Though she is now known as the long-lost British folkie who was championed by and ultimately recorded with Devendra Banhart and his psych-folk cohorts, Vashti Bunyan was once set on a course for a far different life. Set up with the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards – penned “Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind” as a debut single, she was given a healthy push toward pop stardom, but failed to generate much interest with listeners in 1965, with a series of unreleased singles her only legacy until her equally overlooked 1970 folk opus Just Another Diamond Day. Now reissued, in part in an effort by Bunyan to prove she always fancied herself more as a pop singer than a folkie, this 2-disc set confirms just how acute her pop instincts actually were. With one disc devoted to her early singles and subsequently unreleased follow ups and a second disc covering a set of recently unearthed solo demos from 1964, one can hear much of the fragile innocence that would come to define her later work. Though it’s somewhat jarring to hear Bunyan surrounded by fuzz guitar and crashing drums on “Coldest Night of the Year,” the majority of the set consists of a more familiar, if slightly more polished, version of the gorgeously sighing melodies she continues to craft to this day Matt Fink/Under the Radar Fall
Serving as a direct challenge to the mindset that has deemed Vashti Bunyan the patron saint of freak folk, this two-disc collection of demos and unreleased songs from the singer’s earliest era demonstrates an approach far less common than the one for which she is known. Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind opens, after all, with a song written by Jagger/Richards that is overseen by famed Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham. Of course, Bunyan – with her breathy, caught-short voice and spare acoustic style – never became the pop princess Oldham may have envisioned. After recording all of these 25 songs (some of which appeared as bonus cuts on the recent reissue of her debut album), she made one last stab at music-business success by aligning herself with the more like-minded souls in the Incredible String Band/Nick Drake universe. That alliance yielded her influential Just Another Diamond Day album, and the invisibility she assumed after that recording’s release contributed to her current legendary status. But as this collection makes clear – whether it’s the basic, straightforward recordings that make up the second disc or the more polished demos on the first – Bunyan never desired to be “the hermit folk-singer.” Instead, she firmly believed in the simple strength of her songs and wished for them to be heard by as many people as possible. Too bad it took nearly 40 years – and some accidental fame – for it to happen. Jason Ferguson/Broward New Times 11/1/07
Vashti Bunyan has recorded just two albums in her 40-plus-year career. The first, Just Another Diamond Day, was released in 1970 and heard by virtually no one; the second, Lookaftering, followed in 2005, when the British songstress agreed to another go-round upon the reissue of the first, which finally found an appreciative audience among fans of softies like Devendra Banhart and Nick Drake. Despite the 35-year gap, Bunyan remains a wisp of a singer-the string quartet of the earlier work has been replaced by a more conventional backing, well-known guests assist, and the songs are those of a more mature woman, but the sweetness remains.
Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind is like neither of those albums. Now that Bunyan is an official cult heroine, it’s time for the attic to be combed for buried treasure. The 25 songs that comprise the two discs of Some Things.predate the recording of that lost-and-found debut by three to six years. These are singles both released and unreleased, forgotten tapes, and demos dating between 1964 and ’67, a time when Bunyan had not yet discovered her true voice and was hoping for pop stardom at the peak of Swingin’ London.
Why she never found it, who knows? Her first single was masterminded by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who gave Bunyan the peppy, poppy unreleased Stones-penned 1965 tune that serves as the set’s title track. Backed by an orchestra and sung confidently and merrily, it had the makings of a hit, but it wasn’t one. Had Bunyan followed her initial dream, and played the role she craved-“girl with guitar”-perhaps things might have turned out differently. The solo acoustic recordings from 1964 that comprise the second CD are stark, lovely and natural-sounding, maybe not the stuff of which Top 10 hits were made back then, but the work of a soulful artist worth hearing. Jeff Tamarkin/Relix October
To their credit, they have every reason to believe it. At the two “peaks” of her career, singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan steeped herself in it. So, who’s to blame for repeating it over and over?
Critics and listeners frequently view singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan as a folk artist, and deservedly so. Her debut album, 1970’s Just Another Diamond Day, was produced by Joe Boyd, a producer often affiliated with U.K. “neo”-folk artists like Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band and Nick Drake; many of those artists also contributed to Bunyan’s record. Though she left the music industry for more than thirty years, her return coincided with the latest folk revival and was subsequently lauded by newbies like Beck and Joanna Newsom (who also appeared on Bunyan’s long-awaited second album, Lookaftering). However, the artist herself quickly counters the tag as a misperception. After all, a quick listen to her earliest material, now available thanks to the double-disc Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind, would dispel such convenient categorization.
