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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wendy Saddington and Copperwine Live 1971..rare release from sensual blues and soul vocalist

Wendy June Saddington also known as Gandharvika Dasi (26 September 1949 – 21 June 2013) was an Australian blues, soul and jazz singer, and was in the bands Chain, Copperwine and the Wendy Saddington Band. She wrote for teen pop newspaper Go-Set from September 1969 to September 1970 as an agony aunt in her weekly "Takes Care of Business" column, and as a feature writer. Saddington had Top 30 chart success with her 1972 solo single "Looking Through a Window", which was written and produced by Billy Thorpe and Warren Morgan of the Aztecs. After adopting Krishna Consciousness in the 1970s she took the name, Gandharvika Dasi. In March 2013 she was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and died on 21 June 2013, aged 63. An underrated talent and very sad loss.

Wendy Saddington's musical influences included the likes of Bessie Smith, Etta James, Mahalia Jackson, Odetta, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, and the raw blues from the Mississippi delta, along with the swanky soul coming from the American Stax, Atlantic and Motown labels. There was also something of the vulnerability of Edith Piaf in Wendy's pleading, bleeding vocal entreaties.

Saddington first came to notice in Melbourne psych-soul outfit The Revolution, before swiftly joining Adelaide's psychedelic/classically flavoured James Taylor Move around late 1967. When Wendy joined the emerging blues-rock ensemble Beaten Tracks, which she named (The) Chain, after the song by one of her heroines, Aretha Franklin's soul classic, "Chain Of Fools". Wendy spent around 18 months touring with Chain, and it was during this time that her passionate, earth-mother Joplin/Franklin vocal style came to prominent notice among promoters and punters alike. Also, her 'outlandish' appearance attracted magazines like Go-Set: a sad waif-like face, heavily mascara-ed around the eyes, framed by the hugest of afro 'do' this side of Jimi's Experience! Wendy favoured simple Levi's, with a basic shirt or cheesecloth kaftan top, copiously accessorised with love-beads and bangles.

Saddington's next musical outing was with Jeff St John's highly acclaimed and well-established group, Copperwine, and it's here that we finally have an officially-released recording of her sublime vocal performances! Wendy joined the band in March 1970, just after the release of Copperwine's superb Joint Effort album, and she sang live as co-lead with St John for a concentrated touring regime through to February 1971. In January of that year, with St John temporarily away from the band, Saddington fronted Copperwine for their acclaimed performance at the Wallacia Festival on the central-coast of New South Wales.

A live recording of the event was released on Festival's new progressive subsidiary Infinity during '71, which showcased Copperwine's sympathetic backing sensibilities for Wendy's distinctive vocals. On such cuts as the funky opener, Nina Simone's "Backlash Blues", and her heartfelt reading of Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues", Saddington continually astonishes with her sensual soul power. Another notable inclusion is Wendy's introspective and idiosyncratic reading of John Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows" (which Wendy introduces as a George Harrison composition!) Other highlights include "Five People Said I Was Crazy " (which, with its wild Ross East guitar solo, Barry Kelly's electric piano flourishes and Wendy's monumental banshee wail, certainly lives up to its title). The closing tour-de-force "Blues In A" completely satisfies the listener as a consummate combination of the music of one of Australia's premier all-purpose prog-blues bands of the time, with definitely one of our most unique and mesmerising blues-soul vocalists.