North Star Grassman and the Ravens

North Star Grassman and the Ravens

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by Sandy Denny
     
 

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One could argue Sandy Denny left Fairport Convention at just the right time -- her final album with the group, 1969's Liege & Lief, was both a masterpiece and a millstone, a brilliant work they would never top -- but her instincts were not as keen in terms of launching her solo career. Denny not unreasonably wanted a showcase forSee more details below

Overview

One could argue Sandy Denny left Fairport Convention at just the right time -- her final album with the group, 1969's Liege & Lief, was both a masterpiece and a millstone, a brilliant work they would never top -- but her instincts were not as keen in terms of launching her solo career. Denny not unreasonably wanted a showcase for her own songwriting, but after leaving Fairport she opted to join Fotheringay, a talented folk-rock band but one that was neither as interesting nor as visionary as Fairport. Fotheringay splintered during the recording of their second LP, and Denny seemed to still be finding her footing as she set out to make her first solo album. The North Star Grassman and the Ravens was co-produced by Denny, fellow Fairport alumnus Richard Thompson and John Wood, and the interplay between Denny's vocals and Thompson's understated but striking lead guitar work is one of the best things about the record. With a gifted crew of U.K. folk-rockers backing her up, the sessions confirmed that Denny was still one of the most gifted and thoughtful vocalists to emerge from the British folk community, and she was also a talent to be reckoned with as a songwriter: "John the Gun," "Late November," and the title tune are only a little short of brilliant. But as good as the original songs were, and as compelling as Denny's vocals may have been, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens feels tentative and uneven. While Denny had the strength to do rock-oriented material, the covers of Bob Dylan's "Down in the Flood" and Brenda Lee's "Let's Jump the Broomstick" sound sloppy and meandering, and as sympathetic and expert as the production may be, the deference to Denny's vocals leaves the music a bit pale in comparison, while most of the tracks lack the personality they deserve. By any standards, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens is a fine album full of great songs and inspired vocal performances, but considering the excellence of Denny's music in Fairport Convention, it was a genuine disappointment, and seems pale in comparison to her next two solo efforts, Sandy and Like an Old-Fashioned Waltz. [In 2011, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens was reissued in a deluxe two-disc edition, and it's a genuine improvement on the original. Disc one features a remastered version of the original 11-song album along with four bonus tracks, but disc two is where the greatest treasures lie, leading off with five unreleased demos and following with seven live performances from the BBC archives. On most of these tracks, Denny performs solo, accompanying herself on guitar and piano, and where the album sometimes sounds uncertain and unfocused, here Denny is brimming with confidence and dramatic force. Even for those fans who don't care for The North Star Grassman and the Ravens, the bonus material makes this a must for anyone who loves Sandy Denny's voice and music.]

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Product Details

Release Date:
03/10/1995
Label:
Hannibal
UPC:
0031257442923
catalogNumber:
4429

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Late November  - Sandy Denny
  2. Blackwaterside  - Sandy Denny
  3. The Sea Captain  - Sandy Denny
  4. Down in the Flood  - Sandy Denny
  5. John the Gun  - Sandy Denny
  6. Next Time Around  - Sandy Denny
  7. The Optimist  - Sandy Denny
  8. Let's Jump the Broomstick  - Sandy Denny
  9. Wretched Wilbur  - Sandy Denny
  10. The North Star Grassman and the Ravens  - Sandy Denny
  11. Crazy Lady Blues  - Sandy Denny

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Sandy Denny   Primary Artist,Guitar,Piano,Vocals
Buddy Emmons   Steel Guitar
Richard Thompson   Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Accordion,Electric Guitar,Vocals,12-string Guitar
Jerry Donahue   Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Trevor Lucas   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Roy Wood   Vocals
Gerry Conway   Drums
Pat Donaldson   Bass,Vocals
Barry Dransfield   Violin,Vocals,Background Vocals
Robin Dransfield   Vocals,Background Vocals
Tony Reeves   Bass
Ian Whiteman   Organ,Piano,Keyboards
Royston Wood   Background Vocals
Roger Powell   Drums

Technical Credits

Sandy Denny   Producer
Richard Thompson   Producer
John Wood   Producer,Engineer
Roy Wood   Producer,Engineer
Harry Robinson   Arranger
Georg Bertl   Composer

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