Tuesday, 26 April 2016

"Rendezvous" by SANDY DENNY (2005 Universal/island 'Expanded' CD - Denis Blackham Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...I'm A Dreamer..."

"Rendezvous" features Steve Winwood of Track, John “Rabbit” Bundrick of Free, 
Jess Roden of Bronco and members of both Fairport Convention and Fotheringay

Her fifth and final solo LP (six including her stay with "Fotheringay" in 1970) was released in the UK in May 1977 to widespread public indifference and press bewilderment and would unfortunately prove to be her swan-song. Because of its deliberately 'modern' sound and the heavy-on-the-sauce productions on some numbers – "Rendezvous" has been applauded and berated in equal measure. But at least this gorgeous CD remaster gives it another chance. And I'd argue too damn right. Because as alway it's the good stuff with Sandy Denny that stays with you and obliterates all the rest. Here are the details for England's finest Lady Singer...

UK released May 2005 (reissued August 2007) – "Rendezvous" by SANDY DENNY on Universal/Island IMCD316 / 982 802-4 (Barcode 602498280249) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (58:40 minutes):

1. I Wish I Was A Fool For You (For Shame Of Doing Wrong)
2. Gold Dust
3. Candle In The Wind
4. Take Me Away
5. One Way Donkey Ride
6. I'm A Dreamer [Side 2]
7. All Our Days
8. Silver Threads And Golden Needles
9. No More Sad Refrains
Tracks 1 to 9 are her fifth and final album "Rendezvous" – released May 1977 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9433. Produced by Trevor Lucas – all songs are Sandy Denny originals except "I Wish I Was A Fool For You (For Shame Of Doing Wrong)" by Richard Thompson, "Candle In The Wind" by Elton John and "Silver Threads And Golden Needles" by Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds (covered by The Springfields, Linda Ronstadt and Fotheringay).

BONUS TRACKS:
10. Still Waters Run Deep – a Sandy Denny original non-album B-side to "Candle In The Wind" - released May 1977 in the UK on Island WIP 6391 ('DJ Promo' copies only)
11. Full Moon – Previously Unreleased Outtake originally issued on the January 1986 4LP/3CD Box Set "Who Knows Where The Times Goes" on Island SDSP 100
12. I’m A Dreamer (Demo) – recorded at home, Byfield, Northants in March 1976. First issued on the October 2004 5CD Box Set "A Boxful Of Treasures" on Fledg'ling Records NEST 5002
13. Easy To Slip – a Little Feat cover version
14. Moments – a Bryn Haworth cover version
Tracks 13 and 14 first appeared on the 1995 Australian CD compilation "The Attic Tracks 1972-1984" for Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas on Raven RVCD-46

As with all of these superb Sandy Denny CD reissues on Island's 'mid price' series – the project was researched and co-ordinated by DAVID SUFF and TIM CHACKSFIELD with assistance from JOE BACK at Universal. There’s a very tasteful card slipcase, a Pink Island label on the CD (that should actually be an Orange label to match 1977 and not the 1969 Pink-Eye variant) and hand-written lyrics from "So More Sad Refrains" on the inlay beneath the see-through CD tray. The 12-page booklet features brief but informative liner notes from Fledg'ling Records head honcho and Sandy fan DAVID SUFF - as well as repros of hand-written lyrics and music charts (the lyrics to the songs that were on the vinyl insert are also there too). But the big news is a Remaster by a fave Engineer of mine – DENIS BLACKHAM of Skye Mastering. And what a gorgeous job he's done. This CD sounds superb and is also one of those instances where the BONUS TRACKS tip the purchase into a 'must have'...

From the wind-in-her-hair against a city backdrop artwork and the opening keyboard-rock of Richard Thompson's "I Wish Was A Fool For You..." and the funked-up Miles Davis trumpet of "Gold Dust" – it's clear that this album trying real hard to leave 'Folk' behind – and kind of succeeding. You're also aware of the huge number of instruments and players present. Although it doesn't say who exactly plays on what – the big name luminaries impress - Steve Winwood of Traffic, John 'Rabbit' Bundrick of Free, Jess Roden of Bronco, Jerry Donahue, Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks and Bob Pegg of Fairport Convention, Billy Lively of Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance, Pat Donaldson of Fotheringay, Bob Weston of Fleetwood Mac and even Reggae artist Junior Murvin. Not to be outdone by these band playing upstarts – the Backing Singers included a neat roll call too - Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle of Gallagher & Lyle, famed session lady Sue Glover, Sunny Wheatman of 6ts female duo act Sue & Sunny, Kay Gardner of The Ladybirds and the wonder-larynx of Claire Torry whose vocals blew everyone away on Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig In The Sky" from 1973's "The Dark Side Of The Moon".