Titled after her Jagger/Richards-penned debut single, Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind collects Bunyan’s earliest recordings and attempts to chart her development pre-Diamond Day. Though the material spans two discs, it totals less than an hour. The division is meant to distinguish two “periods” of her career: a disc of her first “professional” recordings with Decca (under the heavy pop hand of former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham) and Columbia Records in 1965 and 1966; and a bonus disc of her pre-music industry recordings, culled from her first studio session in 1964. Taken together, the compilation is a long-awaited essential for Bunyan’s fans, both old and new, and a fascinating look at an artist’s tentative first steps from beyond the wings of the stage.
The first disc has been a long-time coming, considering the sparse amount of material Bunyan has recorded. Spearheaded by her sparkling Oldham-produced singles, Bunyan’s singles for Decca are amazing time capsules of mid-’60s pop — ornate and opulent in every Spectorian way imaginable. Thundering drums and church bills ring about a stormy sea of strings, while Bunyan stands like a resolute isle and sings with a sea-green voice offering much-needed glimmers of tranquility (though she pines about love’s futility). The Columbia sides (“Train Song,” “Love Song” and “Winter is Blue”) are comparatively stark with spare arrangements of guitar, cello and voice, but the melodies remain resolutely wistful and Bunyan’s voice angelically taut. Some of this material (“Love Is Blue” and “I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind”) has already appeared on the reissued version of Just Another Diamond Day, but are fortunately buttressed with home recordings and demos from around and after this period. Intimate readings of “Winter Is Blue” and an early version of “Train Song” (“17 Pink Sugar Elephants”) are among the highlights.
The second disc is a welcome surprise for both Bunyan and the listener. Described by the artist as her first studio recording from 1964, the material captures her fresh from her New York trip and filled with “a heart full of musical ambition.” She sings in her familiar willowy wisp of a voice, lightly accompanied by guitar, and rolls through self-penned songs uninterrupted. As she writes in her brief liner notes, the material counters her frequent association with folk music by demonstrating her heavy pop leanings. In truth, her music is something altogether different. She often takes the form of bubblegum, swinging lightly on the happily skipping “Find My Heart Again,” yet reveals a stark outlook on relationships and a foreboding sense complexity completely unheard of for mass consumption. Like a junior Joni Mitchell, she deals with the heart’s heaviest matters but with a far lighter (and thereby accessible) hand. After all, what smitten teen, regardless of time, couldn’t sing along to “Don’t believe that love brings happiness/ Gone tomorrow, here today”? Taken together, Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind is a long-awaited essential for Bunyan’s fans, both old and new, and a fascinating look at an artist’s tentative first steps from beyond the wings of the stage.Dan Nishimoto/Prefixmag.com 11/12
Following the amazing success story of Vashti Bunyan’s recent reemergence as an artist after an exile of over 30 years comes the release of Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, a comprehensive collection of early recordings from the period prior to her classic 1970 Just Another Diamond Day album. Titled after the (Jagger/Richards-penned) debut single which opens the double-album, Some Things attempts to both draw a line under the past and also to set the record straight regarding the disparity between how Bunyan viewed (and still views) herself and the way the public views her as an artist. While she is widely regarded as folk singer these recordings instead reveal Bunyan as a pop singer, however “fragile” and unique. As she explains in her liner notes to the album, “I have heard it said that Andrew Oldham took this fragile little folk singer and tried to make her into a pop singer against her will. No, he didn’t. Too fragile for his world I might have been, but that was no fault of his…I wanted to bring simple acoustic music into mainstream pop.”
This complete collection of Bunyan’s 25 existing early recordings is a young London girl’s series of beautiful love songs that resonate profoundly via an almost brutal efficiency and honesty. The melodies seem timelessly sweet and addictive, the vision at once delicate but somehow tough as granite. The first disc gathers together the early singles (two of which were unreleased) and a set of demos recorded between 1965 and 1967; the second comprises the and entire, unaltered contents of a long-forgotten tape discovered at the last minute before mastering, containing a set of raw, pure, intimate recordings. David Greeberger/Amazon.com
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.Frank Gutch/Acousticmusic.com 11/19
Vashti Bunyan has only released two proper records in nearly 40 years, which affords listeners at least two minutes to consider their titles: Just Another Diamond Day and Lookaftering. The first is a statement about blissful passivity– reasonably vogue in 1970 for singers with acoustic guitars– but it’s also about time as circular or never-changing. There’s a pun in 2005’s Lookaftering: To care, to look after, but also to consider in retrospect, to look at something later. She makes nostalgia and rumination sound like a limitless process; in a Vashti Bunyan song, imagining what the past would look like from the future is the closest you get to a description of the present.
