Saturday, 4 September 2010


Don’t listen to her! You’ll realise that the rest of us are wasting your time.” – Rachel Unthank on Sandy Denny, quoted in Universal Music press notice, 2010.

Release date for the new box set of Denny’s work may have been put back to the third week of November but a veritable publicity blitz has already begun. First off the blocks was Rob Young in the October issue of Uncut, with a detailed biographical piece spread over five pages. Rob is very much the man of the moment: Electric Eden (Faber and Faber, 2010), his vast, encyclopaedic history of the English folk movement, has rightly won plaudits from critics and readers alike. Also out now is the September/October issue of Shindig! featuring an interview by Andy Morten with box compiler Andrew Batt. The September/October issue of R2 (formerly Rock’n’Reel) has the distinction of being (if I’m not mistaken) Denny’s first magazine cover since she graced the inaugural issue of Zigzag in 1969. The October fRoots has a feature by Mike Wilson (on sale from 23 September). Kingsley Abbott's 5-page article in Record Collector (October) is to be recommended, as is Sid Smith's 4-page profile in Classic Rock Presents Prog (December issue).

Frank Zappa once dismissed rock journalism as "people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read." I think his old friend (and sometime squeeze, if you believe the stories) is coming off better than that at the hands of today’s music writers.

The Radcliffe and Maconey show on BBC Radio 2, Monday 8 November, 8pm, will devote a “Listen and Learn” feature to Denny. Listen again for seven days here (00.32 to 00.49).

Promo video for the box set on YouTube.

A radio news item from 6 Music gives a taster of the newly discovered ‘Lord Bateman’ vocal.

Final tracklisting for box set (pdf)
Compiler's comments on some of the new tracks (pdf)

[Now also blogging at Brush on Drum.]

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Mystery song

Research for the new box set has unearthed a previously unknown early home recording. The lyrics are hard to make out but the following gives an approximation. It may be an original, but if so, with its cod mythology and sword-and-sorcery medievalism, it’s not quite like anything else Sandy ever did. It’s also delivered over (what is for her) an unusually fast finger-picking accompaniment. Any help in identifying it would be appreciated. She had several cracks at it, with slight changes of wording, hence the alternatives transcribed below. I find the lyric vaguely reminiscent of early Marc Bolan, for example ‘Aznageel The Mage’ on Tyrannosaurus Rex, Prophets, Seers and Sages: The Angels of the Ages (1968).

I saw a dark star against the black sky
Of a night thirteen hundred years long
It cast shrouding shadows upon the desert
Of the dark moons that formed in her eyes

On the … of … the sun never smiled
And the noon of the day was in shadow
And the sky left its tears on the black barren earth
And the … was … in …

On a shrine of black flowers M... lay dead
As he had for thirteen centuries
At his feet five crows stood and watched to his keep
And the whisper of time sighed around the hills

P... has tried fair winged [weird] for it stead
Though the sky's in search of a [the] star
And the serpent entwined about the stag's head
Tried to reach out and poison her hair.

O no, P..., you will not go far
M... has only one hour
And if you do not reach him before it is over
Then the … falls into the ocean [sea].

P... took her form and she stabbed [pierced] the serpent's eye
And he fell through the clouds to the land. [sea]
As she rode on and on through the blazing sky
With horizons of light in her unsung [till she came to …]

It was then that the daylight became the dark night
[And] she recalled [remembered] what the … [sermon] had said:
When the night becomes black and no sound can be heard,
You have come to the land of …

And she found the dark star hanging low in the sky
And she gathered it up in her arms
And she rode to the shrine where M... lay dead [and she rode to the place that was so …]
And she placed the dark star on her …

And the star became bright and it shone on the land
And the shrouds of darkness were gone
And M... was standing beside [before] P...
And the light came to bear in her hair.

Mojo has a preview of another of the unreleased tracks, an acoustic demo version of 'I'm A Dreamer'.

The Guardian
has a preview of some photos from the box set.

Bob Harris's radio documentary about Sandy, first broadcast in 2008, is to be repeated on Wednesday 4 August 2010, BBC Radio 2, 10pm.

[Be sure to check out my new music blog Brush on Drum.]

Friday, 21 May 2010

New box set

Information has begun to emerge about the forthcoming definitive box set of Sandy’s work.

Sandy Denny (Limited Edition 19CD Box Set), due for release on 1 November 2010 from Universal Music. The record company says:

"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."

Andrew Batt adds:

“I have been working on this boxset and have compiled the tracklisting, which will be released soon.

I think the way to look at it is, if there wasn’t substantial high quality unreleased material then this boxset wouldn’t be happening. Aside from two new songs – Lord Bateman and Twelfth Of Never – there are amongst other things demos for the whole Sandy album and most of Northstar that are exceptional and which fans will love. If you like Sandy in a more stripped down setting then this boxset will delight you! It is amazing that so much unreleased stuff has surfaced over the years, but after going through literally every master reel, this is really it!

I would estimate that there is 15-20% unreleased material, and remastered versions of things like All Our Own Work, Swedish Fly Girls that have never been on CD. All the previous bonus stuff will be included as well, and will also make their digital download debut.

The whole project has been a real labour of love and aims to represent Sandy’s complete legacy.”

Universal’s recommended retail price is around £140. Amazon UK is currently listing at £149.99 but this may reduce depending on the volume of pre-orders. It’s a tidy sum, but worth every penny, I reckon.

The artwork is by the ever-reliable Phil Smee. The design has not yet been finalised, so may differ slightly from the illustration above.

This sounds like a great project which we should all get behind. There's an official site at where you can join a mailing list for updates on the box and special offers. Also, the Island50 store is offering 100 sets that come with a numbered and framed print of the artwork, signed by the artist. Each print will be personally addressed to the purchaser.

(PS The Dutch painting I asked about in my previous post has now been identified as Vermeer, 'The Glass of Wine'. Thanks to Wim.)