Like an Old Fashioned Waltz is the third solo album by English folk rock singer Sandy Denny, released in June 1974. The album featured a more pop and jazz influenced production style, a marked change from Denny’s previous folk rock albums as lead vocalist for Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, The Strawbs and as a solo artist.
Although Denny originally hoped to tour in support of the album, difficulties with Island Records delayed its release from autumn 1973 to June 1974, by which time she had rejoined Fairport Convention
The 1972 album Sandy failed to cross over to mass market success, a fact which greatly disappointed Denny; she had recently decided that she desired to be received as a notable music act along the ranks of Led Zeppelin or The Who, two bands Denny had performed with as a guest vocalist. Denny decided that in order to establish her solo career, a record appealing to a new audience was required.
The songs on Like an Old Fashioned Waltz saw Denny refining her songwriting craft, on a nostalgic panoramic song-cycle detailing many of her personal preoccupations: loss, loneliness, fear of the dark, the passing of time and the changing seasons.
Like an Old Fashioned Waltz features covers of several jazz songs remembered from her father’s record collection, including The Inkspots’ “Whispering Grass” and Fats Waller’s “Until The Real Thing Comes Along”. Around this time, it was rumored that Denny was considering recording an album solely consisting of jazz standards (or possibly an entire cover album of songs written by The Inkspots), but the record never materialized.
Work begun on the album whilst Denny was still promoting her previous LP Sandy. The first track recorded was “No End” at Walthamstow Assembly Hall on 3 December 1972 in a solo version accompanying herself on the piano (later abandoned in favour of a new recording with a band and strings). Denny embarked on a month long tour of the US in April 1973, stopping at A&M Records’ studios to record four songs; “Friends, Solo, At the End of the Day” and the new version of “No End” prior to a week-long residency at The Troubador in Los Angeles.
After a tour of Europe throughout June and July, sessions for the album resumed at Sound Techniques in London in August where the remaining tracks were recorded; “Carnival, Like an Old Fashioned Waltz, Dark the Night” and the two jazz standards “Whispering Grass” and “Until the Real Thing Comes Along”. Harry Robinson added string arrangements to many of the tracks.
The album was originally issued in an embossed gatefold sleeve styled in the colours described in the album’s title track (primrose, yellow and velvet green) and designed to look like an antique plate, with a floral motif drawn by Denny herself. The cover photograph by Gered Mankowitz depicts Denny in an old style image in the Edwardian style. The album’s lyrics were reproduced in the gatefold.
Several weeks after Like an Old Fashioned Waltz had been recorded, Sandy Denny married longtime boyfriend and bandmate Trevor Lucas on 20 September 1973 at Fulham Registry Office. Shortly afterward, she put together a band comprising Pat Donaldson, Hughie Burns and Willie Murray, with intent to do an extensive tour in support of the album. The group recorded a session for BBC Radio on 14 November 1973 and also played a brief four-date tour around that time.
However, the release of Like an Old Fashioned Waltz was delayed from Fall 1973 to June 1974, by which time Denny had rejoined Fairport Convention. Several songs from the album were regularly played during the Fairport tour that year.
Songs from Like an Old Fashioned Waltz have been covered by a number of notable artists. Following Denny’s death, Fairport Convention has sporadically performed the songs “Solo” and “It’ll Take a Long Time”. “Like an Old Fashioned Waltz” was rerecorded by Emmylou Harris on her 1983 album White Shoes. Eric Johnson and Susan Cowsill covered “At the End of the Day” for the 1995 compilation True Voices. Fish covered “Solo” on his 1993 album Songs from the Mirror.
With Like an Old Fashioned Waltz, Sandy Denny expands on the more polished moments that her previous work, Sandy (1972), had suggested. The tone throughout most of the record is melancholy and personal, with gentle piano, rich strings, and barely a trace of her British folk roots. “Solo,” one of her best songs, opens the album with a sense of apprehension and yearning, while cuts such as the beautifully vivid title track, the longing “At the End of the Day,” and the evocative closer “No End” nicely follow suit. The Ink Spots covers “Whispering Grass” and “Until the Real Thing Comes Along” break the mood a bit, but it’s a testament to the breadth of Denny’s talent that she’s able to make this sort of jazz-inflected pop work for her. These two songs seem to hint at a new direction that never really materialized in her final years, though an entire album of Ink Spots tunes was actually rumored at one point. As Sandy Denny’s last solo work for four years, Like an Old Fashioned Waltz remains an intimate and moving record. (by Brett Hartenbach)
Ian Armit (piano)
Gerry Conway (drums)
Sandy Denny (vocals, guitar, piano)
Diz Disley (guitar)
Pat Donaldson (bass)
Jerry Donahue (guitar)
Bob Leaper (brass)
Trevor Lucas (guitar)
Dave Mattacks (drums)
Dave Pegg (bass)
Jean Roussel (keyboards)
Alan Skidmore (saxophone)
Danny Thompson (bass)
Richard Thompson (guitar)
unknown Orchestra, conducted by Harry Robinson
01. Solo (Denny) 4.24
02. Like An Old Fashioned Waltz (Denny) 4.09
03. Whispering Grass (D.Fisher/F.Fisher) 3.56
04. Friends (Denny) 3.31
05. Carnival (Denny) 5.44
06. Dark The Night (Denny) 4.27
07. At The End Of The Day (Denny) 6.28
08. Until The Real Thing Comes Along (Freeman/Chan/Chaplin) 3.40
09. No End (Denny) 6.36