Thursday, 13 October 2016

"In My Life/Wildflowers/Whales & Nightingales" by JUDY COLLINS (2016 Beat Goes On Reissue - 3LPs onto 2CDs - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...There Are Places I Remember...With Lovers And Friends..."

I'm not quite sure what's going on with the presentation of this gorgeous 2CD reissue out of the UK (August 2016 on Beat Goes On) – but it seems to have disappeared down the numerical rabbit hole that is the Amazon sales system.

If I type in the Barcode for BGOCD 1243 into their search bar (5017261212436) – it should bring me immediately to this new August 2016 reissue (3LPs Remastered in High Definition onto 2CDs from original tapes) – but instead I’m taken to the original American issue of "In My Life" as a stand-alone Rhino CD in the late 1990s? And that applies to both Amazon UK and USA sites? I've dropped them a note to sort this out – because as it stands – you can't actually find this beautiful Beat Goes On set on either side of the pond - which does both this superb reissue label and the gorgeous music presented here a massive disservice. Anyway – here are the wild flowers and the sublime nightingales...

UK and US released August 2016 – "In My Life/Wildflowers/Whales & Nightingales" by JUDY COLLINS on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1243 (Barcode 5017261212436) offers 3LPs from 1966, 1968 and 1970 on Elektra Records Remastered in High Definition onto 2CDs from original tapes and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (48:16 minutes):
1. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
2. Hard Lovin' Loser
3. Pirate Jenny
4. Suzanne
5. La Colombe - The Dove
6. Marat/Sade (Homage To Marat: Marat We're Poor, People's Reaction, Poor Old Marat) - Side 2
7. I Think It's Going To Rain Today
8. Sunny Goodge Street
9. Liverpool Lullaby
10. Dress Rehearsal Rag
11. In My Life
Tracks 1 to 11 are her sixth album (fifth studio) "In My Life" - released December 1966 in the USA on Elektra Records EKL-320 (Mono) and Elektra EKS-7320 (Stereo) - the Stereo mix is used. Arranged by JOSHUA RIFKIN and Produced by MARK ABRAHAMSON - it peaked at No. 46 on the US LP charts.

Disc 2 (78:17 minutes):
1. Michael From Mountains
2. Since You Asked
3. Sisters Of Mercy
4. Priests
5. A Ballata Of Francesco Landini (Lasso! Di Donna)
6. Both Sides Now - Side 2
7. La Chanson Des Vieux Amants (The Song Of Old Lovers)
8. Sky Fell
9. Albatross
10. Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
Tracks 1 to 10 are her seventh album "Wildflowers" - released January 1968 in the USA on Elektra EKL-4001 (Mono) and Elektra EKS-74001 (Stereo) - the Stereo Mix is used. Arranged by JOSHUA RIFKIN and Produced by MARK ABRAHAMSON - it peaked at No. 5 on the US LP charts.

11. Song For David
12. Sons Of
13. The Patriot Game
14. Prothalamium
15. Oh, Had I A Golden Thread
16. Gene's Song
17. Farewell To Tarwathie
18. Time Passes Slowly
19. Marieke
20. Nightingale I
21. Nightingale II
22. Simple Gifts
23. Amazing Grace
Tracks 11 to 23 are her 9th album "Whales & Nightingales" - released November 1970 in the USA on Elektra EKS-75010 and January 1971 in the UK on Elektra K 42059. Arranged by JOHN HAENY and Produced by MARK ABRAHAMSON - it peaked at No. 17 on the US LP charts and No. 37 in the UK (her first chart LP in Britain).

The card slipcase adds a classy feel to all BGO releases and the 16-page booklet features superbly detailed JOHN O’REGAN liner notes rapping affectionate about the three platters in question and her near 50-album career (the text is peppered with black and white period photos as well as album and reissue credits). Regan is right to highlight "In My Life" as a kind of Folk-Rock watershed album in late 1966. In fact when I listen to Bryan Ferry’s cover of "Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues" on his superb 2007 covers project "Dylanesque" – it’s Judy’s slowed down cover version he draws from rather than the Bobster’s original. But the big news here is new 2016 Remasters by ANDREW THOMPSON from original tapes that sound glorious to say the least - those Elektra tapes in seriously good shape. This is a beautiful sounding reissue and BGO is clearly aware of it pronouncing it 'Mastered In High Definition - Audiophile Recording From The Original Masters'. Indeed...

Beautifully Arranged by Joshua Rifkin and Produced by Mark Abrahamson – Judy's sixth album "In My Life" saw Colorado's finest finally leave behind the pure unadorned Folk of her earlier releases on Elektra Records and fully embrace one of the most pleasing of all Sixties sounds – Folk Rock. The eleven cover versions offered here stretch across a gamut of genres and reveal smart choices on the part of a beautiful and clued-in soul – Richard Farina's ho-daddy-haircut-spoonful-of-fun clavinet-manic "Hard Lovin' Loser", Donovan's violent hash smokers in the London hippy-chic "Sunny Goodge Street", Dylan's witty and acidic "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" stripped down to Flute and Voice, Randy Newman's achingly sad "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today" and a double-whammy from the King of Cheer – both Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" and "Dress Rehearsal Rag" made prettier by acoustic guitars, Judy’s soaring voice and heroes in the seaweed (her album helped launch his career). Alongside these contemporary American and British singer-songwriters sit the European 'Gauloises' cool of the ship-girls in Berholt Brecht's "Pirate Jenny", Jacques Brel's "La Colombe – The Dove" and a homage to the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat by the Marquis de Sade from the adapted German screenplay of 1963 (1966 string-up-the-aristocrats music by Richard Peaslee).

