Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day is a lost gem of folk music originally recorded and released in 1970, only to become a collector's item fetching upwards of $1000. It finally found a new audience thanks to reissues on Spinney Records (the label run by Paul Lambden, royalties manager and publisher for the likes of Piano Magic at Rykomusic and Sean Newsham of Quickspace and Kitty Kitty Corporation) in the UK in 2000 and Dicristina Stair in the US in 2004 (with an interim version also released in Korea in 2003 on M2U Records).
Vashti Bunyan combined the folk sounds of the day from the likes of the Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention (members of which help out with the instrumentation and who also have a connection to Rykomusic), her wispy sweet vocals, and a Nick Drake like lyrical simplicity (Nick Drake's producer Joe Boyd and his string arranger Robert Kirby both worked with Vashti as well on this album) for an album that ends up transcending the time period in which it was created.
Vashti had originally appeared in the mid-60s working with Andrew Loog Oldham releasing the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger/Keith Richards tune Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind (with her own I Want To Be Alone as the single's B-side) in 1965 and a follow-up single Train Song for EMI/Columbia in 1966. She then went on to record some unreleased recordings for Oldham's Immediate label before leaving London in a horse-drawn wagon for a two-year journey in search of Donovan.
Train Song (and it's b-side Love Song) was a highlight on Folk Rock and Faithfull - Dream Babes Volume Five (where you can also hear two songs called Bring It to Me and You Know by Jennifer Lewis and Angela Strange, who were helped out by Vashti at the time) and Winter is Blue on the Instant Karma compilation (the compilation of Immediate label's subsidiary Instant Records).
The Spinney Records release includes the entire Just Another Diamond Day album plus 4 bonus tracks (Love Song, the b-side to Train Song; I'd Like To Walk Around In Your Mind, an unreleased Immediate Records acetate; Winter is Blue, an unreleased acetate from 1966; and Iris's Song, an early alternate version of the song Iris's Song For Us which was re-recorded for Just Another Diamond Day). Sadly, this reissue does not include everything Vashti released but the Spinney label is putting together a collection of these and more lost recordings for 2005.
The difference between Vashti's early recordings and Just Another Diamond Day are apparently due to her feelings of failure and the desire to leave the music business behind. What better way to leave the business behind then to record a wispy album with no lyrical connection to the times it was recorded in? Instead of singing about politics or love, Vashti chose to sing simple nomadic songs about rivers, trees, the wind and the straightforward necessities of life. But sadly due to how the album virtually dropped without a trace, Vashti stopped writing and singing completely and instead turned to starting a family and other things.
The interest from artists like Quickspace (back in 2000) and more recently Devendra Banhart, Piano Magic, and Animal Collective (who have all collaborated with Vashti recently) has finally led to the album's availability on both shores.
Just Another Diamond Day upon first listen comes off as an overly simplistic effort, but soon it becomes apparent that beneath the simple presentation and apparently simple lyrics lies a more profound beauty. Because everything she sings about is on equal ground, simple things like trees and the wind take on new meaning while the people that populate our world recede in importance. While the work is reminiscent of Nick Drake's music or more recent work by The Gentle Waves' Isobell Campbell (of Belle & Sebastian), there isn't really an over arching feeling of depression inherent in this work. Rather, because of the equal footing of all things in Vashti's music, everything is of equal value: whether it be good or bad, it just is.
The songs are delicate and fragile things, with Diamond Day setting the scene with its tranquil flutes. Vashti's singing is almost a whisper at times, colored by her straight forward almost child-like lyrics and her la la las.
Glow Worms could well be a Gentle Waves' tune, while one might envision children dancing around an ancient pole to the softly plucked Lily Pond. Timothy Grub has the added dimension of a faraway piano to add to the sonic textures.
Where I Like To Stand has one of the more haunting melodies and help from some plaintive strings. Window Over The Bay starts out a cappella before the delicate accompaniment joins Vashti's angelic voice. Come Wind Come Rain sounds like it sums up the life Vashti had turned to after leaving the music business.
Iris's Song For Us shows how far Vashti had come since recording the unreleased version, also heard here as a bonus track and as the last track - Iris's Song (Version Two). Love Song is another bonus track, and one of the first tracks that made me want to hear more by Vashti. I'd Like To Walk Around In Your Mind sounds like it could've been recorded in the 80s by one of the C86 bands. Winter Is Blue is another favorite, heard here in a sweet little unreleased acetate.