Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paul Brady: "Hooba Dooba" (2011) CD Review

Paul Brady has been on the music scene since the 1960s. He played with the Irish band The Johnstons and then Planxty before embarking on a solo career in the 1970s. Hooba Dooba is his twelfth solo album. And his voice is one of experience.

Paul Brady is not married to any one musical genre, and so these songs cover a wide range of tones and emotions. Though perhaps also because of this, the album is a bit uneven. But when it's good (which is more often than not), it's very good. Most of the songs are originals, and a few of them - particularly "Follow That Star" - are among the year's best songs.

"Cry It Out"

Hooba Dooba opens with a really strong track titled "Cry It Out." It's like country folk with a funky edge. It has a lively full band sound, and all the exuberance that goes with it. This song also features wonderful lyrics like, "It doesn't matter if it's good or bad/None of this was meant to last." You can take those lines as you will. Are they positive? Are they negative? And those are followed by "This too shall pass," the one sentence that's true in all occasions. Though the lyrics may be ambiguous, the song has a seriously positive vibe.


In the Muppets song "Rainbow Connection," Kermit asks, "Why are there so many songs about rainbows?" Well, how many songs about rainbows can you name? There is "She's A Rainbow" by the Rolling Stones and "She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow" by Cream. And of course "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." But there really aren't that many.

But now you can add another really good tune to the list. Paul Brady's "Rainbow" is one of my favorite songs on this album. It's got such a happy feel to it that you can't help but love it. And Jerry Douglas plays lap steel guitar on this track.

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "It's like I see you for the very first time/And something's happened in this/mixed-up heart of mine/Used to be I looked at you/The only colour I could see was blue on blue."

"The Price Of Fame"

"The Price Of Fame" is one of the album's weaker tracks. Maybe because it's hard for most of us to feel bad for those who "pay the price of fame" - especially when most of us have trouble paying the price of gasoline. It's also got kind of a cheesy vibe to it.

"One More Today"

"One More Today" is an unabashed love song featuring mostly piano, vocals and strings. It reminds me a bit of some of the soft side of 1970s pop, or perhaps even a love song from a musical. In this one, Paul sings, "One more today/Waking up inside your heart/One more today/With your kiss the perfect start/To a miracle of love that moves me/More than words can say." Cheesy? Sure. But you have to admit that we all want to feel what he's expressing in this song.

"The Winners' Ball"

"The Winners' Ball" is an odd mix of soul and pop that doesn't quite work for me. (But that might be due to my annoyance when anyone uses the word "invite" as a noun.)

"Luck Of The Draw"

"Luck Of The Draw" is a much better tune, and one that will be familiar to most music fans. It was the title track to Bonnie Raitt's excellent 1991 release. Paul Brady wrote it, and this is actually the first time he's recorded his own version. It's interesting, because on the one hand the song is about chance and fate, and thus things being out of our hands. But then on the other hand the song seems to urge folks not to give up, to keep trying. It ends with, "Your day is coming." Ultimately it is a very positive song.

(By the way, Paul Brady also wrote "Not The Only One" from that same Bonnie Raitt album.)

"Follow That Star"

"Follow That Star" is a great powerful raw-sounding acoustic song, one of the CD's best tracks. It's just a damn good song. Paul's vocals are phenomenal on this one. And the song has a great steady rhythm. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "Jezebel's a lovin' junkie/She can't do without a man/Fuss 'in' fight holdin' on tight/Till he slip right through her hand." I love this song.

"You Won't See Me"

"You Won't See Me" is of course a Beatles cover, the original being from their 1965 release Rubber Soul, and written by Paul McCartney. Paul Brady's take on it is very different. It took me a few times through to shake the Beatles recording from my head and really appreciate this version. But now I totally dig it. He captures the energy of the original recording while putting his personal spin on it. This is the album's only cover song.

"Living The Mystery"

Hooba Dooba ends with "Living The Mystery," which has a gentle feel. It certainly has a bit of country to it, with lyrics like "And when I hear that lonesome train whistle blow/Then I know it's time for me to go/I been round this cold hard town too long/There's so many roads a man could go/Roads that glisten in the night like diamonds." This song features some really nice vocal work by Paul. The perfect track to close the album.

