Early in 2015, Cherry Red Records released the 4-CD box set The Dandelion Albums and BBC Collection from Bridget St. John, collecting all three of the singer-songwriter's exquisite albums for John Peel's Dandelion Records label as well as a disc of BBC sessions. Now, the label has returned to St. John's discography for a new career overview. Fly High is a late-2016, 2-CD anthology that paints a full portrait of the artist via album tracks, singles, demos, live recordings, BBC sessions, and interviews.
The first disc features selections from the three aforementioned Dandelion albums. Most of the songs on St. John's haunting 1969 debut Ask Me No Questions were penned while she was still a student at Sheffield University. John Peel produced the sessions himself, and five tracks from the LP have been reprised on the first disc of Fly High including the title track featuring John Martyn and "Lizard-Long-Tongue Boy" with Fairport Convention's Ric Sanders on guitar. A sophomore album for Bridget didn't come until 1971's Songs for the Gentle Man. Produced by Ron Geesin (Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother), it introduced another crop of beautifully pastoral St. John originals as well as a couple of well-chosen covers. Five tracks appear on Fly High including the Martyn-written "Back to Stay." St. John's final long-player for Dandelion, Thank You For..., arrived shortly thereafter, in 1972. Jerry Boys (Steeleye Span, Sandy Denny) helmed the LP, which gently moved St. John into the realm of folk-rock with more expansive arrangement. Six tracks have been culled from Thank You, though not its covers of Bob Dylan or Buddy Holly. However, "Silver Coin" by Hunter Muskett's Terry Hiscock is here, as is "Good Baby Goodbye," written by St. John's husband Nigel Beresford, and her dramatic raga-rock reinvention of the traditional "Lazarus." This disc is rounded out by live performances of "If You've Got Money" and Martyn's "The River," both from Montreux in April 1972.
Fly High continues with a narrated tour of St. John's life and career, as snippets from a 2009 interview are woven throughout the second disc. Four early tracks recorded at Al Stewart's home in 1968 are featured here from acetates ("Ask Me No Questions," "Lizard-Long-Tongue Boy," "Hello Again (Of Course)," "To B Without a Hitch"), all of which are appearing in the digital/CD domain for the first time here. St. John's initial BBC session here - previously issued on the 1969 LP John Peel Presents Top Gear - can be heard here, including her rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Night in the City." One track hails from The Old Grey Whistle Test ("Nice"), one from a session with the BBC's Bob Harris ("Thank You For") and three from French television ("Downderry Daze," "Like Never Before," "Ask Me No Questions"). Most recently, two performances recorded for Cherry Red TV in 2009 with singer-songwriter Michael Chapman, reprises of "Ask Me No Questions" and "The River," also make their debuts. (Longtime fans will note that the BBC tracks have been previously issued in 2010 as Live on the BBC.) The 1972 single "There's a Place I Know" b/w the late Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" is also included.
Though Bridget still performs today, she has no immediate plans to make another record. But Fly High might tide over longtime fans, and earn her some new ones! The anthology includes a 16-page booklet with notes by Nigel Cross, while Alan Wilson has handled the mastering. Fly High is available now at the links below!
CD 1: Album Highlights
- To B Without a Hitch
- Autumn Lullaby
- Ask Me No Questions
- Lizard-Long-Tongue Boy
- Hello Again (Of Course)
- If You've Got Money (Live)
- Downderry Daze
- Back to Stay
- City Crazy
- Song for the Laird of Connaught Hall (Part Two)
- Early Morning Song
- It Seems Very Strange
- Good Baby Goodbye
- Silver Coin
- Fly High
- Thank You For...
- The River (Live)
- A Song is As Long as It Wants to Go On
CD 2: Curios (tracks in italics are interview clips)
- On a musical childhood
- Ask Me No Questions (Acetate)
- Lizard-Long-Tongue Boy (Acetate)
- Getting to know the guitar
- Hello Again (Of Course) (Acetate)
- To B Without a Hitch (Acetate)
- On demoing for the BBC
- The River (Top Gear)
- Song to Keep You Company (Top Gear)
- On meeting John Peel
- Night in the City (Top Gear)
- Lazarus (Top Gear)
- On Dandelion Records
- Nice (The Old Grey Whistle Test)
- On recording her debut album
- There's a Place I Know
- On recording 'Songs for the Gentle Man'
- Downderry Daze (Live on French TV)
- Like Never Before (Live on French TV)
- Ask Me No Questions (Live on French TV)
- On recording 'Thank You For...'
- Thank You For (Bob Harris Session)
- On her contemporaries
- Ask Me No Questions (with Michael Chapman, 2009)
- The River (with Michael Chapman, 2009)
- On longevity