For all the zealous praise her music inspires, Bunyan’s original intention was, in her own words, “to break into the charts as a girl with a guitar and a sad little love song.” Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind is a compilation of singles recorded in 1965 and ’66 for Decca and Columbia with Rolling Stones manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham, a string of demos from the same period, and the full reel-to-reel of her first studio recordings from 1964– a collection of those ambitions. Some of the orchestrated sides are decent, in a dippy, swingin’ way (the Jagger-Richards collaboration “Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind”); one is absolutely wonderful (“Winter Is Blue,” both versions)…
Even though it’s a pretty middling selection, it’s an essential angle to Bunyan’s portrait. She’s said in various interviews and notes, in her gentle way, that she doesn’t think of herself as a folk singer… Though most of her music has a serene, rural quality, she never romanticized remoteness, telling Pitchfork in 2005 of “winter-long mud and damp dogs” and how housework “pains” her. She didn’t move to farms in Scotland and Ireland because it was more wondrous or lovely or romantic, but because she’d considered herself a failure and figured her lot in life was to bear kids and keep quiet– projects she expresses a bittersweet ambiguity about in the lyrics to Lookaftering.
Despite the distortions that came with her maturity, this collection indicated that Bunyan’s subjects have always remained the same: love, time, and the way love works over time. Just Another Diamond Day’s sense of remove, though, was so profound that it’s hard to imagine her anticipating anything, especially human contact. Lookaftering’s “Feet of Clay” would’ve been a heartbreak song in 1966; in 2005 she wrote it as an acquiescence, a lover watching from a kitchen window as someone departs, an ode to the future in general, not any one in particular.
Diamond Day and Lookaftering felt like they could’ve been separated by as little as a month. What sets these songs apart is disposition. Bunyan hadn’t yet needed to figure out the secrets of time; how to traverse it or compress it. Ironically, the world must’ve seemed bright to her in 1965; in 1971, it must’ve seemed drab. And because nobody really expects– or aspires to, I guess– belated cult appreciation, Vashti Bunyan lived for about 30 years thinking she’d made some sort of mistake with Diamond Day. There’s an allure to these adolescent pimples– compounded by knowledge of the music she went on to make..-Mike Powell/Pitchforkmedia.com 10/24/07
Vashti Bunyan may be known today as a lost and then very found folk singer/songwriter, the author of “Just Another Diamond Day, arguably one of the best folk albums of the 1960s and the solid late-career offering “Lookaftering” but there was a time, back in 1965, when she had dreams of making it big as a pop star. Those years and the very beginnings of her recording career are now available in a collection called “Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind” – Singles and Demos 1964-1967. The two disc set is a treat, but it’s strictly for those who are already familiar with and enthralled by the melancholy melodies and sweet simplicity of Bunyan. Some of the tracks, most of which are under the two minute mark, crackle and squeak but that just adds to the overall “lost treasure” feeling of the collection.
Disc #1, which covers the years 1965-1967, documents the pop aspirations of the U.K. singer. Young Vashti was taken under the wings of Andrew Loog Oldham, the legendary manager of the Rolling Stones. He set her up with an orchestra and handed her a Mick Jagger/Keith Richards-penned song for her to record and release as a single. That song, “Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind” soars with 60s production values that almost threaten to drown Bunyan’s signature wispy delivery.
Some of the other “pop” tunes quickly make it clear that this girl with the guitar was not meant for the mainstream. “I Want to Be Alone” finds Bunyan cooing “set me free / let me be alone” since isolation was not exactly the mantra for the “come on get together” 60s movement. Many of these songs, especially the demo for “Winter is Blue” which would later turn up on “Just Another Diamond Day”, put her firmly on the path to folkville. Most of the tunes though, especially a bouncy guitar number called, “Train Song” definitely deserve to be not only heard but cherished.