CD Track List

  1. Cry It Out
  2. Rainbow
  3. The Price Of Fame
  4. One More Today
  5. The Winners' Ball
  6. Luck Of The Draw
  7. Follow That Star
  8. Mother And Son
  9. Money To Burn
  10. You Won't See Me
  11. Over The Border
  12. Living The Mystery


Musicians on this CD include Paul Brady on lead vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, clavinet, piano, Farfisa organ, electric piano, B3 keyboard, wurlitzer, mandolin, bass, percussion, harmonica, and bouzouki; Bill Shanley on electric guitar; Anton Drennan on electric guitar; Rod McVey on Hammond organ and accordion; Jennifer Maidman on bass; Liam Genockey on drums and hand percussion; Jerry Douglas on lap steel guitar; Ken Rice on violin; Mia Cooper on violin; Brona Cahill on violin; Clodagh Vedres on violin; Elizabeth Leonard on violin; Lisa Grossman on voila; Cian O Duill on viola; David James on cello; Claire Fitch on cello; Yue Tang on cello; Colm Brady on harmonica; Sarah Siskind on backing vocals; Joy Malcolm on backing vocals; Donna Gardier on backing vocals; and Lincoln Jean-Marie on backing vocals.

Hooba Dooba was released on May 24, 2011 on Proper American Records.

The Day After Ellis Paul Day

July 9th, 2010 was Ellis Paul in the city of Boston. The day after Ellis Paul Day, Ellis did three concerts, including a family show, at Club Passim.

Friday, July 9th, 2010 was officially declared Ellis Paul Day by the mayor of Boston. To celebrate, Ellis Paul performed the first two concerts of a five-show run at Club Passim. On July 10th, the day after Ellis Paul Day, Ellis performed another three concerts at Passim.

Family Show

The first show Ellis Paul performed on July 10th was a family show at 3:30 p.m. Club Passim was full of umbrellas, as there was an insane downpour just before the show. Don Conoscenti once again joined Ellis on stage, playing guitar and performing backing vocals. Of the five shows, this was the only show not to feature an entire album with the songs played in order. Instead, Ellis Paul chose certain tracks from his children's record, The Dragonfly Races, but also supplemented those with several cover songs.

He opened the show with "The Cat Came Back," a song he performed with End Construction approximately twenty years ago. The set did feature many songs from The Dragonfly Races, including "Wabi Sabi," "Road Trip," "Because It's There," "Abiola" and the title track. He also performed an extended version of Tom Paxton's "Going To The Zoo," asking audience members to pick an animal and to do their best imitation of the sound of that animal. One audience member was asked on stage to do his impression of a monkey into the microphone.

Ellis Paul also did an excellent version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." The encore was an acappella version of "The Little Red Rose."

Sweet Mistakes

For the first set of the 7 p.m. show, Ellis Paul performed the songs from his 2001 release Sweet Mistakes. This album includes some beautiful songs, such as "New Orleans" and "The Art Of Distance." Ellis spoke a bit about certain songs. For example, he said that on the album version of "Seventeen Septembers," he hit a cardboard box with a mallet for a drum.

While introducing the song "Roll Away Bed," Ellis said that that song was responsible for a lot of the hits on his website because people were actually searching for a roll away bed. "Ellis Paul's Roll Away Beds," he joked.

He recited his poem, "The 20th Century Is Over," along with some guitar accompaniment by Don Conoscenti. He laughed at his own line, "Reaganism, communism, reaganism, communism," and said, "I should have read this first."

The Speed Of Trees

The album featured in the second set was his 2002 release, The Speed Of Trees, one of Ellis Paul's best CDs. This album includes such gems as "Maria's Beautiful Mess," "Give In, Give Up" and "If You Break Down."

There are two songs that appeared on both Sweet Mistakes and The Speed Of Trees: "Sweet Mistakes" and "Roll Away Bed." Audience members wondered between sets if he'd perform both songs a second time. He did not.

He ended the show with a version of "The Speed Of Trees" that led directly into "Let It Be" (which is not on the album). But "Let It Be" was played to the tune of "The Speed Of Trees." This led back into "The Speed Of Trees," and then briefly once again back into "Let It Be." This show ended at 9:27 p.m.

