Sunday, May 22, 2011

Judy Collins: "Bread & Roses" (1976/2010 re-issue) CD Review

Judy Collins has one of the most beautiful voices in music, and she puts it to great use on songs such as "Out Of Control" and "Love Hurts."

Bread & Roses contains several beautiful songs, including "Spanish Is the Loving Tongue," "Love Hurts" and Judy Collins' own original composition, "Out Of Control."

By this point in her career, Judy Collins had moved slightly outside of the folk music realm and into soft rock or pop. After all, this was the 1970s, and music was changing. All of the folks who survived the 1960s and were still actively creating new music had to pick new paths.

But Judy Collins' voice, of course, retained its beauty, and that voice is enough to draw in listeners. Bread & Roses reached #25 on the charts.

Title Track

The album opens with "Bread And Roses," the title track. The song starts with Judy singing acappella. Her voice has always been her main strength, and so she really doesn't need instruments.

But a little more than a minute into the song, the instruments kick in, and the song actually sounds even better. It takes on a new power, and even has a marching drum beat. The vocals are still the focal point, but the music is pretty amazing. The song is based on James Oppenheim's poem of the same name, which Mimi Farina then set to music.

"Special Delivery"

"Special Delivery" is more of a soft rock tune than folk, with its pop drum beat. Judy sings, "Most of us believe in what we cannot see/But there's more to living than photography/All the threads that link us eternally." The backing vocals are a bit cheesy as they echo, "Special delivery" - a product of this album's time.

"Out Of Control"
Judy's voice on "Out Of Control" is just gorgeous. Judy Collins wrote this one - the only original song on this album. The lyrics start, "It seems I've always been in charge before/I made the rules, and they were followed/The men I loved would gather at my door." This song has the wonderful line, "I must admit, I had my moments when I wished the world would suddenly go mad." Pretty much everyone is in touch with that wish. This song also features strings.

"Plegaria a un Labrador (Prayer To A Laborer)"

This song is spoken word for the first minute. Judy says, "You who change the course of rivers, stand up." And when she does begin to sing, it's in Spanish - singing what she had just spoken. This is a beautiful tune. It was written by Victor Jara, who had been murdered in 1973 after a Chilean military coup.

About two and a half minutes in, the song takes on a cool latin rhythm. The backing vocals are excellent. They're used really well in this song.

Elton John
"Come Down In Time" was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It was originally included on Elton John's 1970 album, Tumbleweed Connection. There is some nice work on horn a few minutes into Judy Collins' version, but this song feels fairly vacuous - due at least in part to the backing vocals. This is a case where the backing vocals detract from the serious tone this song seems to strive for at times. The backing vocals are as cheesy as they can get - definitely a product of the mid-1970s.

"Spanish Is The Loving Tongue"
"Spanish Is the Loving Tongue" is an incredibly pretty song, more in the folk vein than a lot of the material on this album. It features excellent and delicate work on guitar, and of course Judy's voice is gorgeous. The song also has a nice and surprising harmonica. This is one of the best songs on the album.

Duke Ellington

"I Didn't Know About You" was written by Duke Ellington and Bob Russell. It's actually a very pretty song. Judy's voice is perfect on this one. It's always wonderful to hear her tackling different types of music. The song features great jazz lounge piano by Hank Jones, who also played piano on Ella Fitzgerald's version of the song. Judy sings, "How could I know about love/I didn't know about you." Simple and perfect.

Leonard Cohen

Judy Collins has covered a lot of Leonard Cohen's songs over the years. In fact, her version of "Suzanne" came out a year before Leonard Cohen's own version. (Judy's version was included on her 1966 album, In My Life.)

Her version of "Take This Longing" is beautiful, but she has changed the lyric from "Take this longing from my tongue" to "Take this longing from my heart." Why would she do that? "Take this longing from my tongue" is a great line, while "Take this longing from my heart" sounds generic and common. Also, it destroys the rhyme scheme. The next line is "All the useless things these hands have done." "Done" does not rhyme with "heart." Toward the end of the song, she does sing the line properly, saying "tongue" instead of "heart."

She also changed the line from "You're faithful to the better man" to "You're faithful to my better self." That really changes the meaning of the song.

"Love Hurts"

Judy Collins' voice is so strong, so powerful on "Love Hurts." It's amazing. This song was written by Andrew Gold, and included on his self-titled first album. The lyrics include the lines, "Love hurts when there's nothing to do/But cry all the tears left inside you." This is simply a wonderful song - one of the best tracks on the album, and one of the best vocal performances of Judy's career. She really improved on Andrew Gold's version.

"Marjorie" is a strange, whimsical song, done acappella. It comes right on the heels of "Love Hurts," with no real break between songs. This song is credited to Judy Collins, but she herself says in the liner notes that she learned the song from someone else when she was a teenager. Judy Collins does all the vocals on this track, which lasts less than a minute.

CD Track List

  1. Bread And Roses
  2. Everything Must Change
  3. Special Delivery
  4. Out Of Control
  5. Plegaria a un Labrador (Prayer To A Laborer)
  6. Come Down In Time
  7. Spanish Is The Loving Tongue
  8. I Didn't Know About You
  9. Take This Longing
  10. Love Hurts
  11. Marjorie
  12. King David

Judy Collins' Bread & Roses 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), Running For My Life (1980), Times Of Our Lives (1982) and Home Again (1984).

(Note: I originally posted this review on August 26, 2010 .)

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