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Last evening of the summer

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A friend introduced me today to this amazing vocal performance by Sandy Denny, matched by Richard Thompson’s beautifully understated guitar accompaniment. Good to know it’s still possible to discover things like this at an advanced age.

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  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    English folk-rock has a kind of terrible reputation, but at its best it was wonderful. And early Fairport Convention (especially the albums featuring Sandy Denny, like Unhalfbricking, which this song appears on) are as good as it gets.

    • Whom does it have a terrible reputation from? Jerks, I’m gonna guess. Fairport, Steeleye Span, Pentangle, and numerous lesser-known artists and bands put out loads of great music.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        I’m not disagreeing. And it certainly has its fans. And it deserves them.

        But I think for a lot of folks–even music fans–“English folk-rock” evokes medieval-obsessed music that teeters on the edge of self-parody.

        So yeah. Jerks. But there are a lot of jerks out there.

  • Leeds man

    If you haven’t heard Fairport’s Reynardine, you must.

  • bob mcmanus

    Well. I prefer the Judy Collins version off the eponymous album, which captures a spirit of survival better. Denny, perhaps in response to the Collins interpretation and frankly the stronger voice, always seems to sing it too muted to convey the emotional dynamics in the song.

    It’s a difficult song, and I have versions by Nina Simone, Eva Cassidy, and Christine Collister that frankly suck.

    I know and love English folk-rock, and have infinite respect for Denny. I think she was the key and a leader to some radical changes in music and British culture. She rocks, is dark, and introduced a dark-magic forest edge to the folk-rock scene that American has never gotten. (Tam Lin)Louvin Brothers vibe, but pagan. And she did it, not the guys.

    But she wanted this song to be different, and her own, and she held it too close. She smothers it.

    • commie atheist

      Um, Sandy Denny wrote the damn song. I’m willing to give her space to interpret it any damn way she likes.

  • pete

    I saw Sandy sing once, in 1970 with Fotheringay. She was an ordinary young woman, a little overweight with a reputed fondness for beer. And when she opened her mouth to sing, she was transformed — astoundingly beautiful, with a presence that filled the hall. Then the verse ended and she shambled away again.

    Everyone I knew was in love with her, and she didn’t seem to realize that. I bet she thought Judy Collins sang this better. I don’t.

    • Halloween Jack

      You know how people will say that they would have given their left nut to be there? I literally would.

      • pete

        She sang “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” I recall, because it struck me so hard. Turns out Fotheringay were going to put it on their second album, except that never happened till 20 years after she fell down her last flight of stairs. I laugh to keep from crying, which I suspect is how she lived her life.

    • “She was an ordinary young woman, a little overweight with a reputed fondness for beer.”

      A reputed fondness indeed.

      Sandy Denny died after getting extremely drunk and falling down a flight of stairs.

      Which could happen to any of us of course.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      I never saw Sandy Denny (I’d like to say I’m too young to have done so, but I’m not quite). But I have seen Richard Thompson in concert in the 1980s and he was totally brilliant. I think it’s hard to call anyone as celebrated as Thompson underrated, but I often feel he’s underappreciated. Everyone should listen to more Richard Thompson, especially the albums he recorded with Linda Thompson.

      • Thompson is still amazing. I’ve seen him both acoustic and electric in the last 5 years, both phenomenal.

  • bob mcmanus

    Electric Eden, Rob Young, 2011 is an excellent book on the history of British Folk, from Delius through Ewan MacColl (commie sing-alongs with Peggy Seeger)to Comus. No Denny, no Comus. No Sex Pistols.

    She changed the culture.

  • Halloween Jack

    I’m a big fan of Thompson’s work throughout his career. Here’s a video of him with (ex-)wife Linda doing “A Heart Needs a Home.”

  • bob mcmanus

    Here’s Collins in very good fidelity for youtube.

    There are at least 2 dozen Denny recordings I like better. “Banks of the Nile”, “Quiet Joys of Brotherhood” Denny was a belter, and a rocker, and enjoyed being in front of a band.

    Compare Denny in WKWTG to this Denny or This

    • pete

      Both great (Listen Listen has always been a fave). Happy to agree to differ on the other. I’m undoubtedly biased.

      Do you know Rock On by The Bunch?

  • It is one of the great songs of all time, at least in my view.

    • tewhalen

      Sometimes I forget exactly how much older than me many of the bloggers I read are, and then one of them posts something like this, and it all comes flooding back. Count me as a 30-something completely baffled by this post and all of the comments.