American Jukebox Fables

The first set of the 10 p.m. show (which started only ten minutes late) featured Ellis Paul's 2005 release, American Jukebox Fables. For the first song, "Blacktop Train," Flynn joined Ellis on guitar and backing vocals, and Adam Ezra played harmonica. It was a great, energetic start to the final concert of this five-show run.

Before "Alice's Champagne Palace," Ellis Paul held up one of the commemorative mugs that were made for the occasion. The mugs celebrated the 20-year mark for Ellis Paul's career, and have the lines "Raise to the future, Drink to the past" printed on them (lines from his song, "Sweet Mistakes"). The mugs were sold at the venue for only ten dollars.

Someone stood at one of the windows of Passim and mooned the audience, leading Ellis to sing a line from "Bad Moon Rising." A little later two other people were at that same window, just sitting there and listening. Ellis motioned for them to come in, and of course they happily did.

The Day After Everything Changed

For the final set of music in this incredible run of shows, Ellis Paul played his most recent album in its entirety - 2010's The Day After Everything Changed. He was much more confident while performing these songs, because of course they're fresher. Adam Ezra joined him for the second set, playing guitar and performing backing vocals.

Ellis Paul played keyboard on several songs during this set, including "Hurricane Angel," "Heaven's Wherever You Are" and the incredibly beautiful "Once Upon A Summertime."

The set (and the show) ended with "Nothing Left To Take," which Ellis performed solo. It was the perfect ending to an amazing series of concerts. The show ended at 12:53 a.m.

Old Songs To Be Heard Again

For fans who missed these shows, there is some good news. Ellis Paul is planning to re-introduce many of the earlier songs to his set lists beginning next year. So there will be plenty of chances to see him perform many of these great songs again.

(Note: I originally posted this on July 29, 2010 on another site.)

ODi: "Maslow's Songbook" (2010) CD Review

Excellent album by Irish singer/songwriter features incredible vocals and songs full of emotion, about endings and desires.

Maslow's Songbook is the debut full-length album from Irish singer/songwriter ODi (Claire Odlum), and it's an excellent CD.

There is not a single weak song on this album. There is no filler material (not even the short instrumental). Each song is unique, each song a separate journey. This is an album that deserves and demands to be listened to multiple times. Forget downloading the single or a couple of tracks. Just pick up this album and enjoy it through and through, over and over.

"Something Beautiful"

"Something Beautiful" is the single from the album. It was written by Dave Redfearn, who also plays guitars, piano and percussion on the album, as well as providing backing vocals. It's an incredibly pretty song, especially during the chorus, which is , "We all want something beautiful/To hold on to, till the pain is through/There's something we can do."

"Make It Better"

"Make it Better" starts with piano and vocals. It's a gorgeous song, which builds perfectly. ODi's voice is incredibly moving as she sings, "And I'll be the one to try to make it better/Comfort and hold your head/It's alright, if you cry and shout out/Just give me the chance to be there." This is one of the best songs on the album. It's like a friendly voice calling to the listener in the dark. This song itself seems to have the power to make it better.

"One In A Million"

"One In A Million" is another incredible song. It creates a particular and singular mood with its sparse instrumentation and excellent vocals, and even with the use of handclaps. And then there is some great work on strings. This song was written by Daniel Norton and Emily Norton. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Swam for a while in the water/Swam for a while in the sea/Tried not to feel that there's more to feel/Than the cold that's swimming round me." Odi's vocals are simply magnificent.

"You Win But You Lose"

"You Win But You Lose" is probably the best song on the album, and one of the best songs of the year. It's sweet and sad, like some of Aimee Mann's best work. It was written by Claire Odlum and Dave Redfearn. The chorus is "You win but you lose/You try to refuse/All the things that she said/Going round in your head/And you knew that this time/You should have made up your mind/But all you can do/Is try to hold on, hold on."

Instrumental Track

"Lonely Ballerina" is a very short instrumental piece that starts with a quiet piano and the sound of wind blowing. A storm. As the wind fades, the piano comes up, as does the crackling sound of a fire. So it's someone (the listener) coming in from the storm to be warmed by the fire and the piano.

