Monday, May 23, 2011

Judy Collins: "Whales & Nightingales" (2010 re-issue) CD Review

One of Judy Collins' best albums, this CD includes the beautiful "Sons Of" and a gorgeous rendition of "Amazing Grace."

Judy Collins has the ability to take other artists' material and to truly make it her own. These songs are sung in earnest - with a beauty and power in her voice that speaks directly to the listener's heart. This is a great collection of songs.

An interesting thing to note about this album is that it was recorded in several locations, including Carnegie Hall and St. Paul's chapel at Columbia University.

Joan Baez Song

Judy Collins opens this album with a wonderful version of "Song For David," a song that Joan Baez wrote. It might seem an odd song to cover, as Joan Baez had written it for her husband, David Harris, who was in jail for refusing induction into the military. But Judy Collins does a great job with it.

"Sons Of"

"Sons Of" is a beautiful tune. It has a simple, but effective piano part. The song has the feeling of lightly dancing over varied landscapes - hills and clouds - and all seen through a fairytale haze. This is one of the best songs on this album, or on any album for that matter. It was written by Jacques Brel, Gerard Jouannest, Eric Blau and Mort Shuman.

The lyrics begin, "Sons of the thief, sons of the saint/Who is the child with no complaint/Sons of the great or sons unknown/All were children like your own/The same sweet smiles, the same sad tears/The cries at night, the nightmare fears." And the lyrics actually just get better from there. This is a truly great and wonderful song, and Judy Collins is simply perfect.

"The Patriot Game"

Judy Collins does an excellent rendition of the Irish ballad "The Patriot Game," which was written by Dominic Behan. This song was also covered by The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners and The Kingston Trio. The song starts, "Come all you young rebels, and list while I sing/The love of one's country is a terrible thing/It banishes fear with the speed of a flame/And it makes you all part of the patriot's game."


"Gene's Song" is short instrumental song. While it might seem odd to include an instrumental on an album by an artist known for her voice, this song fits well with the rest of the material. And in fact, there is a second instrumental track, titled "Nightingale II," which was actually written by Judy Collins and Joshua Rifkin. "Nightingale II" a really nice classical-style piece.

Whale Song

"Farewell To Tarwathie" is a whaling song. It begins with sounds of humpback whales, and has them throughout the song, over which is Judy Collins' angelic voice. This was at a time when recordings of whale songs were not as common and available as they are today.

Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger

Judy Collins does a really nice version of Bob Dylan's "Time Passes Slowly." It has a folk-rock base, with a beautiful arrangement.

She also does a very pretty version of Pete Seeger's "Oh, Had I A Golden Thread." The song begins with just vocals and piano, and then adds electric guitar.

But Judy Collins also includes "Nightingale I," a song she wrote. It's a short song, featuring her strong vocals and piano.

"Amazing Grace"

Judy Collins concludes this album with a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace." Judy sings it a cappella, with several singers backing her up. This is maybe the most gorgeous rendition of this song ever recorded. Certainly, it's one of the best. It's incredible. This song actually reached #15 on the U.S. charts, and #5 in the U.K.

CD Track List

  1. Song For David
  2. Sons Of
  3. The Patriot Game
  4. Prothalamium
  5. Oh, Had I A Golden Thread
  6. Gene's Song
  7. Farewell To Tarwathie
  8. Time Passes Slowly
  9. Marieke
  10. Nightingale I
  11. Nightingale II
  12. Simple Gifts
  13. Amazing Grace

Whales & Nightingales was originally released in the summer of 1970. It was released on CD in 1990. It is scheduled to be re-released through Collectors' Choice Music on July 27, 2010, along with eight other Judy Collins albums, including Fifth Album (1965), In My Life (1966) and True Stories And Other Dreams (1973).

(Note: I originally posted this one on July 2, 2010.)

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