Just think of how many millions of people there are who have heard Sandy Denny sing only one song. That would be when she sang "The Battle of Evermore" with Robert Plant on "Led Zeppelin VI." For far too many people Sandy Denny was reduced to being a Led Zep trivia question, the same way that Merry Clayton was for the Stones for singing on "Gimme Shelter." But Sandy Denny was the pre-eminent female English folk singer of her generation, whether it was fronting groups such as Fairport Convention and Fotheringay, recording with them as she did with the Strawbs, or producing solo albums as she did with this simply titled effort from 1972. For those who want to know more about the woman who recorded "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" before Judy Collins (or before 10,000 Maniacs if you are Generation-X rather than a Baby Boomer), this is a good place to start.
"Sandy" was Denny's second album after leaving Fairport Convention, and is something of a transitional effort in that she is still singing in what we would call the traditional manner of a folk singer, but with attention being paid to the arrangements and instrumentation that are more sophisticated. Listen to a song such as "Listen, Listen," where the mandolin is reinforced by the sound of strings to evidence the point. But at this point it is a traditional song, like "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood," done in layered a cappella by Denny, but with a violin solo at the end by Dave Swarbrick, that stands out although obviously it is something she could not do in concert. The only other non-original song on the album is a cover of Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," which provides another opportunity to compare Denny and Collins signing the same song. Denny latter did a live version that had much more of a country twang. For that matter, go back and check out Bert Jansch's version of "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" for a different but equally compelling version of that song. Once you start getting into the British folk music scene you are going to find plenty to listen to for quite some time.
Other standout tracks on this album are the first one, "It'll Take a Long Time," the story of John the Gypsy in "It Suits Me Well," and "The Lady," which produces the production values about as far as I want to go when listening to Sandy Denny sing. It terms of presenting original compositions, "Sandy" is far and away the best of Denny's albums. I also like this period of Denny's work, when things are still relatively simple. This is a five star album without the bonus tracks, but there are five fo them including a French language version of "Ecoute, Ecoute," and "It'll Take a Long Time" done live with Fairport Convention. Unfortunately, Denny would die at the age of 31 in 1977 as a result of injuries sustained when falling down stairs. Of course, that does not have the cache of the drug overdoses that claimed so many stars of her generation, otherwise we would have more reason to be listening to Denny's songs today. There are several solid collections honoring Denny's body of work, but that is much to be said for the stellar simplicity of this particular solo album.