A set of previously unreleased tracks that will fascinate Sandy devotees.
Robin Denselow 2011-09-15
When the massive 19-CD boxed set simply titled Sandy Denny was released by Universal last year, it seemed that it would be the final release from Britain’s finest and most versatile female singer of the 1960s and 70s. Sandy died from a fall in 1978, when she was just 31, and that extraordinary compilation of her work consisted of 316 tracks, over a third of which were previously unreleased demos and home recordings. Surely, it seemed, no more Sandy Denny tracks would be discovered.
Wrong. Here’s a new, previously unreleased and intriguing set of Sandy recordings from early in her career. They were made on a Saturday night, 5 August 1967, at the home of the Scottish folk singer Alex Campbell, at 19 Rupert Street, Glasgow, where Sandy was staying. Also in the house that night were Alex’s partner Patsy and a Danish folk enthusiast, Carsten Linde, who had become friends with Campbell while he was performing in Denmark, and had arrived with a new tape recorder, which he turned on as the evening developed into a good-natured song session.
Back in the summer of 1967, Sandy’s career was just about to blossom. She had already made her first recordings, singing on Campbell’s album, Alex Campbell and His Friends, recorded in March that year, while in July, just a month before this recording, she had been in Copenhagen to record All Our Own Work, with British band The Strawbs. It was The Strawbs’ Dave Cousins who unearthed these recordings and organised the improvement in sound quality. It was a worthwhile venture, for the songs here show the remarkable range in Sandy’s musical interests and abilities, and the strength of her guitar playing, even at this stage in her career.
Her singing is distinctive as ever, and ranges from the quietly intense and emotional to the cheerfully upbeat, as she tackles anything from traditional and religious songs to American folk songs, contemporary songs, blues and skiffle, with Alex and Patsy sometimes joining in. The traditional material includes thoughtful versions of The Leaves of Life and She Moves Through The Fair, while the skiffle work-outs include a cheerful upbeat duet with Alex on The Midnight Special. Then there’s a gently personal treatment of John Martyn’s Fairytale Lullaby, along with a somewhat ragged version of what would prove to be Sandy’s own best-known song, Who Knows Where the Times Goes. At the end, Campbell’s two young sons have clearly been woken by the singing and are invited to join in.
It’s a set that will fascinate Sandy devotees - though these recordings were of course never meant for commercial distribution, and are certainly not the best starting–point for those who have never heard this remarkable singer before.