"Maslow's Love Song"

The album concludes with "Maslow's Love Song." This song starts off with a simple, pretty guitar part and vocals. Nearly four minutes in, this song kicks in with such force and power that it will shake the listener. It will grab on and not let go. Good luck trying to do something else while listening to it. This is a great song, and a great song with which to end the album.

Abraham Harold Maslow

So who was Abraham Maslow? He was an American psychologist who is most famous for his idea of the hierarchy of human needs, with basic needs such as food and water at the bottom, and self-actualization at the top, meaning creativity.

There is a quote from Maslow in the middle of the liner notes for this album: "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be."


The musicians on this album include Claire Odlum on vocals, guitars, piano and percussion; Dave Redfearn on guitars, vocals, piano and percussion; Karl Odlum on bass, guitars, piano, double bass, percussion, cello, synths, banjo, dulcimer, bazouki, and vocals; Sean O'Leary on drums and percussion; Ronan O Snodaigh on percussion; and Colm Mac Con Iomaire on violin and cello.
(Music fans might recognize Colm Mac Con Iomaire from the Irish rock group The Frames.)

CD Track List

  1. Red Light
  2. Something Beautiful
  3. Real To Me
  4. Make It Better
  5. Leaving My Love In New York
  6. One In A Million
  7. I'm Done
  8. You Can't Have It All
  9. You Win But You Lose
  10. Mariposa
  11. Lonely Ballerina
  12. Maslow's Love Song

Claire Odlum wrote the majority of songs on this album. Maslow's Songbook is scheduled to be released on August 23, 2010.

ODi will be touring the UK in September to support the album. And there's good news for folks in California. ODi is planning to do some gigs there next year.

(Note: I originally posted this review on July 27, 2010 on another site.)

Howard Wooden: "Friends Gone By" (2004) CD Review

CD of mostly original folk material features Tom MacKenzie on hammered dulcimer and Dave Grippo on saxophone.

Howard Wooden's 2004 release, Friends Gone By, contains mostly original songs that are basically folk, but have some interesting variations and some surprising instrumentation. For example, the saxophone in the opening track, and the ending of "I Want To Be Free."

Howard Wooden is also a member of the Vermont folk band Woods Tea Company. That band has been around since the early 1980s, though Howard did not officially join until 1992.

"Living On The Iceberg"

"Living On The Iceberg" has sound and tone reminiscent of 1970s folk. Then nearly two minutes in, Dave Grippo shows up on saxophone. It's a nice surprise. This song was written by Josh Mitchell and Howard Wooden.

The chorus is, "And down on the corner/Is a store room full of books/Full of facts on what/Where and when I should look/But they don't tell/The most important thing of all/Why should I be looking there at all?"

"I Want To Be Free"

"I Want To Be Free" has a cool rhythm, thanks to Patrick Fitzsimmons on percussion. This song also features nice work by Pete Sutherland on piano. The song begins, "Wake up in the morning, feel the sunshine through the pain/Wake up in the morning, everything still looks the same." The song ends with an interesting fiddle solo.

"The Sun's Still In My Eyes (Roll Over)"

"The Sun's Still In My Eyes (Roll Over)" is another song with a 1970s folk feel. In one way, it's a song about wasting time, of never really getting going or getting a start. About not quite waking up. But how much time really passes in the song? Is it a lifetime, or just that moment when one passes from dreaming to waking?

This song was written by Howard Wooden and Janine Hubbard.

"Celtic Dreams"

"Celtic Dreams" is an instrumental track, one of two on Friends Gone By. This song is pretty and mellow. It features Tom MacKenzie on the hammered dulcimer.

"Do You Love Me?"

"Do You Love Me?" has a jazzy feel, both in the rhythm and the piano. This song features some cool work on piano by Chas Eller. It also features Dave Grippo on saxophone.

Dave Grippo may be familiar to Phish fans, as he played saxophone in Giant Country Horns, a group that played with Phish in 1991. He also played with Phish in 1994, with a slightly different group, called Cosmic Country Horns. Dave Grippo also played with Trey Anastasio during the years when Phish had disbanded.

Howard sings at the end, "Do I love you? I hope that I do."

