If there is any aesthetic justice amid the turmoil of today’s music scene, this magnificently produced solo album from one of England’s most popular singer/songwriters should put Sandy Denny over the top in the States. Ex-member of Fairport Convention, among numerous associations in the English folk community, her reputation here still rests as much upon her having written “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” as upon any other single achievement. Last year, A&M released a fine solo album, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens, which didn’t get anywhere. Hopefully, the fate of “Sandy” will be different, because if this can’t do it for her, nothing can.
In its musical breadth and richness of production, Sandy is the English equivalent of the album whose title song she wrote, Judy Collins’ masterpiece , “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”. Vocally, the two ladies are quite similar. Both have a cool purity of delivery combined with awesome technical skills; both emit an aura of regality.
Eight songs are Sandy Denny originals. In addition, she sings Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” and Richard Farina’s “Quiet Joys of Brotherhood,” the latter set to a traditional tune and arranged and sung by Sandy in a breathtakingly lovely multi-tracked acapella vocal. Produced by Trevor Lucas, the album attempts, with complete success, to blend the strongly traditional flavor of Sandy’s songs, many of which are about sailors, gypsies and other stock English ballad themes, with the widest possible range of studeio instrumentation, from Nashville steel to symphony orchestra. “It’ll Take a Long Time” has John Bundrick on organ and “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow doubling on pedal steel, all laid out within a dense acoustic texture. The result is a relentlessly absorbing musical experience, simultaneously ethereal and lowdown, with Sandy’s gorgeous vocal soaring above it all, repeating the memorable lines of the refrain: “And it’ll take a long long time/ it’ll take a long long time.” For sheer lushness, nothing can beat “The Lady,” which is scored like the Delius Piano Concerto. Were it not for the elegance of both the song and the orchestration, the cut would be a disaster, it is anything but. The closest we get to rock is on “For Nobody to Hear” which is highlighted by an excellent Allen Toussaint brass arrangement. Then there is “Listen, Listen” a beautiful song, which has guitars disappearing into madolins that dissolve into strings, anda powerful vocal by Sandy, in close harmony with herself.
Suffice it to say that every cut is graced with instrumental flash and musical taste that will bowl you over. Because Sandy’s songs are so majestically simple, they can not only take this weight, they thrive on it. All told, I think that Sandy is the year’s finest album by an English singer. Here’s hoping it will bring the lady back to the States in triumph.