Sandy's dreadful cover of "Candle In The Wind" is an undoubted and much-derided clunker – and one can only wonder what Island was thinking releasing it as a 7" single to represent the album (four years after Elton's original nailed it in 1973). I've only ever seen 'DJ Promo' copies of WIP 6391 (and they're rare) – so I guess it was withdrawn and never made the stock copy stage. Far better is her self-penned non-album B-side "Still Waters Run Deep" (Track 10 in the Bonuses) – a jaunty tune with great female backing vocals that would surely have fitted better on the LP rather than the mawkish "Candle...”. The slow but wonderfully Soulful "Take Me Away" (credited as "Take Me Away The Load" in the booklet for some reason) is one of my poisons – a masterpiece that showcases her warm voice, songwriting talent and yet still manages to modernise her sound (I'd love to know who plays that great lead guitar - doesn’t sound like Richard Thompson). "One Way Donkey Ride" is cited by fans as another nugget and rightly so.

It's not surprising that the lushly-orchestrated "I'm A Dreamer" was chosen as the album's representative track on the 2009 "Meet On The Ledge" 3CD Box Set celebrating the Folk-Rock of Island Records – it's a highlight on here. "All Our Days" has a touch of the Kate Bush in its ambitious orchestration – a forgotten gem. "Silver Threads And Golden Needles" was a minor hit for The Springfields (with Dusty Springfield) way back in September 1962 (No. 20 in the US charts) while Linda Ronstadt covered it too on her April 1969 debut solo LP "Hand Sown...Home Grown". Sandy's own UK folk band Fotheringay would release a version of it on the belated album project "Fotheringay 2" in 2008 – the supposed 2nd LP from 1970 that never was. That 2008 version is similar to the languid feel of the "Rendezvous" take just minus the colliery band backing (some prefer it). The "Rendezvous" LP ends on "No More Sad Refrains" – a sophisticated love song that is perhaps too loaded down with syrupy strings.

When you hear how good both "Still Waters Run Deep" and the gorgeous ballad "Full Moon" are ("...tonight is like the fist night we met...") – it's pretty damn clear that mistakes were made in choosing "Gold Dust" or "Candle In The Wind" as LP tracks instead. It's arguable that had "Full Moon" been released as a UK 7" single – surely radio would have picked up on its beauty? Her 'Demo' of "I'm A Dreamer" is hissy for sure but that's more than wiped away by the delicacy of the performance – her and a piano – gorgeous. The final two bonuses are cover versions – Little Feat's "Easy To Slip" (from 1973's "Sailin Shoes") and Bryn Haworth's "Moments" (from 1978's "Grand Arrival"). The Little Feat cover just doesn't really work (they had such a unique sound) but the beauty of Haworth's "Moments" makes for a more satisfying listen – a sweet little melody with great guitar-work (I wish someone would pair Haworth's A&M albums "Grand Arrival" from 1978 with 1979's "Keep The Ball Rolling" onto 1CD).

After 1975's "Rising For The Moon" and 1977's "Rendezvous" failed commercially – both her former muckers Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny herself were dropped by Island Records – out in the wilderness so to speak. After a freak accident in a friend's home in the spring of the following year (she fell down some stairs) - Sandy went into a coma and horribly - a brain haemorrhage took her not long after.

Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny passed 21 April 1978 – gone too soon – a voice many considered too beautiful for words. This last stab at commerciality might have offended purists at the time with its cod Reggae and overdone productions in places. But over time – the beauty-moments on "Rendezvous" have revealed themselves to be more than the whole. And it's a cheap too as a Remaster.

"...Miss you more than I can say..." - Sandy sang on the beautiful love song "Full Moon". Set up a meeting with this underrated and forgotten album...because I reckon the good bits are going to improve your listening world big time...

PS: see reviews for "Fotheringay" (1970) and her 1972 debut on Island Records "Sandy"

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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