Title Track

"Friends Gone By," the album's title track, was written by Howard Wooden and Josh Mitchell. It has a bit of a country feel, particularly in the vocals. Howard sings, "Time you've made this foolish heart - /You have changed this boy into man/While you stole my dreams and wrecked my plans."

"Friends Gone By" was written by Howard Wooden and Josh Mitchell.

"Drema Kalajian"

"Drema Kalajian" is an instrumental track that features Tom MacKenzie on hammered dulcimer. The dulcimer gives the track a timeless feel. The song is pretty, at least for the first minute or so. Then it abruptly changes its tone, rhythm, pace and instrumentation. The percussion then takes part of the focus. This is a really enjoyable song, possibly the best on this CD.

In the liner notes, Howard explains that this song is named after a friend from high school, a friend whose name he always loved.

"Darling Children"

"Darling Children" is one of the album's two cover songs. It was written by Rusty Magee in 1995, and is a song from a father to his children.


The album's other cover song is "1002," written by Terry Talbot and John Talbot. The vocals sound particularly good on this song, with a nice blending of the backing vocals with Howard Wooden's voice.

The song is actually two tracks. The first track is titled "1002 Intro." It has a crackling sound, like an old record playing over the radio. The song is admittedly a collection of guitar riffs ripped off from Leo Kotke and Jefferson Airplane (most obviously "Embryonic Journey").

It leads right into the second track, and soon after it starts, the crackling sound fades. The second track, "1002," features Rusty Jacobs on dobro and Mike Lussen on banjo. It's a sweet and pretty song that was written in 1972. The chorus is "I know I told you I love you/A thousand and one times I do/But if now I should say good luck and walk away/Just figure a thousand and two."

The ending, which sounds like someone tapping out a drum beat on his lap, is pointless. The song should have been cut before that because the ending just detracts from the wonderful feel of the song.

Friends Gone By concludes with "Like A Light," an extremely short song that is sung acappella.

CD Track List

  1. Living On The Iceberg
  2. I Want To Be Free
  3. The Sun's Still In My Eyes (Roll Over)
  4. Celtic Dreams
  5. Do You Love Me?
  6. Can't Find A Friend
  7. Friends Gone By
  8. Drema Kalajian
  9. Living On The Road
  10. Darling Children
  11. 1002 Intro
  12. 1002
  13. Like A Light

Musicians appearing on this album include Howard Wooden on vocals, acoustic guitar and bass; Patrick Fitzsimmons on drums and percussion; Pete Sutherland on fiddle, piano and strings; Tom MacKenzie on hammered dulcimer; and Aaron Flinn on acoustic guitar. Diane Zeigler, Sarah Wooden and Lauren Kogge do backing vocals.

Friends Gone By was released on Gadfly Records in September of 2004. Howard Wooden released two other solo records: Celtic Dreams and Out On A Limb (2001). Some of the songs featured on Friends Gone By were also included on these earlier releases, such as "Roll Over" and "Dream Kalajian."

Yonder Mountain String Band: "Elevation" (1999) CD Review

Elevation is the band's debut album, and it contains a lot of wonderful original bluegrass music.

Yonder Mountain String Band is a bluegrass band based in Colorado. Sure, they may not be pure bluegrass. They use bluegrass music as a base from which they feel free to explore other musical territory. Yes, they're a jam band, with rock influences, and they're one of the best bands on the scene these days.

Bluegrass fans will not be disappointed. Jam band fans will be delighted. These four musicians are masters of their instruments, and their vocals blend together perfectly. Besides that, they also write some damn good material, as this album clearly demonstrates.

"Half Moon Rising"

The album opens with "Half Moon Rising," which is just a beautiful, sweet song. It was written by Jeff Austin, and includes this line: "There's a still at dawn like the sound of your love's breath as she lies sleeping."

"Mental Breakdown"

"Mental Breakdown" is one of those wonderful, quick bluegrass instrumentals. This was written by Dave Johnston.

"The Bolton Stretch"

"The Bolton Stretch" is a song about a man wanted for robbery, a man the sheriff can't catch as he races along the Bolton Stretch. It's an excellent song, written by Ben Kaufmann.

