Thursday, February 24, 2011

Judy Collins: "Running For My Life" (1980/2010 re-issue) CD Review

This album includes Judy Collins' version of "The Rainbow Connection." That should be enough to make everyone want to own it.

Judy Collins' 1980 release, Running For My Life, features three original songs, as well as several interesting covers including "The Rainbow Connection." This was the first album for which Judy Collins received sole producing credit.

Title Track "Running For My Life"
The album opens with "Running For My Life," the album's title track, which was written by Judy Collins. This is one of three original songs on the album. It feels like folk on the verge of pop, but there is also something theatrical about this song - both in her voice and the production. It makes sense, as she covers two Stephen Sondheim songs on this album.

It's an interesting song, but it suffers a bit from some cheesy backing vocals. There are some good lyrics, however. Judy sings, "I'm going where the weather is hot/And you are not."

"Bright Morning Star"

"Bright Morning Star" starts off with Judy singing acappella, and her voice is absolutely gorgeous on this one. And this time the backing vocalists really add something worthwhile. This song has an uplifting, spiritual feel and tone.

No one is credited on this album as the author of this song. The Stanley Brothers, Emmylou Harris and The Jerry Garcia Band have also covered this song.

Stephen Sondheim

On Running For My Life Judy Collins covers two songs by Stephen Sondheim. Both songs are from the first act of the 1979 musical Sweeney Todd. The first is "Green Finch And Linnet Bird," and Judy Collins' rendition is wonderful. The second is "Pretty Women."


"Marieke" is a song written by Jacques Brel that Judy Collins released a decade earlier on her 1970 album Whales & Nightingales. It's clearly a song that Judy Collins loves, and this second version is incredibly beautiful. Both versions are exactly the same length: 3:18. Her voice is so passionate and gorgeous on this song.

"Almost Free"

"Almost Free" is one of the best songs on the album, mostly because of the lyrics, written by Hugh Prestwood. Judy sings, "I was almost free/There almost wasn't any you and me." The song features these great lines: "Maybe I'm too much in love to be strong/Maybe there's more than one way to be gone/A few more pills, a little more wine/And I can get very hard to find."

"I Could Really Show You Around"

"I Could Really Show You Around" is a totally cool and interesting song, quite different from most of the songs Judy Collins chooses to cover. It has a bit of funk to it, a bit of rock. And this is another song that actually benefits from the backing vocalists. It was written by Peter Allen and Dean Pitchford (and yes, Dean Pitchford is the person who wrote Footloose).

"I've Done Enough Dyin' Today"
"I've Done Enough Dyin' Today" is a song that's both beautiful and sad, a combination that works so well for Judy Collins. It was written by Larry Gatlin, and includes the lines, "The hourglass is all out of sand/How could love slip through our fingers/And leave nothing but time on our hands." The piano is excellent in this song.

"Anyone Would Love You" is a tender love song.

"The Rainbow Connection"
Everyone knows that "The Rainbow Connection" is a wonderful song. We've all heard Kermit The Frog sing it, and somehow that puppet has even managed to bring tears to many people's eyes. And on this album, Judy Collins does a truly beautiful version of the song. It's the best track on the album.

A lot of people have covered this song, but Judy Collins was one of the first - if not the very first - to do it. It's also been covered by Willie Nelson, The Carpenters, Kenny Loggins, Sarah McLachlan, and The Dresden Dolls. Debbie Harry sang it as a duet with Kermit on The Muppet Show in 1981. Recently, an acappella version of the song was featured at the end of the 2006 movie The Breakup. Of all the versions out there, Judy Collins' rendition is one of the best.

Judy Collins Original Material
Running For My Life concludes with two original Judy Collins songs: "This Is The Day" and "Wedding Song." Both songs have the vocals at the fore, with the instruments supporting the voice. "Wedding Song" was written for Judy's brother, who got married in 1979. But it feels like a much older song, a traditional wedding song from centuries past. It's very pretty and bright, and Judy's voice sounds amazing.

CD Track List

  1. Running For My Life
  2. Bright Morning Star
  3. Green Finch And Linnet Bird
  4. Marieke
  5. Pretty Women
  6. Almost Free
  7. I Could Really Show You Around
  8. I've Done Enough Dyin' Today
  9. Anyone Would Love You
  10. The Rainbow Connection
  11. This Is The Day
  12. Wedding Song

Judy Collins' Running For My Life was re-released on July 27, 2010 by Collectors' Choice Music. Nine Judy Collins albums were re-released on that date, including True Stories And Other Dreams (1973), Bread & Roses (1976), Times Of Our Lives (1982) and Home Again (1984).

(Note: I originally posted this review on September 6, 2010.)

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