Disc #2 gives us a chance to hear Vashti Bunyan’s first studio recordings. The 1964 tape was found by her brother in an attic a few years back. These tracks, recorded after a trip to New York, are surprisingly clear and very much in a folk vein. Bunyan speaks the title of each song before delivering a set of songs with names like “Autumn Leaves”, “Girl’s Song in Winter” and “I Don’t Know What Love is”. They’re all charming in the sense that they are the thoughts and concerns of a young woman who was just starting to seriously develop her craft – think of them as blueprints for “Just Another Diamond Day.” Amy Wagner/Kevchino.com 11/13
There’s a great joy for both the collector and culture at large in discovering a record by a young demure singer whose work was buried by the relentless march of time.
Such a record contains multitudes of internal meanings and associations. Every album ever made shares an intimate relationship with its listener, but this brand in particular cultivates a personal relationship not unlike that of a family heirloom. It becomes a bittersweet amulet to a forgotten time, a recovery of unrequited passions and a treasure chest of crackling sounds meant to be spread virally across the broader society of the human ear. Yet, it’s also documentation of the cruelty and randomness of the music industry’s wheels of fortune and its ability to suppress music that proves enjoyable no matter how many years later. Music’s fashion-based business model promises to keep shoveling dirt onto artists whose discography at least deserve a competitive stake against some of the piddle that rises to the top. There’s great tragedy in how radio has denied us these fragile spirits.
Vashti Bunyan is the perfect example of this. An airy-voiced folkie chanteuse lulled into the fringes of the mainstream music industry, she never quite found an audience. Her vocal chords at times sound so delicate that a common cold could have crushed her. Ultimately though it was the failure of her lone LP, 1970’s Just Another Diamond Day (Produced by noted studio tinker Joe Boyd who also worked on LPs by slightly less obscure folk-oriented artists like Nick Drake, The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention), that propelled her into a life of domestic solitude for roughly 30 years, leaving music completely behind her.
Enough people discovered Just Another Diamond Day to create a demand for more of her work to surface, which produced at first an album of new material (Lookaftering) and a collaborative EP with Animal Collective (Prospect Hummer). Now, the archives have been excavated in the form of Some Things Get Stuck in Your Mind, a double disc anthology of Bunyan’s mostly unreleased pre-Diamond Day material.
Though named after the song written for her by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the title of Some Things Get Stuck in Your Mind perfectly embodies the timeless persistence of material like Bunyan’s whose belated spring has finally become unstuck from time. It’s an uneven collection that rallies the lost classics and the bedroom blunders alike, but its high marks are worth the 40 year wait since any of these songs here saw the light of day.
The first disc assembles five of Bunyan’s early singles (three of which were never released), acetate demos and a tape recorded by her brother in a home studio. The singles carry the watermark of producer Andrew Loog Oldham, a studio wiz most noted for not only managing but producing the Rolling Stones during their most vital period (between 12 x 5 and Flowers). Disc two is the full recording of Bunyan’s first ever studio session in 1964 consisting of 11 songs (including some duplicates of tracks on the first disc) written when she was 18 years old.
The Oldham sessions and demos contain the bulk of Some Things Get Stuck in Your Mind’s better songs. Bunyan’s pop sensibilities are on full display and the result is fantastic. Oldham mostly just recycles some of his old Stones tricks, but attached to Bunyan’s voice, which has the amazing quality of being a hushed and earthy falsetto, a completely new effect is achieved.
I Want to Be Alone is a slow burning eastern meditation that foresees Bunyan’s hermetic future with a little help from the sitar, a recently imported favorite of the Stones around the time of recording. Train Song is the perfect soundtrack to looking out the window half asleep en route to charm an old flame. It trots about languidly under some Bert Jansch style folk riffs with a sweet chorus marked by lightly airstroked strings straight out the Oldham co-authored As Tears Go By. As for the Stones-penned title track, it’s easy to mentally substitute Jagger for Bunyan while leaving the grand country western Lee Hazlewood arrangement wholly in tact. Bunyan, much more so than perhaps Jagger’s macho swagger could have, administers each of the song’s many rhetorical questions with a lack of desperation, just a whimsical sense of daydreaming as if she’d been pondering them for 40 years.
The rest of the disc is full of quiet pleasures like I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind, lyrically surreal oddballs like 17 Pink Elephants and gorgeous ballads like Winter is Blue.
