July 2021 update: my regular readers will know I am refreshing and tidying old entries in the vast Salut! Live archive. This is an item I can think of no way of enhancing beyond maybe adding an image and correcting a deal link. Sad to recall that Sandy Denny had left Fairport Convention - albeit later to return - by the time the incomparable Liege and Lief album was released in 1969 ….
For this latest in Salut! Live's Song of the Day Revisited exercise, I have decided to let my choice from the original series stand as it was written then, back in the summer of 2007.
I hope you enjoy it ...
Chis While, photographed by Roger Liptrot for his folkimages site
In August 2007, having just received a phone call that would lure me to Abu Dhabi for 18 months, I attended what I now regard as the best gig of my life.
It involved standing in a field on a Friday night in Oxfordshire as Fairport Convention recreated, track by track, the 1969 album Liege and Lief.
This clip, featuring Crazy Man Michael, is taken from that performance.
Thanks are due to Sam Nitzberg who alerted me at the Talkawhile forums to this recording "with the corrected aspect ratio, and marginally better sound" than the clip, also his, which originally appeared here.
The idea of that part of the 2007 Cropredy fetsival was to re-assemble the band that made the record, with one obvious absence that is still painful to recall, and reproduce the sound 38 years on.
Jef Aerosol's wonderful image of Sandy Denny
So what to do about the irreplaceable?
How can you approach such a project without Sandy Denny, who died tragically young in 1978?
I could have pondered the questions for hours and still failed to suggest a name.
But the band came up with one, and what an astonishingly good choice they made.
Chris While sang her heart out, applying her own towering vocal gifts to the task of "being" Sandy for one part of one night.
Her efforts provided the missing piece of the jigsaw, the contributions from the five men who were in the 1969 line-up - Simon Nicol, Ashley Hutchings, Dave Swarbrick, Richard Thompson and Dave Mattacks - reaching the high standards expected.
At Salut! Live a few days later I wrote this of Chris While's role:
When I described her performance to a friend two days later, he replied: "Knowing your view of Sandy, and of other attempts to imitate or act as substitute for her, that is some test for her to have passed."
He was right. I can think of no one better equipped to have handled the crucial vocal role of the album; she oozed affection and respect for the musical event in which she was participating and frequently sounded like Sandy.
I remember Ashley Hutchings introducing the concert and pointing out that there would be no encore, just each track of Liege and Lief played in the original order.
It was a wonderful, uplifting occasion, made all the more enjoyable for me by the sight of fans of pretty much all ages standing in that field on a lovely August evening and singing along with every word.
Four years later (now seven - CR), I am proud to present one of the songs, from the mighty pen of Richard Thompson, as today's Song of the Day.
* You can buy a remastered "deluxe" edition of Liege and Lief, with Sandy of course, at this Salut! Live Amazon link.
** And here, for the sake of completeness, is Crazy Man Michael as sung by the magnificent Sandy...