Wednesday, 10 June 2015

"Fotheringay" by FOTHERINGAY [featuring SANDY DENNY] (2004 Fledg’ling Records Expanded CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

“…My Friend…” 

An offshoot of the mighty Fairport Convention - FOTHERINGAY made one sublime album on Island Records in early 1970 and then dispersed into vapour. And if ever the Folk-Rock genre had a hidden treasure that shouldn't be - then this is it. Here are the misty-eyed details...

SANDY DENNY - Lead Vocals, Piano And Guitar
TREVOR LUCAS - Lead Vocals and Guitar
JERRY DONAHUE - Lead Guitar and Backing Vocals
GERRY CONWAY - Drums and Backing Vocals
PAT DONALDSON - Bass and Backing Vocals

Released August 2004 - this beautifully remastered CD is an expanded edition. "Fotheringay"  on Fledg'ling Records FLED 3044 (Barcode 5020393304429) breaks down as follows (60:51 minutes):

1. Nothing More
2. The Sea
3. The Ballad Of Ned Kelly
4. Winter Winds
5. Peace In The End
6. The Way I Feel
7. The Pond And The Stream
8. Too Much Of Nothing
9. Banks Of The Nile
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Fotheringay" - released June 1970 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9125 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4269. Tracks 1, 2, 4, and 7 are Sandy Denny originals. Track 5 is a co-write between Denny and Lucas, while 6 and 8 are Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan covers respectively. Track 9 is a Traditional Song arranged by the band.

10. Two Weeks Last Summer [Live]
11. Nothing More [Live]
12. Banks Of The Nile [Live]
13. Memphis Tennessee [Live]
Tracks 10 to 13 recorded live at The Holland Pop Festival in Rotterdam, 28 June 1970. "Two Weeks Last Summer" is a Dave Cousins song (Strawbs) while "Memphis Tennessee" is a Chuck Berry cover.

The 8-page inlay is a fairly basic affair but it does have lovely pictures of rare foreign picture sleeves like "The Ballad Of Ned Kelly" b/w "Nothing More" and "Peace In The End" b/w "Winter Winds" from Germany, Holland and Japan. There's also rare gig posters for Fotheringay, The Humblebums and Nick Drake in Birmingham and Leicester (now there's a gig I want to see), a shared bill at The Roundhouse "Pop Proms" between 20 and 25 April 1970 and a 'supergroup' show in March 1970 at The Royal Festival Hall. But the big news is the sound - a fantastic DENIS BLACKHAM remaster. His gift with tapes turned many of the tracks on the "Meet on The Ledge" Island Folk-Rock 3CD Box into a rehear treat (see detailed separate review) and he's done the same here.

The two powerhouse forces within the group were England's Sandy Denny and the Australian Trevor Lucas. Denny sings Lead Vocals on "Nothing More", "The Sea", "Winter Winds", "The Pond And The Stream" and the gorgeous album finisher "Banks Of The Nile" while Lucas handles the other four (3, 5, 6 and 8 above). The first thing that hits you is the great songs moving effortlessly from Folk to Folk-Rock and covering a few Traditionals in between - then the quality of the JOE BOYD Production and finally the beautifully sensitive DENIS BLACKHAM remaster.

There's stunning warmth to this album - the masterpiece Fairport didn't make to follow their meisterwork "Liege & Lief" in December 1969. Remaster engineer Blackham has made the combo vocals on "Peace In The End" sound glorious while Lucas sounds not unlike Gordon Lightfoot on the inspired cover version choice of "The Way I Feel". But for me the album is dominated by two truly beautiful Denny moments - her own composition "The Sea" and her loving arrangement of the Traditional Air "Banks Of The Nile". I'd rate "The Sea" up there with "Where Does The Time Go?" from 1969's "Unhalfbricking" - it's beautiful lilt and lyrics somehow evoking a longing in its listener that is rare. The eight-minutes of "The Banks Of The Nile" featured on the aforementioned "Meet On The Ledge" box set - and not surprising either - as gorgeous a tune as you've ever heard.

The first live track - the Dave Cousins song "Two Weeks Last Summer" has great audio quality and presents the band in exactly that laid-back feel the album has. But it takes a bit of a sonic nosedive come "Nothing More". Luckily the version of "Banks" is way better with Sandy sounding so good. We then get Fotheringay going on all Rock & Roll sounding not unlike the Faces with a raucous female singer - what a blast...

Conway, Donaldson and Donahue along with Drummer Tony Cox, Flute player Lynn Dobson and Jazzman Dudu Pukwana would make "Living Game" with Mick Greenwood in late 1971 on MCA Records (see separate review). Sandy would go Solo of course and Lucas went back to the Fairports. A second album was planned but never released. But Donaldson and Conway (remaining members of the band) returned to those tapes and put out "Fotheringay 2" on CD in September 2008 giving us that old material updated but in the spirit of the original. I loved it too.

Sometimes a year lodges in your brain - like 1970 - "On The Boards" by Taste, "Pendulum" by CCR, "Kiln House" by Fleetwood Mac, "Humble Pie" by Humble Pie, "Bryter Layter" by Nick Drake, "Encouraging Words" by Billy Preston, "Rides Again" by The James Gang, "Gasoline Alley" by Rod Stewart - and "Fotheringay".I've adored this album for over 40 years and as time passes its magic only grows.

As a footnote - I can remember vividly a pub conversation when I was with the late great JOHN WALTERS - John Peel's Producer at the BBC. I was buying his astonishing record collection on behalf of Reckless. He sat there misty-eyed telling me about a friend of his who'd come running into his control room in 1969 raving about this 'girl' singer he'd seen in a bar in London the night previous. A 'folky' his pal enthused with the voice of an angel. It was of course Sandy Denny. Ever scouting artists for Peel and his radio show - Walters went along and said the hairs stood up on the back of his neck when she began singing. I can still see John's face in that bar as we sat talking - remembering that great musical moment. God bless you both wherever you may be...

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