You can also chuck into that stew the Traditional sea-shanty mucky kid of "Liverpool Lullaby" – but a genuine standout has to be the titular Folk-Soul of The Beatles "In My Life". Of all the millions of Fab covers tapping their staggering catalogue – this is surely one of the most affecting – simple and beautiful and making you reminisce about those 'lovers and friends' lyrics. This is a whole album of eclectic period choices sided by songs of warmth and broken humanity that somehow all gel as one coherent whole. In fact as Hippy-Folk as the album is in places - "In My Life" still stands up and you can’t help but feel is an overlooked gem that shouldn't be. And BGO's Andrew Thompson has transferred these wonderful adaptations with skill and warmth...

Disc 2 gives us two whole albums onto 1 CD - the follow-up LP from January 1968 "Wildflowers" (her sixth release) and a jump to January 1971 for her 9th vinyl outing "Whales & Nightingales". 1971's "Whales & Nightingales" contains the global smash "Amazing Grace" – an exquisitely delicate rendition of the hymn and peace anthem – a song that finally charted Judy Collins everywhere else in the world other than just her native USA.

"Wildflowers" opens with one of a Joni Mitchell double - "Michael From Mountains" which would turn up on her 1968 debut and the Side 2 opener "Both Sides Now" which Joni would eventually air on 1969's "Clouds". Both are so damn good and you can literally feel the songwriting magic emanate from their pores. Gasbag Leonard Cohen once again proves to be the perfect foil for Judy's voice and style - both "Sisters Of Mercy" and "Priests" swirling with plucked harps, tubas and carefully chosen double-bass notes (beautifully clear Remasters on these). I can live without the French baroque of "Lasso! Di Donna" but I welcome the commercial harpsichord pop of "Both Sides Now" - a No. 8 placing on 7" single in the USA in October 1968 (Elektra 45639). We return to cello melancholy with Brel's "La Chanson Des Vieux Amants" and two of her own - the heavily orchestrated "Sky Fell" and "Albatross" - both very Joni-delicate. It ends on yet another Leonard Cohen bedroom tale of lost 'love in the morning' - Judy smartly hooking into his uncanny ability to pen melodies that linger in your heart and brain.

"Whales & Nightingales" follows the same form - opening with the acoustic 'waiting by the stony gate' pleading of Joan Baez's "Song For David" that is followed by the piano waltz Jacques Brel's 'child of no complaint' "Sons Of". Brother of the well-known Irish playwright Brendan Behan - his brother Dominic penned "The Patriot Game" - a warning song to young Irishmen considering a career in the ranks of the Republicans. Avant Garde writers Aaron Kramer and Michael Sahl penned the weird-sounding "Prothalamium" where people prepare for the relentless spring by sweeping out the shadows of seasons past (all the mute birds shall sing). Folky Pete Seeger provides the album's first genuinely lovely moment - a simple piano cover of his "Oh, Had A Golden Thread" where Judy sings in earnest and admiration of the bravery of women giving birth – their children of the earth - saving us from ourselves.

Arranged and Conducted by Gene Murrow - "Gene's Song" is a Traditional played as a short instrumental on what sounds like a harmonium. This in turn segues into humped-back whale cries as Judy sings Acapella on another Traditional "Farewell To Tarwathie" - her voice floating above recordings of lapping waves and their lonesome sonar cries. Sounds a tad hippy-dip I know - but its amazingly affecting. In fact both her politics and environmental concerns are given air on this album with tracks like this and Behan's ode to Irish pain in "The Patriot Game". Bob Dylan gave her "Time Passes Slowly" - a lovely ballad that got lost on Dylan's "New Morning" album in 1970. Her own 'I' and 'II' versions of "Nightingales" are piano ballads about God not answering prayers - while the Panpipe "Simple Gifts" is a variant of 'The Lord Of The Dance' air. But the album is dominated by her ethereal rendition of the hymn "Amazing Grace" - her voice soaring in a cathedral echo - the choir joining her as they both bring the ache to a crescendo. I remember the song's impact at the time - people would cry – almost like she’d touched upon a real social longing in those years of chaos and upheaval - and somehow given it a name. I suspect all great conduit songs are like this...

Always a class act but never given the credit she's due - Stephen Stills would pen "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" for her on the 1969 "Crosby, Stills & Nash" debut masterpiece on Atlantic Records. Based on the varied and moving music presented here - Stevie's reaction to Judy Collins doesn't surprise me a jot...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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