The second disc ranks as a mainly completist affair. True, there’s a naked beauty that can be found in both the buoyant urgency of idealistic tracks like How Do I Know and the way in which Bunyan stoically pronounces the proceeding song’s title into the microphone before each track. However, the lack of adequate production values wears the disc down heavily by its end. Possibly recorded into a single microphone, the guitars are as faint as a whisper leaving Bunyan’s voice to soar in the mix. Her vocal style at this young age was not developed enough to fill a full-length acapella recording, so it can be a troubling listen without headphones.
In the liner notes, Bunyan notes her discovery of old tapes in her attic were “like finding teenage poetry in the back of a drawer.” Many of the tracks do reek of the flowery romantics of a high school journal, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it. The aging on the tapes allows you to participate in the nostalgia Bunyan feels on many of the tracks, almost as if they were inclusions on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music or Vinyl Communication’s Lucas and Friends Discover a World of Sounds compilation. Girl’s Song in Winter to take one example has wrist-slitting lyrics that, removed from their sweet folk strands, read like something I might have blurted onto the page in-between painting my fingernails black and packing my Marilyn Manson lunchbox as a teenage goth.
In Wishwanderer, there’s a slight irk that chills down my back when Bunyan recites the awkwardly phrased verse “Home has been so many roads/ That I’ve walked down in my sleeping/ Here with you I’m home at last/ But it’s not home for keeping.” All is forgiven though when she deliver the wonderfully self-pitying and mournful next line; “You won’t miss me when I’m gone.” It’s a bittersweet melancholy because she was almost right. Tim Gabriele/Edge Boston 11/13
Discovered by Rolling Stones’ manager-guru Andrew Loog Oldham, Vashti Bunyan made her debut with the Mick Jagger/ Keith Richards-penned single “Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind” on Decca in 1965 (the Rolling Stones released their own version of the song on their 1975 outtakes compilation Metamorphosis). The extravagant production (with full orchestra) of “Some Things,” though audibly magnificent, found Vashti completely out of her element so she promptly turned to a much more pared down style with just voice, guitar and cello that quickly became her trademark.
Her unique vocal style, combined with a penchant for magical and poetic lyrics, instantly separated Vashti from the female pop icons of the 1960s. Despite her obvious talents, no one was in the market for Vashti’s pop craft. After a few singles and one LP (1970’s Just Another Diamond Day), Vashti’s disenchantment with the music industry lead her on a horse and buggy journey across England to join Donovan’s utopian community on the Isle of Skye. After discovering Donovan’s experiment had failed, and with a new baby in her arms, Vashti decided to stop making music forever.until she discovered 30 years later that there was a burgeoning modern audience (including Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsome) who were totally enthralled and inspired by her songwriting.
Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind is a collection of singles and demos from 1964 – 1967, justifiably named after her stunning debut A-side. Vashti has being fighting to shed the folk (or more precisely, psych folk) moniker for all these years. The Some Things compilation contains enough ammunition to debunk her folk-ness, proving that she truly is a pop songstress worthy of comparisons to Claudine Longet and FranÃ§oise Hardy.
Some Things, as with all of Vashti’s music, deserves the most perfectly serene, fluffy cloud days, in flower covered fields in a world where time and modernity have absolutely no influence on anything at all; a place where people still journey by horse-drawn wagon across the English countryside in flowing dresses and flowers in their hair. I rarely recommend a singles and demos compilation for a new audience, but if you have never heard Vashti Bunyan before, Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind is the perfect introduction as it contains so much of her best work (“Coldest Night of the Year,” “I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind”) and much of which has never been heard by even her most ardent fans.
The entire second half of Some Things contains a recently uncovered demo that Vashti recorded in 1964. The recording is of a young Vashti; pure, unadulterated and solitary, performing embryonic versions of her songs (most of which never saw the light of day). This is where her subtle pop song-craft really shines and captivates with her voice, soft and frail; her lyrics, mesmerizing; and her guitar playing, pristine. Don Simpson/Los Angeles Journal 10/25
Vashti Bunyan never regarded herself as a folk singer, and the release of Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind provides clear evidence for her case. This remarkably consistent two-disc set collects her early singles and demos, rare home recordings, and her first-ever recording session, (the tapes of which were recently discovered after 40 years in her brother’s shed and attic). Several of the songs here should have been massive pop hits, and there’s even a duet that could be mistaken for that extremely rare beast: a half-decent winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.
