Sandy Denny's moment of truth

Robin Denselow - Daily Telegraph , 03 September 1973, (Published 05 September 1973)

By the time Sandy Denny, the young English singer, ended her concert at the Howff, Regent's Park Road, in the early hours of yesterday, she had created an occasion which lovers of good contemporary songs, beautifully sung, will long remember and cherish. It was one of those happenings that critics dream of but rarely experience, when a good but hitherto erratic singer suddenly takes off, carrying her audience with her, on the kind of trip that singing is really all about. It was, in fact, Sandy Denny's moment of truth.

When she first appeared in the folk clubs and on concert platforms Miss Denny was both over-praised and under-valued. Since then she has lived through many changes and uncertainties and has written a number of excellent songs. Now the uncertainties seem to be behind, and she has emerged with her own voice, spinning her own incantatory magic out of her modest, self-depreciating self.

In some of her songs at the Howff, particularly 'Solo', 'No End' and, and its own way, 'Like an Old Fashioned Waltz', talent became genius and there were glimpses of depths which few other singers have revealed to us.

The haunting beauty of Sandy Denny

Martin Walker - The Guardian, 03 September 1973, (Published 04 September 1973)

A WOMAN alone. Herself, a piano - whatever spell they can weave. It is the hardest task of any entertainer. It means a fragile dependence upon the quality of each and every song. In concert, each phrase must balance, each note must tell, each crescendo must stun. There can be no skulking behind a heavy bass section, no lagging in the chorus. There is a raw point of utter solitude from which a woman soloist must perform.

Miss Denny gripped us last night from her first song, the one which is supremely hers, 'Late November'. And she sings the hard way; no saccharine sweetness, no winsome, fey appeal to the high notes and our better natures. At times one hears courage and at times her voice conveys an almost telepathic sense of blunt pain.

The only woman I have heard who could compel an audience in this blunt and harshly loving way was Janis Joplin. There is point to the comparison. The greatest slide guitarist of our (and perhaps any) time Sun House, once said that only when you heard a good woman sing the blues did you know how gentle the blues could be. Janis Joplin sang blues in their savagery and in their tenderness. What Miss Denny sings may not be the blues. Sweet melancholy yes. Haunting beauty yes. It is part of the blues and a part of a part of a tradition that goes centuries back before folk music. Miss Denny has had an erratic career. When she is on form she can out-sing any female artist and move an audience to a point that is beyond tears. She was on form last night.

Sandy: One of our greatest vocal talents

Rev Anderson - Music Week, 03 September 1973, (Published 15 September 1973)

IN ONE of her now rare concert appearances in Britain, Sandy Denny came to the Howff last week and proved in just over an hour that she really is one of today's greatest vocal talents. She has complete and utter control over her strong if sometimes strange voice and at times, when seated at the piano, she sounded just a little like a female Gilbert O'Sullivan.

She sings her own material. Traditional songs seem to have been deleted from her repertoire, but she did conclude the evening with 'Until The Real Thing Comes along', a jazz standard from the 30s.

Most memorable were two new songs, hopefully both to be included on her forthcoming album. They were 'Solo', a difficult song, she said, in the "every man is an island'" mould describing how life is a solo performance by each individual, and 'Like an Old Fashioned Waltz', a tribute to nostalgia

Sandy can do no wrong...

Karl Dallas - Melody Maker, 03 September 1973, (Published 08 September 1973)

Sandy, from here on you can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. On Monday at London's Howff you did what I've always known you could do. You gave a completely flawless performance in which every single song was a minor masterpiece - no, I withdraw that word minor - and you did it completely on your own.

It's been nearly a year since we saw you properly, but it was well worth waiting for.

The emotion in your singing was almost unbearable at times, particularly in your very fine new song, 'Solo', with its poignant autobiographical theme, "ain't life a solo".

Indeed it is. But when you can carry an audience along with you this way you are actually less alone than when you used to pack the stage with friends to give you moral support.

Your encore, 'Until The Real Thing Comes Along', was superb, a quiet, gentle way of saying goodbye. Until the next concert tour comes along. Let it be soon.

Sandy Denny at The Howff

Austin John Marshall - NME, 03 September 1973, (Published 15 September 1973)

THE AUDIENCE looks a little warmer, younger and hairier tonight than the customary Howff fringe-theatre crowd who usually yap in cultured Hampstead tones through musical 'turns'. But tonight the whole evening has been set aside for paying respects to Sandy Denny as she returns to do her first London club gig since longer than most can remember.

The lucky ones get seats: the rest stand - and it's only 8.15. The music press, Guardian and Telegraph are piling up the empty wine bottles, whilst Al Stewart, Carolanne Pegg and the Gandalph-bearded Viv Stanshall can be seen hovering in and out of the bar.

At last - here's Sandy - looking succulent in a long green figure-hugging flower print. A measure of nervousness escapes in her slightly paranoid/Cockney humour but she settles down at the Steinway hired at £50 - hence the entry price of a quid a nob). Then her eyes close, her face turns up to the light and she's into 'Late November'.

The audience are so completely with her that she has them from the first moment.

Actually she could have sung The Yellow Pages or nursery rhymes and made them sound like and archetypal tragedy - such is her expressiveness in performance, beauty of voice and conviction of mood in her music.

But, of course, it's mostly Sandy Denny originals - the held-back power and breadth of the sea, and brooding storm clouds - a typical Sandy Denny song is the musical equivalent of a Turner painting. A succession of favorites spiral up round the paper lanterns. One new song - 'Solo' - touches in a very sharp way on the topic of contemporary personal isolation. And once - in 'John The Gun' - she lets rip a taste of her potential power, almost overloading the PA.

The management have turned off the cooling fans to cut down background noise, and by the time Sandy is called loudly back for an encore her fringe is pasted to her forehead and she's gasping for air in the heat. But she bounces up to give us Fats Waller's standard 'Until The Real Thing Comes Along'. It did Sandy, it did.