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.

News UK Archives on Twitter: "Led Zeppelin (John Bonham, Robert ...

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

March ’68 – A Psych-Folk Delight

The Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter

One of the more unique albums of 1968 came from one of the more extraordinary groups of the age, The Incredible String Band.  The Scottish group released its third album, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, in March of that year to high acclaim in the UK where it reached number five on the album chart.  It didn’t fare as well in the U.S. at the time as evidenced by, or perhaps partly because of, an unfavorable review it received in Rolling Stone magazine.  Not surprisingly, it was later given five out of five stars in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (sometimes we Yanks are just a tad behind the times).

This album followed the group’s 1967 gem, The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion, and was somehow even more ambitious.  The versatility of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron can be seen with a glance at the instruments they play on the record:  gimbri, penny whistle, pan pipe, guitar, oud, piano, mandolin, jaw harp, chahanai, water pipe, sitar, Hammond organ, hammered dulcimer, and harpsichord, among others.

isb-first-uk.jpg

This music contains nuggets of many styles and themes I enjoy listening to:  Scottish music, Indian music, folk, psychedelia, wistful songs of youth and first loves, middle Earth and mythology (ISB was also an early influence on Led Zeppelin).  It’s as if Ravi Shankar and Donovan formed a band.  Or something like that.

I was first introduced to the Incredible String Band about 15 years ago by an aging hippie friend of mine named David.  I was a bit incredulous as he described their greatness and how they had performed at Woodstock, etc.  It had been a while since I’d seen the film, but I couldn’t recall them being in it (they weren’t, nor were a handful of other music legends who took the stage that weekend).  And I most certainly hadn’t heard them on the radio.  David recommended I check out their second and third albums, The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion and The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, respectively, and it happened that the CD I found contained both albums in a two-disc set.  I immediately dug it, but the downside was that I didn’t play The Hangman’s… nearly as often as its predecessor until a year or so ago.  I’m now making up for lost time.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Koeeoaddi There
  2. The Minotaur’s Song
  3. Witches Hat
  4. A Very Cellular Song

Side Two:

  1. Mercy I Cry City
  2. Waltz of the New Moon
  3. The Water Song
  4. Three is a Green Crown
  5. Swift As the Wind
  6. Nightfall

Another element of the ISB my friend shared with me was their producer, Joe Boyd.  Boyd was a (then) young American in the UK who produced acts that I would subsequently discover and love, including Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Fotheringay, as well as Richard and Linda Thompson.  He also produced music by a few acts I had already had in my collection for years:  Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, and REM.  Boyd was also at the heart of London’s underground music scene, having opened the first psychedelic nightclub, the UFO, where Pink Floyd (then known as The Pink Floyd) staged their earliest light show extravaganzas.

51Nac8FlamL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

We’ll hear more from the Incredible String Band later in the year.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hangman%27s_Beautiful_Daughter

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

-Stephen