Friday, November 04, 2011
Here is my (English) song for the asking
In a recent post fellow blogger David Derrick expressed the opinion that Noel Coward, together with Britten and the Beatles, was the greatest English songwriter of the twentieth century. Which is a refreshing view, but a new ECM release highlights another pretender to the title. On her CD If Grief Could Wait Norwegian indie rock singer Susanna Wallumrød punctuates eight airs from the greatest English songwriter of the 17th century Henry Purcell with a song by Nick Drake and examples from Leonard Cohen plus one from her own pen - Nick is seen above at a photo opportunity with Henry Purcell, I wonder if they used the same hair stylist? Nick Drake's reputation as a great English songwriter is now at the post-cult phase, but there is another Joe Boyd protégée whose time has still to come.
Vashti Bunyan, seen below, was discovered by Joe Boyd in 1968 while travelling by gypsy caravan to the Isle of Skye and she joined Fairport Convention, The Incredible String band and Nick Drake in Boyd's Witchseason stable of artists. On her first album Just Another Diamond Day she was backed by members of Fairport and the Incredibles while Nick Drake's arranger Robert Kirby also contributed. Despite this sprinkling of stardust the album bombed at the tills and Vashti departed the music industry. She lived the alternative life in Scotland and Ireland for thirty years while, unknown to her, the deleted record became a cult item with examples reputedly selling on eBay for up to $2000.
Things started to change with the dawn of the new millenium. In 2000 Just Another Diamond Day was transferred to CD, in 2005 Vashti's second album Lookaftering was released and in 2006 a New York Press profile dubbed her 'the godmother of freak folk'. Both her studio albums are well worth seeking out. It is easy to dismiss Just Another Diamond Day as a hippie chick's hopelessly naïve paean to the hermetic lifestyle, but the naïvety is no more hopeless that that of our Murdoch hugging and Gadaffi consorting politicians. Lookaftering has an appealing mellowness born of extended exposure to the wiles of the record industry. In recent years the hermetic has met the commercial with Vashti Bunyan songs providing soundtracks for T-Mobile, Reebok and Samsung commercials - I am sure Noel Coward would have approved.
* More in I am a camera- St Tropez 1967
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