One CD of this two-CD package is made up of needle drops of restored acetates and old 45s, surface noise evident in spite of attempts at noise reduction. The other CD is a bare-butt session of demos, just guitar and voice, complete with spoken song title intros, the occasional interruption from the sound booth and a string of extemporaneous noises which include guitar sleeve noise, accidental bumps of the guitar and shifting body noises. I mean, sound isn't my thing, but come on.
So somebody please tell me why I like this so much. I mean, the title track, Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, frizzes out on the s's, Wishwanderer has surface noise like rhythm tracks from a different recording (it is, not surprisingly, one of the restored acetates), and the twelve demos from Bunyan's 1964 demo sessions, with their song-title intros, catch even the occasional breathy vocal gaffs of the one-take variety. Yet I sit here, eyes closed, listening to these songs over and over, floating back to the magical days of folk-pop of the British variety (early- to mid-60s) when Marianne Faithfull and Sandie Shaw topped the British charts while struggling to gain any respect stateside, wondering how Vashti Bunyan became myth rather than legend.
There seems to be something more there than the voice or the song. Her voice, in fact, comes off somewhat disconnected to the song. There is a vocal apathy, a sort of anti-Aretha technique, which sounds like either Patience or Prudence ten years later as a solo, albeit with superior material. It is eerie, but maybe that is the allure. Maybe it is an unidentifiable innocence in the face of reality that makes each track a scene from a Hollywood movie of the period, long-haired and mustachioed Adonis racing slow-motion toward beautiful long-haired girl in a field of daisies. Maybe it's just the lack of presumption (yes, attitude does make a difference sometimes).
Whatever it is, it works. And it should have worked. Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind may be the focal track, and it is good enough to have received massive airplay with the right break back in the day, but the rest of the tracks stand out as well. The two versions of "Winter Is Blue" are as different as can be, the first presented the full production version and the second simpler and more low key, but they are the same song and each could have scored. Same with Girl's Song In Winter and Don't Believe (listed as Don't Believe What They Say in the demo session).
In spite of what Bunyan wants us to believe, this is folk. Well, actually folk-psych, to my ears. But it is pop, too. In her liner notes, she writes (about the demos) "...I thought that they could prove once and for all that I was not (and am not) a folk singer. These were my pop songs, mostly written when I was an eighteen-year-old art student&mdashj;with great pop arrangements in my head that never happened." Perhaps now that she is creating a career decades later, the folk stigma is something she wants to avoid, but she has nothing to be ashamed of here. The music may sound dated in terms of style, but it is a style which has never really gone out of date. In fact, I do believe that Vashti Bunyan deserves her legend status. This is good stuff, surface noise and all.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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