Top positive review
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The summertime's escaping and the carnival's away
on 3 March 2015
Good morning, good afternoon
and what have you got to say?
Well I'm waiting, but I can't stay long,
it's such a lovely day
How I would love to award this a full five stars, but a combination of too many saccharine strings, the odd plodding arrangement, and one too many Ink Spots covers renders this third solo album from 1973 by the immortal Sandy a mostly beautiful but occasionally frustrating experience.
Island had two brilliant orchestral arrangers they tended to call on: Robert Kirby for Nick Drake, and Harry Robinson, whose arrangements on most of these songs are in fact superb, but not always as welcome as they might be. (Have a listen to the stringless extra tracks to hear the difference.)
However, this sumptuous record opens with a stunning classic. Simply called Solo, it's one of Sandy's greatest songs and most assured performances, with a riveting accompaniment, in particular the crisp, incisive drumming of Dave Mattacks whose varied thwacks and subtle beats before each chorus - and what a chorus! - are as thrilling as anything by Bonham or Moon. It's a glorious song that I never tire of hearing.
I've just gone - solo
Do you play - solo
Ain't life a solo
The title track is where the strings really come into their own, and they actually complement a lush, romantic song by Sandy which is both touching and stately, just like the lady herself could be at times.
There are two Ink Spots songs (and I grew up with my parents' 78s of many of them) and Sandy sings them well, but no more than that. For me, they dilute the album as surely as did her ill-advised, shoddy Dylan and Brenda Lee covers on her first solo LP.
The other songs are all vintage Denny compositions, with the long and langorous Carnival, the more urgent Dark the Night, and the excellent Friends and No End all standout songs.
At the End of the Day is a song that, on the original LP version, drags a bit, but listen to her acoustic alternate take and the song is transformed. Again and again Sandy sounds best with minimal backing, or simply her own piano or guitar.
The other extra tracks are more than a mere bonus, filling out an already lovely disc that only falters in its over-reliance on too-fulsome arrangements and the inclusion of unnecessary old standards that only go to prove how perfect she was at singing her own.
What a wonderful way to live,
she's travelling all over the world
Why, the fame and all the golden opportunities unfurled
This is still a lovely album to own, to play (solo or otherwise), and to cherish. It's still Sandy, still essential...
I've always lived in a mansion
on the other side of the moon.
I've always kept a unicorn
and I never sing out of tune
We've all gone - solo
We all play - solo
Ain't life a solo