Vashti Bunyan — Heartleap
Birth name: Jennifer Vashti Bunyan
Also known as: Vashti
Born: 1945, Newcastle, England
Album release: October 6, 2014
Record Label: FatCat Records
01 Across the Water 3:48
02 Holy Smoke 4:49
03 Mother 3:30
04 Jellyfish 3:42
05 Shell 4:08
06 The Boy 1:40
07 Gunpowder 3:04
08 Blue Shed 2:11
09 Here 3:18
10 Heartleap 4:39
Styles: British Folk, Singer/Songwriter, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
♦♦♦♦♦ The remarkable story of Vashti Bunyan’s recording career has been told many, many times before. It recounts how a young English singer–songwriter released her first album in 1970 and that there then followed a 35 year wait for its successor.
♦♦♦♦♦ Despite contributions from members of Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band — two of the most significant and more influential folk bands of the day — string and recorder arrangements provided by Robert Kirby and a production credit for Joe Boyd (men who were both closely associated with the music of Nick Drake), the debut Just Another Diamond Day proved to be a commercial disaster. Acutely disappointed at how the record was not only received but also misunderstood and believing herself to be a complete failure, Bunyan then retreated from both music and public life altogether.
♦♦♦♦♦ But history re~evaluated Just Another Diamond Day, rightly recognizing it as a jewel in the crown of early, pioneering Brit–folk music. The album was re~issued in 2000 and with her cause championed by a new wave of folk experimentalists including Devendra Banhart, Vashti Bunyan slowly began to re~emerge into the musical light. ♦♦♦♦♦ Guest appearances soon followed on records by Piano Magic, Banhart himself and those Baltimore folk~rock empiricists Animal Collective on their Prospect Hummer EP, as she started to once more find her voice. And with the release of Bunyan’s second album Lookaftering in 2005, her return appeared to be complete.
Despite the passage of time that separates Just Another Diamond Day from Lookaftering, Vashti Bunyan saw her first two records as natural bookends; the first looking forward into life, with the second looking back. It could have all ended there, but for Bunyan the songs that would eventually appear on her third album just kept on appearing.
♦♦♦♦♦ And with this Heartleap was born. While it’s a record that continues the noble lineage of its two predecessors, with Bunyan’s gentle, often wraith~like voice once more drifting effortlessly over the sweet, soft and the most sublime of melodies — beautifully simple songs in which percussion and bass lines have no part — its evolution has been in marked difference. Where collaboration was key to Just Another Diamond Day and Lookaftering — with Joe Boyd and British composer and musician Max Richter assuming respective production duties — on Heartleap Bunyan has taken complete control of the recording and editing process. She speaks of emerging from the shelter of others and in so doing has produced a record that finally reveals the true sounds she hears inside her mind.
♦♦♦♦♦ Bunyan accompanies herself on guitar and piano, with the latter parts constructed from single notes that she has carefully pieced together. To this more organic instrumentation she’s added synthesised string and recorder arrangements and on the record’s ethereal, almost hymnal title track that of a clarinet. Merging these sounds together Bunyan creates an often sparse, yet quietly enchanting musical landscape across which she weaves a series of reflective vignettes. She reminisces about a life rich in love, family and the people she has known. They are tales of warmth and humanity.
♦♦♦♦♦ As she approachees her 70th year, Vashti Bunyan has said that this will be her last album. For her it says everything that she ever wanted it to. And if this is to be her final offering then it brings to an end an extraordinary recording career that may span 44 years but has only furnished a mere three albums. But as the concluding part of that elongated trilogy, Heartleap is the most magnificent and worthy of valedictions.
Artist Biography by Bruce Eder
♦♦♦♦♦ Vashti Bunyan is a folk chanteuse and singer/songwriter, best known for her 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day, which was rediscovered in the 21st century and dusted off with a new CD issue as one of the great musical finds of its era. Born in London in 1945 — and counting herself a direct descendant of writer/preacher John Bunyan (1629~1688) — she first took up the guitar while a student at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing, from which she was ultimately expelled at age 18 for spending too much time writing songs and not enough time painting. A bit of a free spirit even then, she took a trip to New York and, while there, fell under the spell of Bob Dylan’s music, especially his album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Once back in London, Bunyan was committed to a career in music, and through theatrical agent Monte Mackay she soon met Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham. ♦♦♦♦♦ In his recollections in 2007, he saw and heard in her the equivalent of Juliette Gréco, Marie Laforet, and Françoise Hardy, except that she was English — he signed her to Decca Records and for her debut single brought her the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards–penned “Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind.” The record earned little attention, and Bunyan moved to Columbia for the follow–up, “Train Song,” released in May of 1966.
