Compilation | Sandy Denny – The Notes & The Words

Sandy Denny fans have been able to feast of late. There have been deluxe resissues of Rendezvous and Like An Old Fashioned Waltz, Thea Gilmore’s Don’t Stop Singing which put music to her unreleased lyrics, and this year’s The Lady: A Homage To Sandy Denny tour. But that’s not all.

Two years ago, Universal released a mammoth Sandy Denny boxset, 19 discs in all, that contained everything the celebrated folkstress ever recorded. Strictly limited to 3,000 copies, it sold out in a flash and soon started attracting four-figure bids when copies filtered onto ebay.

But for those Sandy fans who found it prohibitively expensive there is good news, as The Notes And The Words hoovers up all the extras – the demos, rarities and out-takes – and puts them into the world at a more bank balance-friendly price. Completists will still need to supply their own copy of all of Sandy’s previously released albums, but then we’re guessing most of the target audience for this (and for that original boxset) already own them anyway.

Among the 75 tracks collected here are the first known version of her signature ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, alternate versions of Fairport classics, and a feast of covers of the likes of Bert Jansch, Bob Dylan and Fred Neil – indeed the version of ‘Blues Run The Game’ that opens disc one is among the highlights.

From the early home demos, the collection follows Sandy’s career, but only briefly touches on the Fairport Convention and Fotheringay periods on disc two, instead focusing on her solo career. The second disc ends with another of the highlights, a recording – thought lost – of Sandy singing ‘Lord Bateman’ unaccompanied. The beauty of her voice is well known, but rarely so well demonstrated.

Disc three covers the first three solo albums, with stripped back versions of the likes of ‘Blackwaterside’ for ‘For Nobody To Hear’ which would have several layers added before they appeared on the finished records. On disc four there are a handful of tracks written after Sandy returned to Fairport Convention but never released in finished form, as well as three live tracks. The set wraps up with outtakes from Rendezvous and, as with the Like An Old Fashioned Waltz segment on disc three, they’ve done a decent job of not doubling up (too much) with the deluxe editions released in the summer.

Boxsets like these are never designed to win over new fans, and if you’re just starting your Sandy collection, you’re probably going to want to look elsewhere. But for old fans wanting to finish the set – particularly those who found the Complete Sandy Denny out of their reach, this will be a delight. Let’s hope when (indeed if, given the number of delays so far) the planned 64 (!) disc complete Johnny Cash boxset finally sees the light of day, it is not too long before something like this follows for that too.