Sandy Denny, |
The North Star Grassman
& the Ravens
(1971; Universal Island, 2005)
The North Star Grassman & the Ravens is Sandy Denny's debut solo album, originally released in 1971. This reissued version sees the original album tracks remastered along with an additional four bonus tracks, expanded liner notes and photos. The original album was produced by Sandy with Richard Thompson and the legendary John Wood. Sandy is accompanied by a number of her former colleagues from Fairport Convention and Fotheringay, notably Thompson on guitar, Pat Donaldson on bass and Gerry Conway on drums.
The album opens with the stunning Denny original "Late November," with lyrics often evoking epic cinematic imagery: "the wooded ravine to the wandering stream." The traditional song "Blackwaterside" showcases Sandy's crystal clear voice which, one could easily argue, is the greatest gift ever given to traditional song.
"John the Gun" is a bold, powerful song delivered with force and menace, seemingly delivering an anti-war message: "Put away your guns of steel, death comes too soon for all." Sandy appears in a much mellower, more reflective mood on "Next Time Around," a track that appears twice on this release; the second appearance being amongst the bonus tracks and stripped of the Harry Robinson string arrangement present on the original.
The tracks "Down in the Flood" (Bob Dylan) and "Let's Jump the Broomstick" (Charles Robbins) find Sandy equally as comfortable rocking out, and highlight another facet of her strong vocal capabilities, and of course provide a perfect opportunity for Thompson's guitar wizardry.
The expectations set by Sandy's previous work with her band Fotheringay, and the involvement of ex-Fairport Convention colleague Thompson can ultimately lead you to be disappointed with this album, in particular the inconsistency of style. However, Sandy's writing is as ever strong, and this particular album probably benefits most from the remastering applied to all her solo work.
by Mike Wilson