Five voices

It’s Wednesday and time for Rambler5319 to entertain us again…

Remember LLM’s piece on “Songs that remind me of stuff”. I have those as well but I also have artists that stand out in my musical memories. They stand out because they have endured, not necessarily in terms of long life as 2 died in their early thirties, but because I still love and listen to them today.
In 1999 Yes produced an album called The Ladder and track 11 was called “Nine Voices”. I’ve decided to do five of my favourite female voices. I won’t do the biographies, there’s enough on the internet if you want to look them up but a few facts will be included. They are voices, each unique in its own way, which remind me of particular things. Any musical choice will inevitably be personal and bound to divide opinion so I don’t say these are the best five voices in the world EVER. I simply say that these voices had a great effect on me. They have touched and continue to touch my heart today. They are not in order like a top of the charts list; they are more chronological in that this is the order in which they came into my life. Ok so here we go:

1. LESLEY DUNCAN
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Probably an artist few of you will know but one who was a big part of my growing up musical history. I heard a track on the radio and bought the first album. Then I got each new one as it came out. She sang backing vocals for a number of more well-known artists (Donovan, Ringo Starr, Dusty Springfield who also sang on Lesley’s singles, Walker Brothers). If you check out the track listing for Jesus Christ Superstar on Amazon you will see her as one of a number of singers on many of the tracks. She is credited on Pink Floyd’s (1973) Dark Side Of The Moon and here is a pic of the inside of the album cover with her name in the “Backing Vocals” section (with Lesley incorrectly spelt with an ‘ie’ ending rather than the ‘ey’ which she herself used):

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She appears on Elton John’s 3rd album (1970) Tumbleweed Connection. She plays acoustic guitar in a duet with him on her self-penned song, Love Song (Side 2, Track 2). It’s the only non Bernie Taupin/Elton song on the album. She appeared with him in 1974 at The Royal Festival Hall to perform it. According to the Guardian newspaper, it was covered by more than 150 artists (including Olivia Newton-John, David Bowie and Barry White)! It’s worth checking out the lyrics to Love Song. (Also on YouTube.) Elton played piano on Lesley’s first album Sing Children Sing in 1971. Unfortunately she made only the 5 albums you can see in the picture but her voice was very special for me. She died fairly recently, on the Isle of Mull, (her home since 1996), in March 2010 aged 66. The Guardian, in its obituary, said this:
“Her songs had an astonishing emotional depth and her voice a rare combination of warmth and clarity, bringing an intimacy to the experience of listening to her records. For those who discovered her music in the early 1970s, she stood out from all the other pop and rock of the era.” (March 23, 2010).

2. KAREN CARPENTER
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Interesting the group was called “Carpenters”: there is no “The” in the official name. Karen was initially a drummer in the duo with her brother Richard on piano. She was quite happy to play the drums and sing whilst doing it. She didn’t want to be “out front” but folks wanted more of her – her voice: a contralto voice that spanned 3 octaves. She was forced to reconsider. Eventually she played the drums less and less. I’ve got just the one album of Greatest Hits but what a voice. She was noted for her low range and Richard would adapt songs (& covers) to fit it. Just listen to the way she can hold the notes she sings. Out of the 5 here hers has to be the purest voice and who can fail to be moved by some of those famous songs: Yesterday Once More, Hurting Each Other, Close to You and the ubiquitous We’ve Only Just Begun played at so many weddings around the world. Died a month short of her 33rd birthday from anorexia. Very sad.

3. JONI MITCHELL
I suppose she is remembered, by most people, for her single Big Yellow Taxi (1970) and the rather silly laugh at the end of the song. However, over the last 44 years, she has produced many albums. My collection, of just some of them, is in the pic below:
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Hers is a voice that has sung in many different styles with a uniqueness that no-one has come close to imitating. Some of Kate Bush’s songs do give a feel of her style. Joni has ploughed her own furrow not allowing people to be able to pigeon-hole her and constantly changing. Once again a voice I heard and bought one album and then began to add to as the years went by. A very unusual voice and variety of singing styles and unusual cadences make her one of my top five voices.

4. SANDY DENNY
Lead singer of Fairport Convention for a short time and produced solo work as well. She formed the group Fotheringay (1970) and released one album (Fotheringay). Fotheringay Castle was where Richard III was born (1452) & where Mary Queen of Scots was tried and executed (1587). Sandy was given the accolade “Britain’s finest female singer/songwriter” by three publications at the time. She was voted “Britain’s No.1 Singer” for two consecutive years in the music paper Melody Maker’s readers’ poll.
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Amongst others, wrote the song Who Knows Where The Time Goes? (Have a listen on YouTube). And I suppose we all echo that as we look back. Time does pass incredibly quickly. Sadly for Sandy and her fans she died aged just 31 in 1978. One newspaper obituary referred to her as having been: “Equipped with an incredible voice and an immense songwriting talent….” For me, a great voice which stirs up the emotions.

5. MADDY PRIOR (INCL. STEELEYE SPAN & THE CARNIVAL BAND)
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A founding member (in 1969) and and lead singer of Steeleye Span. Who can forget those words: “All around my hat I will wear the green willow……..And if anyone should ask me the reason why I’m wearing it, It’s all for my true love who’s far, far away…”. It’s about a young man whose fiancée has been sentenced to 7 years transportation to Australia. He mourns his loss by wearing a green willow sprig in his hat. Excellent voice range, and a number of projects jointly with the Carnival Band have produced albums of folk versions of many of the old hymns, demonstrate how good it is. Still going strong today.
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There are of course many more (Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy, Dido, for example) I could have included but the list would never finish. You will have your own favourites and maybe mine might seem a bit old or not of interest but they’re mine and I love them! All I’d say is have a listen before you discard them. If JM & MP have survived for 40 years or more in a very fickle business they must have something special about them; likewise those whose lives were cut short but are still remembered & played today. Go on, give them a listen.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] one of the Five Voices from the blog on 5.9.12 was Lesley Duncan; she wrote the song Old Friends which begins with these words: “Standing there […]

    Reply

  2. […] one of the Five Voices from the blog on 5.9.12 was Lesley Duncan; she wrote the song Old Friends which begins with these words: “Standing there […]

    Reply

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