holland’. The final DVD disc is the real Holy Grail for her fans. The four songs recorded by the group for the German TV show Beat Club effectively double the existing footage of Sandy Denny in performance. Two of these, ‘Nothing More’ and ‘John the Gun’ were never even broadcast at the time.

Nothing More comes in hardcover book format complete with rare and previously unseen photographs of the band plus previously unseen original sketches for the Fotheringay cover by Marion Appleton, Trevor Lucas’s sister.  The package includes a new essay by Mick Houghton author of a new Sandy Denny biography I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn, published by Faber & Faber on March 5th.

Fotheringay’s recordings sound better with every passing year and the group is finally emerging from under the shadow of Fairport Convention; the Fotheringay musicians all went on to have successful careers, particularly as session musicians with the likes of Cat Stevens, Joan Armatrading, the McGarrigles and Gerry Rafferty. Trevor Lucas would go on to produce Sandy’s last three solo albums, two for Fairport Convention (which he and Donahue joined in 1972, Denny re-joining in 1974) and Rock On by The Bunch which featured all of Fotheringay less than a year after the split. More than anything, however, Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay is particularly welcome for including so many crucial recordings from Sandy Denny’s remarkable career that was so tragically cut short.

Full Track Listing

FotheringayDISC ONE – “Fotheringay” – Expanded

01: Nothing More ( 4:35 )
02: The Sea ( 5:30 )
03: The Ballad of Ned Kelly ( 3:31 )
04: Winter Winds ( 2:10 )
05: Peace In The End ( 4:02 )
06: The Way I Feel ( 4:44 )
07: The Pond and The Stream ( 3:16 )
08: Too Much of Nothing ( 3:53 )
09: Banks of The Nile ( 8:04 )
10: The Sea – Demo version ( 4:53 )
11: Winter Winds – Demo version ( 2:23 )
12: The Pond and The Stream – Demo version ( 3:07 )
13: The Way I Feel – Original version ( 4:04 )
14: Banks of The Nile – Alternate take ( 7:46 )
15: Winter Winds – Alternate take ( 2:28 )

Fotheringay2DISC TWO – “Fotheringay 2” – Expanded

01: John The Gun ( 5:06 )
02: Eppie Moray ( 4:44 )
03: Wild Mountain Thyme ( 3:50 )
04: Knights of the Road ( 4:10 )
05: Late November ( 4:37 )
06: Restless ( 2:46 )
07: Gypsy Davey ( 3:41 )
08: I Don’t Believe You ( 4:44 )
09: Silver Threads and Golden Needles ( 4:29 )
10: Bold Jack Donahue ( 7:37 )
11: Two Weeks Last Summer ( 3:49 )
12: Late November – Joe Boyd mix ( 4:31 )
13: Gypsy Davey – Joe Boyd mix ( 3:52 )
14: Two Weeks Last Summer – Joe Boyd mix ( 3:58 )
15: Silver Threads and Golden Needles  – alternative version (4:31)
16: Bruton Town – Rehearsal version ( 5:19 )
17: Bruton Town – 2015 version ( 4:44 ) First Time On CD

fotheringaybw

DISC THREE – Live

01: The Way I Feel  ( 5:05 )  – Live in Rotterdam  Previously Unreleased
02: The Sea ( 5:37  )  – Live in Rotterdam
03: Too Much Of Nothing ( 4:11 )  – Live in Rotterdam Previously Unreleased
04: Nothing More ( 4:55 )   – Live in Rotterdam
05: I’m Troubled  ( 3:02  )  – Live in Rotterdam
06: Two Weeks Last Summer   ( 4:47 )  – Live in Rotterdam
07: The Ballad of Ned Kelly   ( 3:56 )  – Live in Rotterdam Previously Unreleased
08: Banks of The Nile  ( 7:42 )  – Live in Rotterdam
09: Memphis Tennessee ( 4:12 )  – Live in Rotterdam
10: Interview / The Sea  – BBC Top Gear ( 6:15 )  Previously Unreleased
11: The Lowlands of Holland – BBC Folk On One ( 2:37 )  Previously Unreleased
12: Eppie Moray  – BBC Folk On One  ( 4:29 ) Previously Unreleased
13: John The Gun – BBC Sounds of The 70s  ( 4:48 )  Previously Unreleased
14: Bold Jack Donahue – BBC Sounds of  The 70s (  5:56 )  Previously Unreleased
15: Gypsy Davey – BBC Sounds of The 70s   ( 3:43 )  Previously Unreleased
16: Wild Mountain Thyme – BBC Sounds of The 70s   ( 3:53 ) Previously Unreleased

DISC FOUR – DVD – BEAT CLUB 28th NOVEMBER 1970

01. Nothing More  ( 4:50 )  Previously Unreleased – not broadcast)
02. Gypsy Davey  (  3:55 ) Previously Unreleased
03. John the Gun (  4:55 ) Previously Unreleased – not broadcast)
04. Too Much of Nothing  ( 3:42 )

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‘Too Much Of Nothing’. ‘Nuff said: