June 1970 – Fotheringay

June 1970: Fotheringay – Fotheringay

Fifty years ago this month the eponymous debut from the British folk group Fotheringay was released. The band was formed by Sandy Denny after she left Fairport Convention in 1969, and included her future husband Trevor Lucas on guitar as well as Gerry Conway on drums, guitarist Jerry Donahue, and Pat Donaldson on bass. The band’s name was derived from a castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was once imprisoned. It was also the title of a Denny song recorded with Fairport Convention. Fotheringay was the only album they released during their original incarnation. The group disbanded in 1971 during sessions for their second album when Denny chose to pursue a solo career. Fotheringay 2 was finally released in 2008.

Gallery: Unseen Fotheringay Imagery | Features | Clash Magazine

I began to take an interest in the late 1960’s/early 70’s British folk scene in the late 90’s, about the time I, like many others, discovered Nick Drake through a Volkswagen commercial. The first group whose music I explored was Fairport Convention, and I immediately became a fan of the late Sandy Denny’s vocals on their second through fourth albums. It turned out I had heard her sing before; she was the only guest vocalist to appear on a Led Zeppelin album, on the song The Battle of Evermore. As a natural progression I gave this album a listen and found it to be a continuation of the Fairport sound I like, then dove into Denny’s wonderful solo work. She was a brilliant composer and vocalist, but a somewhat tragic figure who passed away in 1978 at the age of 31.

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Fotheringay was produced by Joe Boyd, whose fingerprints are all over recordings from the British folk and underground scene including the aforementioned Drake, as well as The Incredible String Band, Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, and others. My favorite tracks on the album overall were written and sung by Denny, especially Nothing More (with its Jerry Donahue guitar solo that I wish was about five minutes longer), though Trevor Lucas’s rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Way I Feel is a particularly strong example of the British folk rock I enjoy. They also took a turn at Dylan’s Too Much of Nothing, another song from his 1967 basement sessions with the group that would soon be named The Band that wouldn’t see the official light of day until 1975. Interestingly, Fotheringay wasn’t even the first to release a version. Peter, Paul and Mary had a Top 40 hit with it in 1967, and Spooky Tooth also released it on their debut the following year.

Folk Awards Hall of Fame's Sandy Denny's appearances at the Royal ...

Below is a live clip of Fotheringay performing perhaps my favorite song of theirs on the German TV program Beat Club, followed by the album itself.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Nothing More
  2. The Sea
  3. The Ballad of Ned Kelly
  4. Winter Winds
  5. Peace in the End

Side Two:

  1. The Way I Feel
  2. The Pond and the Stream
  3. Too Much of Nothing
  4. Banks of the Nile

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fotheringay

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fotheringay_(album)

http://www.progarchives.com/album.asp?id=10949

January ’69 – A Bert Jansch Folk & Blues Classic

Bert Jansch – Birthday Blues

In the late 1960’s and early ’70’s there was seemingly an alternate universe of musicians and bands happening right alongside the mega groups, and in some cases (cough Led Zeppelin cough) they were a serious influence, even providing the only female vocal ever heard on a song by that parenthetical band. This was a British world of mostly acoustic “folk revival” performers including Davey Graham, Nick Drake, Al Stewart, the Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and the duo and solo acts within those groups (John Renbourn, Sandy Denny, and Richard Thompson, to name a few). There were, of course, many more. One of them was Renbourn’s duo counterpart and fellow member of the Pentangle, Scotsman Bert Jansch. He released his fifth solo album, Birthday Blues, 50 years ago this month.

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The Pentangle had just released its pinnacle album Basket of Light, and Birthday Blues is basically a Pentangle album without singer Jacqui McShee or fellow guitarist Renbourn (he’s backed by the band’s rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox on this release). It is considered Jansch’s most “pop” record, but it’s firmly in the folk and blues genre. It’s alternatively playful and moody, as the album’s title suggests. Jansch was a dynamic guitarist with a distinctive singing voice – a good combination – so if you like this style of music, there’s a lot to enjoy on this release. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell is a beautiful instrumental inspired by his wife, who also designed the album cover. Poison is a haunting track on the folk rock side of things with heavier drums and an eerie guitar and harmonica that give a feeling of foreboding. A Woman Like You is another one in that vein.

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Trying to recall what inspired me to learn about Bert Jansch, it was probably a Roots of Led Zeppelin sampler CD that came attached to an issue of MOJO Magazine or one like it around 2003 with Jansch’s 1966 take on the traditional Blackwater Side. I purchased a Best of Bert Jansch CD and was on my way. It didn’t occur to me at the time to even bother looking into whether or not he still performed live. Even if he did, it seemed highly unlikely he would pass through Texas. Then one day in 2010 I read he was going to perform at the local symphony hall – opening for and performing with Neil Young! Then I looked at the ticket prices.  Then I looked at my bank account. Wasn’t happening. A little over a year later Jansch died of lung cancer. Missing that show is a big music regret of mine.

Tracklist

Side A:

  1. Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We Can All Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long & Dusty Road
  2. The Bright New Year
  3. Tree Song
  4. Poison
  5. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell
  6. I’ve Got a Woman

Side B:

  1. A Woman Like You
  2. I Am Lonely
  3. Promised Land
  4. Birthday Blues
  5. Wishing Well
  6. Blues

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_Blues_(album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Jansch

https://www.allmusic.com/album/birthday-blues-mw0000205948

Bert Jansch – Birthday Blues LP