"He didn't come for justice/didn't come to make ammends/He doesn't ask forgiveness/he's not looking to make friends/It's just that he was passing through/with money wearing thin."

"Left Me In A Hole"

"Left Me In A Hole" is just a damn cool song. The vocals sound so great. It was written by Adam Aijala. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "The phone it rings, who could it be, it ain't her, it's not for me/Forgetting's easy as one, two, three, my friends say."

There is a really nice concert recording of this song on the second disc of Mountain Tracks: Volume 3.

"On The Run"

"On The Run" is a full-steam-ahead song. It's another about running from the law, and is one of the best songs on the album. The instrumental section is phenomenal. It was written by Ben Kaufmann.

"Eight Cylinders"

"Eight Cylinders" is one of the sweetest-sounding songs ever. It's just a total joy to listen to. Sad and pretty, it was written by Dave Johnston. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Because your songs are so sad and tired/Because hunger is a darkness inside the phone wire/It always has been, it always will be/So it seems to me/That's the price you pay when you say/I will be behind you."

This song also really benefits from the harmony vocals by Celeste Krenz and Sally Van Meter. Sally Van Meter also plays electric lap slide on this song.

"Mossy Cow"

"Mossy Cow" is a fun, playful, whimsical instrumental track. This is a song that shows how closely bluegrass is related to Irish folk music. It's a wonderful song, written by Adam Aijala. Darol Anger plays fiddle on this track.

"If There's Still Ramblin' In The Rambler (Let Him Go)"

This song is great fun. In concert, they often break it up; after the line about "just one more Jagermeister shot," they'll go into another song, and then eventually get back to the end of "Rambler." But here it is, all together. This song was written by Jeff Austin. (There is a live version of this song on Mountain Tracks: Volume 3.)

"Waijal Breakdown"

This song starts with a very cool groove, and then quickly speeds up. It's a great instrumental, written by Adam Aijala, who also plays banjo on this track. Darol Anger plays fiddle, and Mike Marshall plays mandolin.

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band is Adam Aijala on guitar and vocals, Jeff Austin on mandolin and vocals, Dave Johnston on banjo and vocals, and Ben Kaufmann on bass and vocals. They wrote all of the songs on this album, except "To Say Goodbye, To Be Forgiven," which was written by Benny Galloway. (Yonder Mountain String Band recorded an album with Benny Galloway - Old Hands, which was released in 2003.)

In 2008, they played at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Elevation is their first album, released on Frog Pad Records in 1999. It was produced by Sally Van Meter.

CD Track List

  1. Half Moon Rising
  2. Mental Breakdown
  3. The Bolton Stretch
  4. Left Me In A Hole
  5. Darkness And Light
  6. On The Run
  7. Eight Cylinders
  8. 40 Miles From Denver
  9. This Lonesome Heart
  10. At The End Of The Day
  11. Mossy Cow
  12. High On A Hilltop
  13. To Say Goodbye, To Be Forgiven
  14. If There's Still Ramblin' In The Rambler (Let Him Go)
  15. Waijal Breakdown

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

NEeMA: "Watching You Think" (2010) CD Review

Leonard Cohen has impeccable taste. About NEeMA, he's been quoted as saying, "In the midst of all the static, a voice of true feeling arises - a rare event." Certainly this is what piqued my interest in this singer/songwriter. And for that (as for many things) I am thankful to Leonard Cohen. Watching You Think is a wonderful album, full of beauty and passion and excellent lyrics.

Leonard Cohen also helped produce this CD, and provided the marvelous artwork for the cover. Included in the lower right corner is the symbol of the order of the unified heart, also seen on the cover of his 2004 release, Dear Heather. His daughter Lorca provided the photographs of NEeMA for the album's liner notes.


Watching You Think opens with "Unspoken." The first thing that hits you is the bass - this is some wonderful work by Miles Perkin. And then almost immediately it's NEeMA's voice, equal parts ethereal and earthly. On top of that, there is this wonderful groove that seems to come from some eastern European land from some time past, which is fitting for the opening line, "a long time ago in a land far away."

"Unspoken" is a strange sort of love song. I love the odd detail, like "they shared a tangerine on their first date." And the song ends with the bass.

