Sandy Denny Reissues – Sandy (1972) and Rendezvous (1977)
Island records are reissuing three of Sandy Denny’s albums from the 1970s. We chose to review Sandy (1972) and Rendezvous (1977 – the year before her death) as they demonstrate some real contrast in her solo output, with Rendezvous proving to be a weak swansong for such a great artist, writes Neonfiller.com‘s Dorian Rogers.
Sandy is considered by many to be Denny’s finest hour as a solo artist, and it is hard to disagree with that assessment. The songwriting is superb, mostly Denny’s compositions, and her vocals match even her best work with Fairport Convention. The musicianship and playing is superb, with contributions from Richard Thompson, Sneaky Pete Kleinow (of the Flying Burrito Brothers) and many others.
The album blends the traditional English folk styles with American country pop influences perfectly and the whole thing just feels natural, fully formed and perfectly realised.
Jump forward five years and the decision seems to have been taken to turn Denny into a kind of British Carly Simon, all big production and songs that demand a belting vocal. The production by Trevor Lucas suffocates the songs, a far cry from his production on Sandy, which really put the songs first. Denny’s songs are good, beneath the sheen, and her vocals are good but not so well suited to the arrangements which seem to demand BIG when Denny’s voice is delicate and subtle. The acoustic guitar picking and pedal steel of Sandy is replaced by electric guitar effects and saxophone solos of Rendezvous, I leave it up to you to guess which of these has dated better in the intervening years.
The choice of cover versions is another comparison point; Sandy brings a beautiful reading of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’, Rendezvous brings Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’. It is hard to be objective about that song in a post Diana world, but I bet it sounded schmaltzy in 1997, and it sounds schmaltzy now.
Both albums come lovingly packaged with a wealth of demos, alternative takes and live tracks, the quality of which is very high. It is these bonus songs that save the Rendezvous reissue, presenting the songs in piano demo form gives you a taste of what could have been. If you wanted to proof that less is more then this CD set is presents the evidence perfectly. Non album track ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’ (a song covered by Yo La Tengo) is a included twice, first in full band mode and secondly as an acoustic guitar and vocals demo. Both versions are good, but the demo is just much better, sweet and fragile and showing off the beauty of Denny’s voice and songwriting.
Both the albums are well worth exploring, and the expanded versions make them great value for collectors who are familiar with the originals. Sandy stands up as one of the great albums by a singer-songwriter whereas Rendezvous is a flawed collection that demonstrates how bad business decisions and production can ruin a good set of songs.
9/10 (Sandy) 7/10 (Rendezvous)
See Also: Our review of last year’s reissue of Sandy Denny’s debut solo album The Northstar Grassman and the Ravens