Monday, 31 August 2009

“The North Star Grassman And The Ravens” by SANDY DENNY. A Review of her iconic 1971 debut album now reissued & remastered onto CD in 2005.

SANDY DENNY is part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


“…The Depths Of The Waters…”

The two-word secret weapon for this CD remaster is DENIS BLACKHAM.

Now based in Skye Mastering in Scotland, his involvement in restoration, mastering and remastering goes back to the late 1960s and his resume now shows over 680 credits to his name across a huge range of genres (including a lot of folk).

Blackham has handled all 4 of the solo albums in this reissue series and as you’ve no doubt read from other glowing reviews, each remaster has been endowed with truly wonderful sound quality – frankly because care was taken.

Details first - having done her stints with Fairport Convention and Fotheringay - Sandy Denny’s 1st solo album was issued 3 September 1971 on Island ILPS 9165 in the UK and this 2005 remastered version of it (57:05 minutes) features 4 excellent bonus tracks – including the rare “El Pea” double-album sampler version of “Late November” – an alternate version to the album’s opening track (lyrics above).

Musicians - all the good Fairport associated people are here – Richard Thompson, Pat Donaldson, Gerry Conway, Trevor Lucas and Ian Whiteman. Polydor Folkmill artists Robin and Barry Dransfield also put in violin and vocals on “John The Gun” while long-time session man Tony Reeves plays bass on the Dylan cover “Down In The Flood” and Roger Powell plays drums on the Brenda Lee cover “Let’s Jump The Broomstick”. But my personal fave is “The Sea Captain” where Richard Thompson’s delicate guitar picking perfectly compliments the beauty of her wayfaring love song. Gorgeous stuff.

The 12-page booklet has informative and affectionate liner notes from noted writer and folk-compiler DAVID SUFF (of Fledgling Records reissue fame) peppered with photos of a young Sandy, hand-written lyrics to the title track and a quirky trade advert for the LP’s release.

But you keep coming back to the sound quality, which seems to have lifted the beauty of these folk-rock gems out of their former muddiness. Sweet as…

I once had the privilege of nattering to JOHN WALTERS (John Peel’s producer) in a pub in 1994 (I worked for Reckless Records at the time and we were buying his extraordinary record collection - he was even more talkative than I am!) and he relayed to me his first ever viewing of Sandy Denny.

One of his friends in the music industry had begged him to come see this new English folk singer gigging in some Godforsaken bar somewhere in London – he did – and was duly blown away. I’ll never forget the look in John Walter’s eyes (who along with Peel must have seen so much stunning talent) – he was misty – like he knew he’d had the chance to glimpse greatness.

On listening to this lovely and lovingly restored CD, you can’t help but feel that all involved in this project felt exactly the same - and have done the great lady’s memory and musical heritage proud.

Recommended - big time.


Philip M Ward said...

Well said! You might be interested in my Sandy blog at

Mark Barry said...

Thanks Philip.

Visited your site - excellent stuff.

I received a thank-you e-mail from DENIS BLACKHAM who as you know remastered all of Sandy's Island albums.

I'm currently compiling a Listmania list for Amazon of his best remasters (he has over 700 credits - a huge catalogue). If I get to talk to him again, I'll try and interview him re the Sandy stuff and post it on to you.


Mark, Revival Records, 30 Berwick Street, Soho, London.

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