"Romeo And Juliet"

The only cover song on this album is "Romeo And Juliet," written by Mark Knopfler. This has always been one of my favorite Shakespearean-themed songs, and NEeMA does a great job with it. Her singing is fairly faithful to the original, even approaching a spoken word style at moments, like on the line, "we both come up on different streets." Interestingly, she sings, "Julie, Julie" instead of "Juliet."

"Romeo And Juliet" was originally included on the 1980 Dire Straits album Making Movies.


NEeMA's voice at moments throughout the CD reminds me of Melanie (think of Melanie's great cover of "Ruby Tuesday" rather than, say, "Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma"), but particularly on "Unwinding." "Unwinding" is a sweet and beautiful song. For a song about letting go, this song seems to cradle the listener in its arms. It makes a safe place in the universe for the listener to dwell.


"Escape" reminds me of Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians, but with a 1960s pop rhythm. This song features nice touches by Bob Stagg on trumpet. This song's lyrics mention Montreal in the lines, "It's a foggy night in the streets of Montreal/i'm walking beside me and watching myself fall/soon i'll be spiraling/i'm losing ground again."


"Stay" is another sweet and catchy folk song. Check out these lyrics: "i want to slide inside your home/like a caterpillar about to transform/and take up lots of room." This song also features wonderful backing vocals by Angela Desveaux. Their voices blend beautifully together.


"Sidewalk" is one of my favorite songs from this CD, mostly because of the lyrics. It begins, "the sidewalk's cracked/the streets are old/these structures cannot last/we're clinging on to a world/that's already of the past." And I love these lines: "i tried to walk away from you/the traffic lights were red/i couldn't get myself to go/so i made you leave instead." This song is sad and gorgeous.

"Lost In LA"

"Lost In LA" is a song a lot of us can personally relate to, about trying to keep the dream of Los Angeles alive. Or pretending that it is still alive, as she sings, "we dig deeper we drill harder/we pretend it ain't getting darker/that the horizon isn't poisoned/and we're still living in the garden."

This is a wonderful song. There are many songs about Los Angeles, and many on this theme of losing our way once we get here. But this one seems more successful than most at hitting exactly the right emotional chords. And choosing perfect similies and metaphors - "you be the junkie/i'll be the hit."

"Bone To Pick With Time"

"Bone To Pick With Time" might be this album's best song. It got to me immediately. It's a wonderful and beautiful song about the transitory nature of existence. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "we've a very little window to do what we must do/write a song, bear a child, fall in love with you." Listening to this one alone late at night will likely bring tears to your eyes.

"Jealousy" is the most unusual-sounding song of the album. Odd tunings, some dark tones and a dog's howl all work to almost unnerve the listener.

This CD concludes with "Elsa's Lullabye," a sweet love song to her dog. (There is a photo of Elsa on the back of the liner notes.)

CD Track List
  1. Unspoken
  2. Romeo And Juliet
  3. Unwinding
  4. Running
  5. Eternity
  6. Escape
  7. Stay
  8. Sidewalk
  9. Lost In LA
  10. Bone To Pick With Time
  11. Jealousy
  12. Elsa's Lullabye


Musicians on this album include NEeMA on lead vocals and guitar; Joe Grass on guitar, dobro and whistle; Miles Perkin on bass; Fred Bouchard on drums, tambourine and backing vocals; Emilie Rabaraona on violin; Catherine le Saulnier on cello; Gurpreet Chana on tabla and percussion; Bob Stagg on Hammond B3, Wurlitzer, trumpet, piano and bass; Angela Desveaux on backing vocals; Simon Godin on guitar and mandolin; Alexis Martin on drums; Paula Toledo on backing vocals; Francois Turgeon on bass; Anni Lawrence on cello; Pascal Shefteshy on guitar; Tim Kingsburry on guitar and bass; Rob MacDonald on guitar; Thom Gossage on drums; and Sarah Page on harp.

Watching You Think was released on March 1, 2011 in the United States (it had been released in 2010 in Canada). This is NEeMA's second album. Her first, Masi Cho, was released in 2007.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ellis Paul at The Hotel Cafe 5-24-11 Concert Review

Ellis Paul did a wonderful - if short - set at The Hotel Cafe tonight. This was a special Sorted Noise Showcase performance, and at the beginning of his set, Ellis said, "I don't think I've ever played on a Tuesday."

