England - Full Moon 230 - 06/02/15
Nothing More - The Collected Fotheringay
[3CD + 1DVD box]
This three CD and one DVD boxed set follows in the footsteps of several others with other well-known folk and folk-rock artists and bands. We had a close encounter with Live At The BBC by Richard Thompson featuring Linda Thompson in the summer of 2011. 2007 saw the release of similar four disc sets formed as a book both by Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny solo at the Beeb and a 40th anniversary compilation by Pentangle. The new Fotheringay album might be approached in at least two ways. For those of us who know the band pretty well and own the two albums by the band and the massive 19 CDs strong Sandy Denny Boxed Set, there's not so many additional songs to delve into. For those who don't know the band, but are fascinated by the voice and career of Sandy, there's a lot to explore. The band only lasted one year, from January 1970, after Sandy had left Fairport Convention the previous moonth, to January 1971 when an insecure and hesitant Sandy decided to leave in the middle of the recording of the second Fotheringay album to pursue a solo career. You can read more about the band history in our review of 2 that finally saw the light of day in 2008.
Well, if you have the two albums and the Sandybox there's only nine out of the 48 audio tracks that are new, to my knowledge, and all of them have been released in other versions earlier. In addition we're served a short BBC interview and the complete TV shoot of four songs. Two of the latter have never been broadcasted or published earlier. Disc one of the box includes the nine songs of the debut album and six bonus tracks of demos, alternate versions, all of the latter were also present on the Sandybox. Disc two includes the 11 songs from 2 and six more bonus tracks of alternate mixes and versions. The second last is a blurred rehearsal version of the traditional folk song "Bruton Town", also available in the Sandybox along with the previous four. At the end comes a 2015-version of "Bruton Town". It might be the rehearsal version that has been speeded up a little bit and brushed up sound wise the same way as the tracks of 2 underwent in 2008 and maybe with an additional electric guitar. Anyway, it sounds so clear and bright, a real highlight of the compilation. Disc 3 includes nine tracks recorded live at the Holland Pop Festival in Rotterdam on 28 June 1970. Six of them can also be heard on the Sandybox. For the trainspotters it can be mentioned that the otherwise unavailable track called "Trouble In Mind" in the Sandybox, now has been renamed "I'm Troubled". The remaining three, "The Way I Feel", "Too Much Of Nothing" and "The Ballad Of Ned Kelly", are sung by her husband-to-be, Trevor Lucas, and omitted from the Sandybox even though the Lady contribute backing vocals. Rather forgettable country flavoured stuff if you ask me, especially the latter two. The real aural treasure of the box is the last seven tracks of disc three, taken from previously unreleased BBC sessions. Well, really only six of the songs are previously unreleased, I suspect. The first BBC track includes the short 1 minute and 25 seconds interview with Sandy from spring 1970 before the debut album was completed. The version of "The Sea" at the end of the interview seems to be a pre-release debut
broadcast of the song from the album. The remaining six, though, are real BBC-session versions from the autumn 1970. "The Lowlands Of Holland" with only Sandy solo acapella is sublime. It's the only available Fotheringay version of this traditional song and was later recorded anew by Sandy the solo artist. The sparsely arranged "Wild Mountain Thyme" is another goodie. On the other hand, "Bold Jack Donahue", Eppie Moray", "John The Gun" and "Gypsy Davy" are full-blown folk-rock numbers. Trevor sings the two former and they are the best offerings I've heard by him. They were also pretty good on 2, but especially the BBC version of " Bold Jack Donahue" is superb with some distant and beautiful electric piano(?) towards the end. The most surprising personal highlight of the lot. And if you prefer the Fotheringay sound along with vision, you don't need to look any further than disc four, with 17 minutes of live versions of the title track of this collection, "Gypsy Davy", "John The Gun" and "Too Much Of Nothing" filmed for the German TV show Beat Club in October 1970. The only TV appearance by the band believed to exist. Very worthwhile apart from the latter (again).
For those who is a bit curious about Sandy Denny and her companions, the box might be a bit too much. This is the definitive and complete Fotheringay collection, I suppose, apart from the bootleg quality live recording Essen 1970 that we can live happily without. Well, if you're a bit more than curious and intend to buy the two studio albums, I guess it might be a good idea to invest in the box instead. It documents Sandy at about her best, at least at her best without unique guitarist Richard Thompson by her side (with Fairport before and her first solo album after Fotheringay). Some of her self-penned songs and traditional renditions here surely rank among her very best; the rolling "The Sea", the brittle folk-baroque "Winter Winds", the floating traditional "Banks Of The Nile", the rock-ballad "Nothing More" and the pop-ballad "The Pond And The Stream" off the first album, and her two offerings, the steady folk-rocker "John The Gun" and hauntingly beautiful "Late November", on 2 along with some more cover versions. Especially the first three - check for instance the exquisite guitar work by Lucas and Jerry Donahue on the former two - and "Late November" are top-notch classics in the folk-rock-pop field.
For Sandy-devotees the book-part of the box with an interesting essay/history of the band by Mick Houghton including many quotations from his new Sandy Denny biography I've Always Kept A Unicorn and several previously unpublished photographs make the box a worthwhile investment in addition to the unheard and unseen tracks. I particularly fell for a quote by American Jerry Donahue. When the band was formed, Albert Lee was supposed to be the band's lead electric guitarist. He backed out soon and recommended Jerry instead. Jerry had seen Fairport Convention live in 1967 and was not impressed (that must have been before Sandy joined the band). He was sceptical before the audition: 'When I finally got down to the rehearsal I was just bowled over when I heard Sandy sing. All it took was the first number we tried out, Gordon Lightfoot's "The Way I Feel"; they loved the guitar part I came up with and I loved their harmony parts. That changed my mind and it changed my life.' Jerry was responsible for the production of 2 in 2008 and also in charge in the making of Nothing More. Fotheringay was the closest he and the others ever got to a musical family.
Copyright © 2015 JP