“In My Life” by Judy Collins - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1966Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

Now 27, the Denver-based Folk singer took a turn towards a more tasteful and eclectic production on her 5th LP, including covers of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel, Randy Newman, Donovan and The Beatles. The album starts with a fantastic cover of “Tom Thumb’s Blues” (Bob Dylan, 1965) and immediately we get a sense that this set is going to be flavoured unusually; Joshua Rifkin's airy, baroque arrangement re-imagines Dylan's work in a whole new psuedo-classical light. Said Judy “It was a very big change. It was something that was dramatically different. What I wanted to do with this album was to make a difference, to do different things, not to be doing the singer-songwriter route.

The imaginative approach is accentuated spectacularly on “Pirate Jenny”, a theatrical stomp which places the mood in late 1920s Germany. The original play, “Die Dreigroschenoper”, delivered a socialist critique of the capitalist world. Even more dramatic is “La Colombe” (Jacques Brel, 1959). Said Judy “I adored Brel. Jac Holzman (president of Elektra Records) started to bring me Brel records, and I went to his concert in Carnegie Hall in 1965. I was just mad about Brel. And I loved this song; I think it's one of the best anti-war songs ever written by anybody”.

Sandwiched between these two was a very fine reading of Leonard Cohen's “Suzanne”, the first appearance of any Leonard Cohen song on a record. Judy had been introduced to Leonard by a mutual friend - Mary Martin - and the inclusion of his songs suited both of them; he was keen to hear how his songs sounded on record and she thought of them as “the perfect fit for the kind of departure we were making”. The dark-cabaret treatment of Cohen's “Dress Rehearsal Rag” was excellent, the self-loathing is palpable; pop fayre this was not.

Opening side two, Judy delves once more into the world of the German stage play, with a fantastic medley from Peter Weiss's 1963 play “Marat/Sade”; the big question is: does true revolution comes from changing society or changing oneself? The strength-in-depth of this album is terrific; covers of “I Think It's Going To Rain Today” (Julius LaRosa, 1966), written by up-and-coming songwriter Randy Newman, and “Sunny Goodge Street” (Donovan, 1965) maintain the high quality.

For all the fabulous eclecticism on show, it's her version of Stan Bootle’s ode to the harsh realities of the old Scouse working classes which steals my maximum affection. Originally a 19th century traditional, “Liverpool Lullaby” was rewritten by Stan and first released by Jacqueline and Bridie in 1964. The story of the abusive head-of-the-house is dealt with in typical Scouse fashion; Stan’s lyrics are at once sad, poignant and hilarious: “When Littlewoods provides the cash, we’ll get a house in Knotty Ash, and buy your dad a brewery”. Same story in any Northern industrial town methinks!

And there we have it; from Berlin to Liverpool to Montreal via Denver, she's able for them all. A sterling effort.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [05:03] 8.0.png Judy Collins - Tom Thumb’s Blues (Robert Zimmerman) Folk
A2 [02:37] 6.2.png Judy Collins - Hard Lovin’ Loser (Richard Fariña) Rock n Roll / Rockabilly
A3 [04:02] 7.9.png Judy Collins - Pirate Jenny (Marc Blitzstein, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill) Crooner / Cabaret
A4 [04:21] 7.2.png Judy Collins - Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) Folk
A5 [05:03] 8.5.png Judy Collins - La Colombe (Jacques Brel, Alasdair Clayre) Folk
B1 [05:33] 8.3.png Judy Collins - Marat/Sade (Richard Peaslee) Crooner / Cabaret
B2 [02:46] 8.0.png Judy Collins - I Think It’s Going To Rain Today (Randy Newman) Songwriter
B3 [02:55] 7.8.png Judy Collins - Sunny Goodge Street (Donovan Leitch) Songwriter
B4 [02:57] 8.6.png Judy Collins - Liverpool Lullaby (Stan Kelly) Folk
B5 [05:19] 8.5.png Judy Collins - Dress Rehearsal Rag (Leonard Cohen) Songwriter
B6 [02:53] 6.3.png Judy Collins - In My Life (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Songwriter

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