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  • The late Sandy Denny was by consensus the greatest vocalist to emerge from the British folk-rock scene, a singer blessed with an instrument that was gentle but never fragile, clear and subtle but capable of tremendous emotional range. While Denny did much of her best work with the group Fairport Convention, and also cut fine records with the Strawbs and Fotheringay, she recorded a handful of memorable albums on her own, and The Lady: The Essential Sandy Denny collects 15 songs from her solo output. The Lady gets off to a somewhat shaky start, with a BBC radio recording of her signature tune "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" that's fine but inferior to the definitive version she recorded with the Strawbs, and then "I'm a Dreamer," a lovely song that unfortunately also demonstrates how the overblown production of Denny's final album, 1977's Rendezvous, ran counter to what best served her music. But as a compact overview of Denny's solo work, The Lady serves its purpose quite well. Her four post-Fairport solo albums are all represented here, as well as two tracks recorded for John Peel's BBC radio show in 1973 (including a glorious version of "Solo"), and the songs run the gamut from the austere traditional folk of "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" to the grand-scale pop of "All Our Days," with the bittersweet beauty of Denny's voice on glorious display throughout. Those interested in a thorough study of Denny's music would be better served with the excellent multi-disc sets No More Sad Refrains: The Anthology or Who Knows Where the Time Goes, but if you desire a more compact introduction to her work, The Lady boasts a handful of brilliant performances that confirm why so many rate her work so highly.
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