♦♦♦♦♦ She moved into the orbit of Oldham’s Immediate Records after its founding that year and recorded a brace of sides, mostly of her own music, none of which was issued commercially. She also cut one side with the Twice as Much (Immediate’s answer to Simon & Garfunkel), entitled “The Coldest Night of the Year.” The latter, with its Phil Spector~like production and beautiful harmonizing, showed off her singing at its most pop~oriented and commercial. This was during what one might call the “dolly bird” phase of Bunyan’s career, in which she was part of the Swinging London scene (at least musically), and one supremely atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful performance of hers that did see the light of day was “Winter Is Blue,” which turned up in Peter Whitehead’s documentary Tonite Let's All Make Love in London (1967). Sometime after that, she left London in a horse–drawn wagon on a two~year journey into communal living in the Hebrides, with the ultimate goal of meeting folk icon Donovan on the Isle of Skye. She later chanced to cross paths with American producer Joe Boyd, who had made his name in London recording acts such as Pink Floyd and Fairport Convention. Throughout her travels Bunyan had continued writing songs, and in 1969 she teamed with Boyd to record her debut LP, the lovely Just Another Diamond Day, which included some assistance from such British folk notables as Simon Nicol and Dave Swarbrick from Fairport Convention, and the Incredible String Band's Robin Williamson. After completing the album she left for Ireland, dropping out of music to raise a family.
♦♦♦♦♦ Long out of print and a highly prized collectible, Just Another Diamond Day was finally reissued on CD in the summer of 2000 and attracted an extraordinary amount of enthusiastic press, as well as something like the sales to match. Suddenly, Bunyan was in demand, fans and writers knocking at her door and sending e~mails of encouragement and support. In 2005 she returned with Lookaftering, a reference to her years “lookaftering” her family. The album appeared on Fat Cat’s DiCristina imprint and featured artwork by Vashti’s daughter. The release was followed by a series of performances that took her all the way to New York City, among other international locales — by that time, word had spread sufficiently about Bunyan as a rediscovered talent that the New York performance rated mention in The New York Times. In 2007, Fat Cat/DiCristina released Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind, a compilation of Vashti Bunyan’s ‘60s Decca, Columbia, and Immediate recordings, plus a set of demos dating from 1964.
♦♦♦♦♦ 2008 saw the release of a feature documentary, Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before and that same year she revealed in an interview that she had begun to write some new material. In 2014, she announced that she had completed her third album, entitled Heartleap. It was recorded and produced completely solo. She also announced that it would be her final album. Heartleap was released in October of 2014. Fortaken: http://www.allmusic.com/
♦♦ Just Another Diamond Day (Philips 1970)
♦♦ Lookaftering (Fat Cat Records 2005)
♦♦ Heartleap (Fat Cat Records 2014)
♦♦ Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind — Singles and Demos 1964 to 1967 (Fat Cat Records/Spinney Records 2007)
♦♦ "Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind" / "I Want To Be Alone" (Decca, 1965) (as Vashti)
♦♦ "Train Song" / "Love Song" (Columbia, 1966) (as Vashti)
Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London (1967)
♦♦ "Winter Is Blue" (as Vashti)
♦♦ "Winter Is Blue (Reprise)" (as Vashti)
Circus Days — UK Psychedelic Obscurities 1966~70 Vol.1 (1990)
♦♦ "I’d Like To Walk Around in Your Mind" (as Vashti)
A Pot By Any Other Name (2001) (compilation issued by Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine)
♦♦ "17 Pink Sugar Elephants" (rec. 1966) (early variation of "Train Song")
Instant Karma (2002)
♦♦ "Winter Is Blue" (as Vashti) (combined version of song from Tonite Let's All Make Love in London)
Folk Rock and Faithfull: Dream Babes Vol. 5 (2004)
♦♦ "Train Song" (rec. 1966) (as Vashti)
♦♦ "Love Song" (rec. 1966) (as Vashti)
The Golden Apples of the Sun (2004)
♦♦ "Rejoicing in the Hands" (with Devendra Banhart)
The Enlightened Family: A Collection Of Lost Songs (2005)
♦♦ "Song of a Wishwanderer" (rec. 1968)
Not Alone (2006)
♦♦ "Same But Different"
Ballads of the Book (2007)
♦♦ "The Fire" (lyrics by Rodge Glass)
Gather in the Mushrooms — The British Acid~Folk Underground 1968 — 1974 (2004)
♦♦ "Winter Is Blue"
Twice as Much — That’s All (1970)
♦♦ "Coldest Night of the Year" (rec. 1967)
Piano Magic — Writers Without Homes (2002)
♦♦ "Crown of the Lost"
Piano Magic — Saint Marie EP (2004)
♦♦ "Dark Ages"
Devendra Banhart — Rejoicing in the Hands (2004)
♦♦ "Rejoicing in the Hands"
Animal Collective — Prospect Hummer (2005)
♦♦ "It's You"
♦♦ "Prospect Hummer"
♦♦ "I Remember Learning How to Dive"
Vetiver — Thing of the Past (2008)
♦♦ "Sleep a Million Years"
Dudley Benson — Forest: Songs by Hirini Melbourne (2010)
We/Or/Me — The Walking Hour (2013)
Another day: http://www.anotherday.co.uk/