      • Hey, I am a 30-something. I just recognize amazing music from whatever era.

      • And I first started listening to Fairport Convention when I was about 19. Which doesn’t give me any credibility except to say that I have trouble understanding generational divides in musical taste.

      • Jason

        It’s not an age thing. The divide is between who are obsessive fans of pop music and people who aren’t. This blog happens to attract an unusual number in the former category.

        The whole Unhalfbricking album is great, including the French-language version of Dylan. But IMO Richard and Linda Thompson’s albums are even better.

      • PSP

        I think that Richard Thompson is relatively well known in the US. Despite not being American, he slips into a lot of Americana playlists and tours here regularly. Sandy Denny and Fairport, however, are pretty esoteric. I don’t think Fairport has crossed the Atlantic in years.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          American knowledge of Sandy Denny, at least when I was a kid, was often limited to this (that’s what I knew of her work before going off to college).

        • BobS

          Fairport Convention tours the US every now and then- I saw them in Ann Arbor not too long ago.

        • trollhattan

          Richard certainly knows and values American pop culture.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA_91AeL-Ms

          I see him whenever I can–he’s a living treasure.

      • BobS

        The ability to recognize good music doesn’t have anything to do with how many birthdays you’ve had.
        In the particular case of Richard Thompson, my kids (32 & 29) were introduced to his music when they were teenagers and have never stopped listening (my son can actually play a pretty good 1952 Vincent Black Lightning). Do yourself a favor, go to YouTube and familiarize yourself with some RT music- Shoot Out the Lights is as good a place to start as any.

        • Richard

          RT is great, especially live. But I’ve never much cared for Fairport, Strawbs, etc. just a little too precious for my tastes

          • BobS

            I think I mentioned it in a previous music thread here, I’ve seen Richard Thompson dozens of times since stumbling onto Fairport Convention when they opened for Traffic- they weren’t “precious” at all that night.
            He’s incapable of a bad performance, but my favorites have been when there’s a female vocalist with him- either Linda in the 70’s, or Christine Collister in the 80’s.
            The strangest was seeing him at the City Club in Detroit in the early 80’s. It was a multi-level place with a disco on the first floor. It must not have been properly promoted, so only 15 or 20 of us showed up to see RT. Instead of playing from a stage, he brought a chair out and we gathered around him like we were sitting in a living room (with the constant thump of a disco bass in the background).

  • Aaron Baker

    I heard this version of the song a couple of years ago and fell completely in love with it. I also prefer it to Judy Collins’s rendition–though that’s not bad either.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Denny and the Fairport Convention, who did a whole mess of Dylan covers, did a great version–perhaps the best version–of “I’ll Keep It with Mine.” Richard Thompson is totally awesome on this track, too.

  • wilson

    Since summer is your introduction, please listen to the Fotheringay cover of Dave Cousin’s “Two weeks last Summer”. It’s on their second album, finished around forty years after it was started.

    The song embodies a “last evening of the summer” for the present, the future, and decades past.

    Glad you’ve found Sandy Denny.

    • Leeds man

      Holy crap. References to Comus, and now the Strawbs. I’m alternating between feeling very young and very old.

  • mch

    Thanks for this. I spent too much (or not enough) time last night listening to different mezzo sopranos’ versions of Dido’s lament (Purcell). Hard to stop, since nearly every one revealed new things to me or just took me to some unique and wonderful place (once again for the first time — don’t care if I sound like an ad-writer). Purcell and Tate (libretto — amazing, the marriage of words and music).
    So here. No need to choose between versions or rank them, can let them all take me to some new place, many imbued with previous experience, others new (but never completely new, now that I’ve had previous experience) .
    But let’s give a special nod here to the gift of the composer and librettist, who (singular or plural) set a wonderful gift in motion.

  • sherparick

    I am old enough to be rediscovering Fairport Convention for a second time. The band has good web site and they are making new music.

    (I have a ethnic weakness for Irish, Scot, Welch and Englisth folk, which leads to Bluegrass. Ah, the joys of a good murder ballad! Also, will always talk us Steve Goodman, who was distant neigbor growing up in Park Ridge, Illinois. I should have linked to “Lincoln Park Pirates” on “Talk like a Pirate Day.”

  • Cody

    I’m going to shamelessly input my favorite band, Guster because I don’t know of any of these bands you speak.

    But who doesn’t love a Jewish singer making fun of religion in like half his songs?

  • hylen

    A great song to be sure. My two cents: The Judy Collins version is tough to top.

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