The undeniable purity of Bunyan’s voice and her use of imagery hewn from nature have led to the folk tag, and also to some people overlooking the darkness in her material. Anyone concentrating on the prettiness in this collection will miss themes of regret, death, contradiction, desire, revenge, freedom, defiance, and emotional numbness though the record does include some of the most superb humming ever recorded, (“Train Song”, “Find My Heart Again”).
The shoulda-been pop hits start with the Jagger/Richards-penned title track. Bouncy, sad and socially conscious in equal measure, it has the feel of Lee Hazelwood at his most sprightly. “I Want to Be Alone” strikes a poptastic balance somewhere between a Leonard Cohen lament and The Seekers’ “Georgy Girl”. The marvelous “Love Song” is a clever ode to aspects of a lover’s attraction (eyes, hands, hair) with a twist in the tale. It is mystifying that such high-quality singles were either unreleased or that they just flopped.
The quasi-Eurovision duet with Twice As Much on “Coldest Night of the Year” is an ever-so-slightly-steamy dialogue piece. It’s hard not to smirk as the male voice runs through a litany of reasons why he should be allowed to spend the night: “But I haven’t been well/ I might catch the flu/ Or a cold in my nose.” It’s no “Summer Nights”, but given the stellar arc of Bunyan’s fortunes it’s not too late for this track to become a Christmas smash. Also included here is the fabulous “I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind”, a song which, had it been done by Velvet Underground and Nico, would be considered a classic dark counterweight to the Summer of Love.
The second disc features Bunyan’s first ever recording session from 1964. She paid for an hour in a studio to make a demo and ran through 11 songs. I’m guessing the microphone was close to her mouth, as her guitar is sometimes so quiet that she seems to be singing unaccompanied. The material was mostly written when she was just 18 years old, and it’s impossible to know whether the gentleness in her quiet delivery or the assurance and sophistication of her lyrics reflects the real teenager. “Girl’s Song In Winter” is especially intriguing, due in part to our not knowing for sure if she refers to a dead lover or to their child. The sound quality of both discs is fine and the occasional crackle heard when listening via headphones is as exotically attractive as listening to the country blues on vinyl.
Many people are now aware of the story of Vashti Bunyan’s remarkable journey by horse and cart from swinging 1960s London to the Outer Hebrides. Disillusioned with her lack of success, she and her companion Robert planned to join a commune with Donovan. By the time they arrived two years later, he had already returned to the capital. Still, the songs she wrote along the way became her stunning debut album Just Another Diamond Day. Initially a commercial failure, its reputation as a lost legend made possible her extraordinary returns to recording and performing. After 30 years during which she did not pick up a guitar, (or even sing around the house), her songs and her voice retain a bone-chilling and spirit-warming power. But don’t take my word for it, go and hear her sing in person. You will never forget it.
The monochrome photograph on the cover shows Bunyan leaning against a wall on Lot’s Road, London. Her light-colored short coat and tights contrast with the dark brick wall and make her look like the statue that, in terms of musical output, she remained for three decades. While we’ll never know what would have been different if her dream of making the 1960s charts had come true, the opportunity to look back at these magical early shots at pop-stardom is a risk-free treat. Some songs can pass through generations like cultural DNA, and it is possible that, (unlike many of her disciples in the so-called psych-folk movement), the conviction and simplicity of Vashti Bunyan’s will assure she is still adored in 400 years. Just don’t call her a folk-singer. D.M. Edwards/Popmatters.com 10/17
Vashti Bunyan will always be most known for her 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day, a big cult favorite among some folk-rock fans, and her 2005 comeback Lookaftering. She did, however, release a couple obscure singles in the mid-’60s, as well as doing quite a few unreleased studio and demo recordings around the same time. This 25-track collection couldn’t be bettered as a thorough sweep of her material from this era, including both sides of her two mid-’60s 45s; three tracks from singles that went unreleased; demos and tapes from 1966-1967; and a good dozen tracks from a 1964 tape that Bunyan found in her brother’s attic decades later. ..The mid-’60s singles (released and otherwise) are quite reminiscent of Marianne Faithfull’s orchestrated pop-folk recordings from the same era, yet even wispier and more precious. The similarity can’t help but be accentuated by the choice of an unreleased Mick Jagger-Keith Richards composition (“Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind”) as her 1965 debut 45, just as Faithfull had debuted with another Rolling Stones