More rarities from the archives documenting the early career of Britfolk's most...
Jon Lusk 2004-10-25
Aside from Maddy Prior, Sandy Denny was probably the most distinctive female voice of the 60s British folk boom. She's best known for her extraordinary contribution tothr trio of albums that Fairport Convention released in quick succession in 1969, which not only defined British folk rock, but are also the only Fairport recordings anybody except a hardcore fan could ever need. And if you have to choose just one of these, it should be Unhalfbricking, from which Denny's ballad "Who knows Where The Time Goes" is an indisputable highlight.
A stark early version of said song kicks off this compilation of recordings she made before joining Fairport. Having heard a couple of the comparatively lacklustre solo albums she made in the 1970s after leaving them (she died in 1978 as a result of a fall), I wasn't expecting too much. Nevertheless, Where The Time Goes is a revealing portrait of an artist on the cusp of greatness, with the added benefit of sleeve notes by her biographer Clinton Heylin, who sets the record straight on previously issued but less satisfactory cash-ins drawing on the same period of her career. We'll take his word for it.
That opening cut is one of two songs drawn from the album Sandy Denny and The Strawbs; though she's backed by an acoustic guitarist who isn't a patch on Richard Thompson, her vocal delivery is pretty much fully formed. She sounds like another singer altogether on the other rather twee track, "Two Weeks Last Summer".
The rest of the songs are those featuring her vocal performances on the albums Alex Campbell & His Friends and Sandy & Johnny, augmented with five alternate (and often better) takes of pieces from the latter album, which resurfaced on It's Sandy Denny in 1970.
Denny's gorgeous voice shines best on the ballads like "You Never Wanted Me", "Milk and Honey" and "3.10 Train to Yuma"; all recorded with Johnny Silvo, whose band featured a lovely resonant double bass. This material seems to anticipate her finest work with Fairport, and as such will be of genuine interest to Denny enthusiasts. The same can be said of the upbeat "Pretty Polly", which sounds almost like a template for Fairport's neo-trad. masterpiece "Matty Groves". I can do without the strident folkie version of the overexposed folk standard "This Train", but all in all, this isa pretty decent re-issue.