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The North Star Grassman and the Ravens

Sandy Denny: The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (ILPS 9165)

The North Star Grassman and the Ravens
Sandy Denny

Island ILPS 9165 (LP, UK, September 1971)
A&M Records SP 4317 (LP, USA, 1971)
King Records AML 1011 (LP, Japan, January 1972)
Island ILPM 9165 (’25 Years Collection’ reissue) (LP, UK, November 1986)
Island IMCD 133 (CD, UK, July 1991)
Island IMCD 313 (CD, UK, May 2005)
Island 533 405-8 (Deluxe Edition) (2 CD, UK, June 2011)
Proper Records UMCLP006 (LP, UK, 23 September 2022)

Sandy Denny: The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (Island IMCD 313)

Produced by Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and John Wood;
Recorded by John Wood at Sound Techniques, Basing Street and Air Studios, May 1971


Sandy Denny Sandy Denny: vocals, piano, acoustic guitar;
Jerry Donahue: electric guitar;
Richard Thompson: 12-string, electric and acoustic guitar, bass, accordion, vocals;
Trevor Lucas: acoustic guitar, backing vocals;
Buddy Emmons: pedal steel guitar;
Pat Donaldson, Tony Reeves: bass;
Gerry Conway, Roger Powell: drums;
Ian Whiteman: piano, flute organ;
Barry Dransfield: violin, backing vocals;
Royston Wood, Robin Dransfield: backing vocals;
Strings arranged by Harry Robinson


Side 1

  1. Late November (4.28)
  2. Blackwaterside (Roud 312; Laws O1; Henry H811) (4.12)
  3. The Sea Captain (3.09)
  4. Down in the Flood (3.20)
  5. John the Gun (4.38)

Side 2

  1. Next Time Around (4.26)
  2. The Optimist (3.24)
  3. Let’s Jump the Broomstick (2.42)
  4. Wretched Wilbur (2.38)
  5. The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (3.27)
  6. Crazy Lady Blues (3.22)

All tracks Sandy Denny except
Track 2 trad.
Track 4 Bob Dylan
Track 8 Charles Robins

Bonus tracks of the 2005 CD reissue:

  1. Late November (alternative mix) (4.28)
    previously released on El Pea
  2. Walking the Floor Over You [Ernest Tubb] (studio session out-take) (4.18)
    previously released on Who Knows Where the Time Goes
  3. Losing Game [James Carr, Denny Weaver] (studio session out-take) (3.25)
    previously released on The Attic Tracks 1972-1984
  4. Next Time Around (alternative version without strings) (4.45)
    previously released on A Boxful of Treasures

Bonus tracks of the 2011 Deluxe Edition CD reissue:

  1. Next Time Around (demo) (4.26)
  2. Walking the Floor Over You [Ernest Tubb] (duet with Richard Thompson) (5.09)
  3. Lord Bateman (Roud 40; Child 53L; G/D 5:1023; Henry H470) (instrumental backing) (4.25)
  4. If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes [Ian Matthews] (duet with Ian Matthews) (2.37)

CD 2 of the 2011 Deluxe Edition reissue:

  1. The Sea Captain (demo) (3.14)
  2. The Optimist (demo) (4.31)
  3. Wretched Wilbur (demo) (2.37)
  4. Crazy Lady Blues (demo) (3.32)
  5. Lord Bateman (Roud 40; Child 53L; G/D 5:1023; Henry H470) (demo) (6.13)
  6. Late November (4.31)
  7. The Lowlands of Holland (Roud 484; G/D 6:1116; Henry H180) (3.18)
  8. Blackwaterside (Roud 312; Laws O1; Henry H811) (3.38)
  9. The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (3.42)
  10. Bruton Town (Roud 18; Laws M32) (4.45)
  11. Next Time Around (4.46)
  12. John the Gun (3.13)

CD 2 Tracks 1-5: demos, previously released on the Sandy Denny Box;
CD 2 Tracks 6-7: BBC Radio 1 “Sounds of the Seventies”, host Bob Harris, rec. 24 August 1971, bc. 6 September 1971;
CD 2 Track 8: BBC Radio 1 “Sounds on Sunday”, host Johnny Moran, rec. 14 November 1972, bc. 3 December 1972;
CD 2 Track 9-12: BBC Radio 1 “In Concert”, Paris Theatre, London, host Bob Harris, rec. 16 March 1972, bc. 25 March 1972;
All BBC track were previously releases on The BBC Sessions 1971-73


[from some Matt on the 2011 “deluxe” reissue; found on Amazon]

Am I the only one who’s sick of Island milking Sandy’s catalog like this?

Chances are, if you’re a fan, this will be as much as your *fourth* time buying this album on CD (not to mention any purchases on vinyl, tape, or whatever), all for another handful of bonus tracks:

  1. First, there was the initial CD release—admittedly, this one was a little flat sounding, and needed a redo. Fair enough.

  2. So then there was the 2005 remaster, which improved the sound greatly and added a few bonus tracks. It was, arguably, worth the upgrade.

  3. Then, last year, there was the giant box set. Lots of unreleased material, yes, but in order to get all of that unreleased material, you had to buy not only all of Sandy’s solo albums again, but also butchered versions of her albums with Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, and The Strawbs (I’m sure that Sandy never intended for us to listen to only her tracks in isolation like that without the contributions from the other band members). The problem with this, of course, being that chances are if you were interested enough to drop that much cash on a box set, you had more than likely already purchased all of that material on CD (most of it twice or more). I know that for me, 11 of the 19 discs were made up mostly of material that I already had. That in itself was utterly ridiculous, if you ask me—I skipped it, because as much as I wanted the new material, I didn’t feel like I could support that.

  4. But now, we come to this “deluxe” reissue, which is in a way even worse. I don’t have it yet (and I’m having a great internal debate over whether to support it or not), but looking at the track listing posted here on Amazon… It’s lacking all of the bonus tracks from the 2005 reissue, so I can’t simply replace that disc on my shelf with it. Several of the bonus tracks that come with it are on the box set, but there are a number of tracks associated with this album on the box set which are not included here, meaning that someone who missed the box set because it was so limited or skipped it because of cost or other issues still isn’t getting everything (and, of course, that someone who did buy the box is buying the material that is on here again less than a year later). Most of the rest of the bonus tracks are already on the Live at the BBC box. For those who own all of those, though (can’t forget them), there’s exactly one track on here that isn’t on any of those other releases. Feeling completist, anyone?

So what is the point to this release, if not simply another cash grab on Island’s part? If this does well, can we expect to pay a premium for “deluxe” editions of the other albums with a small smattering of new bonus tracks as well? When are we, as fans, going to stand up to Island and say enough is enough, already?

Don’t get me wrong—like any fan of Sandy’s unfortunately limited catalog, I want any new material that I can get. But I don’t want it like this. I’d be happy to purchase a collection of entirely “new” material (even just the demos, live versions, etc. that make up the bonus tracks on these releases) without a doubt, but I don’t want to keep buying the same albums over and over again.

Quit being greedy, Island.