Sandy Denny – 1972

Talk about a long time coming! Last we heard from Sandy she was doing her brilliant work trying to stay out of the limelight a bit with Fotheringay, then what we didn’t cover was her debut album The North Star Grassman and the Ravens her first tentative steps to the sophisticated genius of 1972’s Sandy. In between that time she had lent her vocals to Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore“, in doing so becoming the only guest to sing on an actual Zep album. Appearances on the BBC to promote The North Star Grassman and the Ravens were solidifying the increased importance and stature her music and the woman herself was to English music. This stature would reach its apex with 1972’s Sandy.

Sandy album cover.

Leading off with that iconic almost Mona Lisa-like photograph of Sandy Denny by David Bailey, flaunting the sole straight ahead strength she now commanded it was much different from the mystical cover of North Star Grassman and the Ravens. Here was Sandy ready to show all her true brilliance whether it was tapping folk, Americana, soul or country she’d show how her voice once thought of as distinctly English could tap a universe of feeling and tone. Rounding up musicians who she knew had grown in taste and intelligence she created a sonic tapestry that sounded so darn inviting regardless of your place in the sun. Pleasurable, that’s the adjective I’d describe for this album. You could put it on anywhere and its warmth just beckons you to pay attention.

Whether its the pining sound of the magical opener “It’ll Take a Long Time” which captures a Fairport sound mixed with the languid beauty of American country. The absolutely funky southern feel of the Allen Toussaint arranged “For Nobody to Hear“, which find Norfolk easily joining hands with N’orleans R&B, and in a way predicting the future sound of Richard and Linda Thompson. Sandy’s epic cover of Dylan’s “Tomorrow is a Long Time“, which puts any other covers of it to shame and somehow ends with her sounding like a more lush Linda Ronstadt.

Then you have experimental numbers like the Bulgarian folk shanty-lilting “Quiet Joys of Brotherhood” which highlight the aching beauty of her bare voice, a voice hardly anyone can touch in timelessness. Then just to show you how she could work with that same voice she presents “Listen, Listen” perhaps one of the best, if not the best, slice of secretary rock ever, foreshadowing the wonderful multi-tracked Spector-like-production of ABBA in the near future. There are so many tracks here that are hard to ever forget, and unfortunately time of day won’t let me dive into their importance. In an age of The Voice or X Factors, one could imagine if Sandy was still around, that this album would have held many tracks that others would try and fail to measure up in capturing the same kind of feeling. Rather than oversing, she’d glide effortlessly in tune, a glide that I’ll remember so vividly in songs like “Bushes and Briars”, it makes me harken to that musical sway I love. The best kind, is the one that you scarcely see coming, and like the roving barley of Sandy’s soundscapes, man does this album have it in spades, and boy is it stunning. We’ll descend further into 1972 tomorrow though…

Bonus track time, a live performance of The North Star Grassman and the Ravens songs at the BBC (who wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to hear her next album after this set?!)

Listen to Sandy at Grooveshark.