offering, “As Tears Go By.” Some Phil Spector influence gets poured into the production on “Coldest Night of the Year,” done with fellow Andrew Loog Oldham clients Twice as Much. A folkier approach is taken on the unreleased 1966-1967 demos and tapes that feature just her voice and acoustic guitar, though the songs likely would have also ended up in a Baroque pop-folk bag had they been produced for official release. “I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind” and “17 Pink Sugar Elephants” show her drifting toward more unusual and fanciful lyrics, though the oddest tune, “Don’t Believe,” sounds almost like it could have been a demo targeted toward Herman’s Hermits in its skipalong jauntiness. The dozen voice-and-acoustic-guitar songs from the 1964 tape (lasting only 23 minutes in all) are even barer than the 1966-1967 demos, and yet more subdued and fragile-sounding, bringing to mind a young melancholic girl singing to herself in a tiny bed sit on a cloudy London day. The roots of the pastoral delicacy of Just Another Diamond Day are obvious throughout this disc, but Bunyan’s personality has yet to come through as strongly. Richie Unterberger/Allmusic.com
Rather like Marianne Faithful in mid-’60s London, dulcet-voiced Vashti Bunyan could have sounded comfortable in an Anglican choir or behind a coffeehouse microphone. But on this collection of obscure singles and rediscovered demos from 1964-1967, Bunyansweet persona and folk roots worked well in the heady, incense-scented atmosphere of Swinging London. Tracks recorded by Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham have a magical twilight feel, enhanced by sleigh bells, light flourishes of Rickenbacker guitars and Bunyan’s own ghostly whisper. David Luhrssen/Shepherd Express 9/27
This double disc compilation of Vashti Bunyan’s pre-Just Another Diamond Day recordings finally settles the misconception that she was a folksinger, as Bunyan attests in the liner notes: “I wanted to bring simple acoustic music into mainstream pop.” Her story takes her from art school in London in the mid-sixties, through unsuccessful attempts to become a pop-singer, through a roadtrip by horse and wagon through the United Kingdom which was then documented on her classic gentle psychedelic-folk album Just Another Diamond Day in 1970, through thirty years of silence only to reemerge as godmother to Devendra Banhart and the whole free-folk movement and start recording again. “Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind” fills us in on Vashti’s early musical years.
The first disc contains the singles released to obscurity in the mid-sixties when she fell under the spell of Rolling Stones guru Andrew Loog Oldham, who set her up with an orchestra and a Stones song (the title track of this album) in what seems to have been an attempt to do a “Marianne Faithfull” on her. The other singles here also sunk without a trace, but provide a fascinating insight into where Vashti was coming from when she was ejected from art school for spending her time writing songs instead of attending classes. Bunyan emerges from these vinyl and restored acetate archives as a would-be swinging sixties London pop star, quite far from the pastoral folk-pop jewels she conjured during her legendary late-sixties road trip to a remote Scottish island to be a part of Donovan’s hippy commune. Still, the seeds are present in the subject matter of some of these songs, which have more in common with another unsuccessful signing to Oldham’s Immediate label at the time – Nico. Witness the frosty lost love of “Winter is Blue,” a chillingly sad song with Vashti’s sweetly enunciated warm voice attempting to thaw the heartbreak. Even on these attempts at mainstream infiltration, Bunyan’s obsession with seasons and natural cycles are evident, themes which would come to fruition on Just Another Diamond Day. Her collaboration with Twice As Much in “The Coldest Night of the Year,” emerges as ornate baroque pop, slightly twee in a way that will bring a smile to your face, while “Train Song” and “Wishwanderer” also contain traces of the wanderlust that would be documented on her legendary trip to the Hebridean islands in Diamond Day.
Where the first disc gathers together cuts previously unreleased or scattered over an array of acid-folk compilations, disc two showcases a recently rediscovered demo tape from 1964 when Vashti had just returned from New York City in thrall to early Dylan, determined to bring her archetypal girl-with-a-guitar songs to the pop world. These stark recordings (from a one-hour studio session hired with borrowed money) comprising just voice and guitar, are bijou in their brevity and shocking in their scope and maturity: Songs of love and loss, dramatic in the way only teenage love can be, but also very insightful for one so young. This album is a time capsule, and an essential listen for anyone enamoured by Vashti Bunyan’s essential Diamond Dayalbum or indeed her recent (and forthcoming) recordings – it seems like she’s always been on a journey, and along the way: Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind.Keith Wallace/ Junkmedia.org November 12, 2007