Artist/ Band: Sandy Denny
Title: Under Review (DVD)
Year of Release: 2006
Artist/ Band Link (click for details/ ordering)

The Review:

Sexy Intellectual in conjunction with MVD Visual has created a video chronicle documenting the life of Sandy Denny, one of Britain ’s finest vocalist and songwriters of her generation.

Many unfamiliar with the British folk/rock scene may not recognize her name, but Sandy Denny was one of the most influential artists of the era and continues to inspire today; her early work with such groups as The Strawbs and Fairport Convention helped to shape the evolution of traditional British folk music into electric folk/rock.

Her angelic voice and songwriting skills broke with the established tradition, opening the way for current new age artists and Celtic groups such as Loreena McKennitt, Maire Brennan and Clannad, Enya, Iona , and Cherish The Ladies. Snippets of rare concert footage and studio recordings of her work with Fairport Convention are captured on this DVD – as well as numerous solo recordings.

Sandy Denny was a vibrant personality who seemed to be one step away from mainstream stardom, but a series of unfortunate career moves dictated by her heart and the ever shifting music market kept her from attaining International prominence outside the folk/rock circle.

That having been said, keep in mind British folk music was enormously popular in the early 60s’ – there were nearly 400 folk clubs in London alone. So Denny’s reputation within the movement brought her to the attention of the throngs of adoring fans.

But even though the whole British electric folk/rock movement was fueled by American artist Bob Dylan it never attained the furor in the US that other artists from the 60s’ British Invasion inspired - which may explain why someone with Denny’s enormous talent could be obscured.

At the age of 18 she was performing in assorted folk clubs throughout the city when she caught the attention of David Cousin’s of The Strawbs, and was immediately asked to join his group. She stayed with the band long enough to record a single album, then moved on to pursue a solo career. The Strawbs went on to establish themselves in the progressive rock arena, and are still performing today.

Denny later found herself wishing to expand traditional folk music and further embrace the electric elements of folk rock, and decided the best way to accomplish this was within the framework of an established band rather than continue as solo artist. In a strange twist of fate Fairport Convention was in the process of auditioning vocalists to replace Judy Dyble, so Denny used this opportunity to turn the tables, and in essence, audition Fairport Convention to see if they could meet her musical aspirations.

Rhythm guitarist Simon Nicol commented on Denny’s audition by stating, “She stood out like a crystal glass in a sink full of dirty dishes.”

Although Sandy Denny was blessed with the voice of an angel she lived the life of a rock and roll party girl – an amalgamation of Joan Baez and Janis Joplin - and this hard drinking lifestyle is believed to have contributed to her untimely death, as a result of a head injury from a fall.

The DVD is touted as being “The Ultimate Review And Critical Analysis Of The Music And Career Of Sandy Denny” – and it may well be … but by its very nature, the disc is utterly boring to sit through.

Unless you happen to be a student of folk music doing your thesis on the career of Sandy Denny you’ll find this to be too analytical and talky. Its chockfull of exclusive interviews by folk scholars, journalists, and musicians who performed with Denny over the course of her career, but Denny would have been better served with less banter and more uninterrupted performance footage to allow the uninitiated viewer to judge for them self the musical magic that was Sandy Denny.

I’m quite aware that this DVD is meant to be an appraisal of Denny’s career by a panel of ‘renown’ experts and musical peers – but I found myself drifting like a kid with A.D.D. in desperate need of Riddlin.

There is much to be learned from this in depth analysis, and my interest has been piqued enough to seek out the early Fairport Convention CDs as a result – but my main complaint is the incessant interruptions during the actual performances. Let the songs play out and speak for themselves … and only then comment on the performance.

I don’t believe a single song is performed in its entirety, which is a travesty, considering the rare footage unearthed for this retrospective. Well … maybe that’s forthcoming.

I can’t rate this DVD since it was more like attending a lecture. But I can’t help but feel that I’ll be tested and graded later.

Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on January 18th, 2007

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