Dando Shaft iTunes Tracks

Dando Shaft

+ {Martin Jenkins}

Drawing their influences from Anglo-blues/folk counterparts PENTANGLE, the initial “unplugged” 5-piece of frontman Martin Jenkins, Kevin Dempsey, Dave Cooper, Roger Bullen and Ted Kay set out their stall in Coventry, September 1969, although many sources have it a year earlier.
Taken under the wing of ex-SORROWS member Miki Dallon, DANDO SHAFT (named after a character in a book) inked a deal with British independent label Youngblood, home to the likes of `Indian Reservation’ hitmaker DON FARDON, among others.
Releasing their debut set, …AN EVENING WITH… (1970) {*9}, the hippie-like DANDO SHAFT lyrically echoed nature (`Rain’ and `Cold Wind’) alongside whimsical elements such as merriment and spiritual joy (example `September Wine’ or jigster `Drops Of Brandy’). From the aforementioned PENTANGLE-like opener, `Rain’, to the swing-set of `Cat Song’, each jazz-tinged cue was highlighted by the playful mandolin plucking of the talented Jenkins. Exquisite and most resembling the INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, `In The Country’ (ditto `End Of The Game’) was the most unavoidably accented song, while the delightful `Lazily, Slowly’ closed one of folk-rock music’s greatest sets.
Not content with sounding partially like PENTANGLE (BERT JANSCH, JOHN RENBOURN, et al), the quintet – now based in London – subsequently added their own JACQUI McSHEE in 6th member Polly Bolton, after auditions with LINDA Peters THOMPSON failed.
Now signed to short-lived RCA subsidiary Neon, the eponymous DANDO SHAFT (1971) {*7} was delivered to a degree of critical acclaim, although sales were poor in comparison to their folk counterparts like FAIRPORT CONVENTION, STEELEYE SPAN, et al. The addition of Polly had made a great impact, with such gems as `River Boat’, `Coming Home To Me’ and solo `Railway’ coming up trumps, while Jenkins took centre stage on the equally exciting `Whispering Ned’, `Kalyope Driver’ and `Waves Upon The Ether’ (albeit with Polly singing back-up); Cooper and Bolton sang together on `Sometimes’. The band’s musicianship abilities were not forgotten via two soundbite instrumentals, `Dewet’ and `Prayer’, while Polly, Dave and Kev created sing-a-long-a `Pass It On’.
Spreading their proverbial wings, LANTALOON (1972) {*5} took a slight commercial folk-pop slant, disappointing both fanbase and critics alike. There were definitely moments of pleasure such as `Road Song’, `Is It Me?’ and the JETHRO TULL-esque `It Was Good’, but dirges like novelty-ish `Melancholic Fervour (It’s Only Us)’ were poor by comparison. Bolton had her say by way of `I Heard Somewhere’ (her finest on show here), `Magnetic Beggar’, `Down To You, Up To Me’, `The Harp Lady I Bombed’ and `When I’m Weary’, but it was clear the group had reached their peak – when even PENTANGLE failed to generate new customers, it was hardly likely DANDO SHAFT would succeed. The inevitable happened when the sextet split in ’72 (Jenkins soon joined HEDGEHOG PIE, BERT JANSCH, 5 HAND REEL, PLAINSONG, et al), and with Dempsey they subsequently found solace with DAVE SWARBRICK’s WHIPPERSNAPPER. Only loyal fans thought that the DANDO SHAFT comeback set, KINGDOM (1977) {*4}, was worthy of a reunion. The same could be said for MARTIN JENKINS’ lonesome solo venture, CARRY YOUR SMILE (1983) {*4}, which was buried under the many eclectic covers (e.g. `Unsquare Dance’ and `The Parting Glass’); a 1989-recorded DANDO SHAFT live reunion set, SHADOWS ACROSS THE MOON {*5} was belatedly released in 1993 – but only in Italy. On a footnote, it was sad to hear of the death of Ted Kay in March 2007 after a long bout of ill health; ditto, Jenkins, who died of a heart attack on 17 May 2011.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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