When the late Trevor Lucas and Joe Boyd put together the first Sandy Denny box set in 1985 (the 4LP set Who Knows Where The Time Goes?), it raised the bar considerably in the world of career retrospectives: well-chosen album tracks, unreleased masters, radio sessions, live tracks and home demos. Also, a large amount of Sandy's back catalogue had been deleted in 1983 - at that time in the UK you could only get The Original Sandy Denny, the three Fairport classics and Live Convention, although you could still pick up Fotheringay, Northstar and Sandy on A&M as imports. So this set was the only source for the most of the previously issued tracks.
By the time Fledgling issued the second Sandy box in 2004, the 5CD A Boxful Of Treasures, all of Sandy's catalogue was available, so the goal of this set was to delve further into the unreleased well. Although perhaps not as well packaged as the first box, it certainly was a box full of treasures, and Sandy fans around the world rightly assumed that this would be the final word in terms of digging up great material.
This much lauded third and final box is truly a revelation: 19CD's (individually designed with a pic of Sandy taken at the time of which the music was recorded), a 70-page coffee table book full of fascinating photos (often better than the images of Sandy we are used to) and the most all-round attention to detail. A lot of glass half-empty hot air has been pumped about regarding the retail price so we shall skip over this and get straight to why everyone should pick this set up, whether you are a long-standing fan or a casual newcomer. The only way I feel I can do this however is to give a very brief description of each CD and of course pay attention to as many of the new items as I can, as there are over 100 unreleased tracks.
Disc 1 - All the recordings she made for Saga Records, including the re-recorded superior versions issued later.
2 - Collects all the tracks she made with The Strawbs, including the versions issued later with overdubbed strings. This CD also contains all 4 tracks from the very obscure Swedish Fly Girls soundtrack, making their first appearance since the record was issued (three years after the soundtrack was recorded) in 1972.
3 - Most of What We Did On Our Holidays and the whole of Unhalfbricking. There's two unreleased items: an alternate version of Mr. Lacey with Sandy on lead vocal and a different vocal take of Autopsy.
4 - All of Liege and Lief minus the Jigs and Reels. Two unreleased tracks: Come All Ye (Take 1) and Matty Groves (Take 1), the latter rocks much harder than the official version in the second part of the song.
5 - Most of Fotheringay and Fotheringay 2 plus previously issued bonus tracks.
6 - Northstar Grassman and The Ravens and the Sandy vocals from The Bunch. Some previously issued bonus tracks are included.
7 - The Sandy album, plus some bonus tracks like the Pass Of Arms soundtrack. Two unreleased tracks: A slightly longer different take of For Nobody To Hear with some great guitar work from RT, and The Music Weaver without strings.
8 - Like An Old Fashioned Waltz - most of the bonus tracks are previously unreleased: versions of Solo and Like An Old Fashioned Waltz without strings, plus alternate takes of Friends, Dark The Night and No End.
9 - Sandy's vocals from Live Convention and Rising For The moon. Three great unreleased tracks: alternate versions of One More Chance, White Dress and Dawn. The latter definitely deserves a mention and is far superior to the version issued on the original record.
10 - Rendezvous. Three unreleased tracks: versions of I'm A Dreamer and No More Sad Refrains without strings plus a full-length version of All Our Days (Island requested that the intro be cut). Also on this CD is the version of Full Moon with Swarb on viola.
11 - Gold Dust Live at the Royalty - the final night of Sandy's final tour.
Then it gets really interesting...
12 - The Early Home Demos - most are unreleased. These are fantastic recordings which give evidence to Sandy's brilliant early guitar playing (she became slack when she joined Fairport). Too many highlights to mention.
13 - More early BBC stuff discovered since the release of Live At The BBC, plus various Fairport tracks issued over the years on compilations and as bonus tracks. Of note is the Swarb-less VERY heavy version of A Sailor's Life featuring some astonishing guitar from RT, and solo Sandy takes of Fotheringay and She Moves Through The Fair from the What We Did On Our Holidays sessions.
14 - Lots of unreleased Fotheringay treats: highlights for me are superb demos of The Sea and Winter Winds plus more tracks from the 1970 Holland Pop Festival making an appearance for the first time such as Trouble (a great country rock duet with Trevor) and The Sea.
15 - A number of Northstar tracks in fascinating demo form, plus a duet with Richard Thompson (Walking The Floor Over You). For those who have always wondered what it would be like to hear Sandy sing The Cherry Tree Carol (aka The 12th of Never), you'll find it here. And let's not forget Lord Bateman - a track thought lost forever as searches through the Island vaults in 1975 for The Electric Muse set and in 2003 for the Boxful Of Treasures set failed to find it. Compiler Andrew Batt luckily listened to every reel regardless of what was written on it and found this amazing take which will convert or reconvert the traddies.
16 - The whole of the classic Sandy album is demo form. Highlights for me are her cover of Tomorrow Is A Long Time plus a haunting Quiet Joys of Brotherhood complete with a drone being played on a harmonium or organ.
17 - The 1974 LA Troubadour shows - superior performances have been taken from different shows to give the best results. Great stuff, and mixed superbly, unlike the dry soundboard mixes issued earlier. In addition there are two interviews with Sandy - both from 1974 - one with John Peel (you can tell from the interview that they were friends) and one with BBC Manchester.
18 - A number of unreleased tracks from the Rendezvous sessions. Great versions of classics such as One Way Donkey Ride, and two tracks from Marc Ellington's Grampian TV "Marc Time " show from 1975.
19 - All the Byfield demos collected together, including an unreleased brilliant demo of I'm A Dreamer. Why this wasn't issued before instead of the plodding demo issued on Boxful Of Treasures I'll never know. Great piano work here from Sandy too with a superior finish.
If you haven't read this far I presume that's because you left after clicking "Add to basket". If you have read this far, then I suggest you now do the same.