A Caressing Folk-Pop Sound

Feb 28, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Has all of her 1960s and most of her 1970s hits

Cons:Missing a few later tracks; a bit slow in places

The Bottom Line: If you enjoy the mellow folk-pop sound, check out this CD.

I first heard of Judy Collins in 1968, when she had her top-10 pop hit “Both Sides Now.” Recently I had the chance to hear my friend’s DC and enjoyed it a great deal. Judy started out as a straight folk singer in the late 1950s, but she gradually evolved into a folk-tinged soft rocker. The following is a summary of the tracks on this compilation:

Turn, Turn, Turn This version of the folk classic was recorded in 1964 with Roger McGuinn—a year before Roger recorded hit with his band The Byrds and soared to #1 on the chart. I am so used to the Byrds’ take on the song, but Judy’s version also works well in the reflective acoustic setting—it reminds me of fall segueing into winter.

So Early, Early in the Spring is a song about a soldier going to war, believing he is doing the right thing. The lyrics are about the longing to get married to his girlfriend.

Suzanne is a reflective strummer that makes you feel you are out on a lake—it has that summery feel to it.

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues This Bob Dylan composition has a woodwind accompaniment and seems to be about a Vietnam veteran coping but not well. As usual, Dylan paints a poignant portrait of the long—term effects of war on a human level. The song also mentions a Melinda, and this soldier’s longing to be reunited with her. I am sure many soldiers fighting in Iraq can relate well to the lyrics.

Both Sides Now This song is a masterpiece—I didn’t enjoy it much when it came out in late 1968, but I’ve come to enjoy it a lot more as the years passed. The lyrics, penned by Joni Mitchell, tell of coming to grips with ambivalence that comes with aging, as well as the loss of innocence. The song was apropos for that year because we had lost two charismatic leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy earlier in 1968. The song is a lyrical masterpiece, and Collins sang it quite well.

Since You’ve Asked has a haunting brassy feel to the instruments, and the lyrics paint a sinuous picture of nature. It was a well-written song and goes well with a scenic drive.

Albatross sounds as though it may have been channeled by some mystery being—it sounds as though it might have been a movie song somewhere down the line—it made me think of a camera panning across some rolling hills.

My Father has a sparse arrangement—it is a poignant piano ballad that brought to mind late-1990s Sarah McLachlan. Lyrically it is an expansive song of dreams and one of the best tributes to a father I have heard—right up there with The Winstons’ 1969 hit “Color Him Father,” Dan Fogelberg’s 1982 hit “Leader of the Band,” and Luther Vandross’s 2003 single “Dance with My Father.”

Someday Soon was a 1969 single that had a West Coast, proto-Eagles country rock feel to it—it has a wistful feel to it, and the singer longs to be reunited with her husband/boyfriend.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes has a wintry feel to it—apropos for a January day—laments that time is slipping by and the inevitable procession toward middle age.

Chelsea Morning was a single for Collins in April 1969, but the song had an early-1970s feel to it, so it was a bit ahead of its time, with a jazzy fee, an upbeat piano sound, and an eagerness to embrace a new day. The sensuous lyrics help you believe you’re right there in Chelsea with her. It made me think of the Kingston Trio’s 1959 hit “MTA,” which also mentioned this Massachusetts city in the lyrics.

Farewell to Torwathie has the sound of a waterfall in the background. It was a whaling song—about the wait for the opportunity to harpoon a whale. The song has a wintry feel—possibly in Greenland. There was no bird in Greenland to sing to the whale—Greenland is the Arctic’s version of Antarctica. The whales sounded forlorn—reminded me of the 2005 movie March of the Penguins.

Open the Door (Song for Judith came out in late 1971, and Judy wrote it herself. The tune celebrated friendship. A choir-like sound kicks in toward the end, beefing up the sound a bit.

Cook with Honey was a song I recalled hearing in early 1973. it is a paean to domestic tranquility, and it has an early spring feel to it, as well as an open-minded spirit. I was 11 when the song was a hit, so I thought the song was simply about dinnertime. However, the song has a double meaning—about the sweetness of making love to one’s mate. The woodwinds add to the sweetness of the track, and it reached #33 on the chart in March 1973.

I first heard Send In the Clowns in July 1975, but it had an ominous late autumn feel to it. The song reached #36 on the chart in August of that year but would reach the top 20 when re-released, in the fall of 1977. When I heard the song in August 1975, I had a premonition of big snowstorms hitting the Northeast—it may have foreshadowed the winter of 1977-78, when the song would be popular again. The violin and piano give the track a sparse, haunting feel—almost funereal. You can almost picture the leaves falling off the trees on an October afternoon.

Amazing Grace The first time I recall hearing this perennial hymn was with her version in early 1971. It was one of Collins’ biggest pop hits, reaching the top 20 in February of that year, as well as one of the biggest a cappella hits ever. Though there is a chorus accompanying Judy, there is no instrumental accompaniment.. With the death toll mounting from Vietnam, a lot of families could relate to this song. The following year, an instrumental version of the hymn, by the Royal Scots Dragoon, would also reach the top 20.

Judy Collins’ last charted single on the pop chart was 1979’s “Hard Times for Lovers,” a minor hit that was not on this disc. (Her last adult contemporary entry was “Fires of Eden,” a 1990 track which unfortunately isn’t on the disc either.)

The liner notes on this CD are excellent, and I enjoyed looking at the photo of Ms. Collins, who is quite attractive. Judy’s hair is a trichophile’s dream—it is quite attractive.

All in all, this was an enjoyable listen. Some of the songs were a bit slow and narcoleptic, but the good definitely outweighed the bad. Judy Collins was a thoughtful, earnest folk/soft vocalist and is sincerely committed to the values she professes.

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