He then introduced his band: Radoslav Lorkovic on piano and backing vocals (and accordion on a few songs).

Roy Orbison Cover

Ellis opened with the sweet "Rose Tattoo" off his most recent studio release, The Day After Everything Changed. After that, he did a cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying," which he dedicated to a couple who were celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. Ellis's version of "Crying" is quite a bit different from the original - he certainly makes it his own - but he does hit those wonderful high notes on the word "Crying." The notes that made that song so famous and so loved.

"Maria's Beautiful Mess"

Two of my personal favorite Ellis Paul songs are "Maria's Beautiful Mess" and "Take All The Sky You Need," and he performed both at this show. Radoslav was really into "Maria's Beautiful Mess" tonight, doing some great stuff on piano. You could see the joy on his face - this giant smile. And it affected Ellis as much as it did the audience. Ellis joked after that song about Radoslav getting paid by the note.

Before "Take All The Sky You Need," Ellis told the audience, "The bad part is that we only have forty-five minutes." That's incredibly short for an Ellis Paul concert. So to make it up to the fans who'd come out, he told them they could each take a CD on their way out. (And yes, he left a stack of copies of The Day After Everything Changed by the door to the club.)

New Song

Ellis Paul performed a new song, which he described as a tribute to Johnny Cash. It's a great tune, with funny references to a lot of Cash's songs. He got the audience singing along to the title line, "Kick out the lights." Once everyone was singing that loudly enough to please him (like a chant at a soccer match, he said), he had the women add, "Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash." And guess what? The crowd sounded good. No fear, no shyness in this crowd.

And because of that, he later said, "We're going to try another sing along," and played "Dragonfly." The audience once again sounded good singing, "I don't know why you/I don't know why you/I don't know why you/Came to me."


Ellis and Radoslav stepped off the stage and into the audience for "Annalee." On this one, Radoslav played accordion. This was a fun and fantastic rendition of the song, and it got the audience cheering.

The set was really just starting to cook, but it was already over. Ellis ended the set with the beautiful "Once Upon A Summertime," which was included on The Day After Everything Changed. Ellis played piano, and Radoslav played accordion on this one.

Set List
  1. Rose Tattoo
  2. Crying
  3. Maria's Beautiful Mess
  4. Take All The Sky You Need
  5. Kick Out The Lights
  6. Hurricane Angel
  7. Dragonfly
  8. Annalee
  9. Once Upon A Summertime
There was no encore, though the audience definitely wanted one. Sets at the Hotel Cafe are always forty-five minutes, no matter who is playing.

The Hotel Cafe is located at 1623 1/2 N Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Susan Cowsill: "Lighthouse" (2010) CD Review

This album contains the pain, the sorrow and ultimately the optimism of the folks who lost so much in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Susan Cowsill's second solo album tells personal stories from Hurricane Katrina. Her brother Barry drowned in the floodwaters after the hurricane. Susan also lost almost everything she owned. Often when people write about subjects that are very close to their hearts, the resulting songs are not their best. It's like they're so close to the material that they're unable to look at it critically. Susan Cowsill does not have this trouble. She's taken some of the most personal subjects possible and written an album of excellent songs.

One of the things that's wonderful about this album is that those listeners who didn't experience tragedies in New Orleans can still relate to these songs, still be moved by them. Though personal, these songs are universal in their appeal. The emotions, the feelings this album evokes are not completely particular to those folks in New Orleans. The sense of loss, the uncertainty, the optimism - these are things that everyone experiences.

Jackson Browne Sings On "Avenue Of The Indians"

"Avenue Of The Indians" is heartfelt, pretty and sad. It benefits from Jack Craft on mandolin and cello, and Sam Craft's nice violin part. These serve the song well without overpowering the material. And it's a treat to hear Jackson Browne ("Lawyers In Love," "Running On Empty") doing vocals on this song.

"Sweet Bitter End"

On "Sweet Bitter End," Susan's vocals really shine. The song contains a sort of optimism that everyone can relate to these days. It's not the mindless everything-is-great-don't-worry nonsense, but rather the sort of optimism that acknowledges all of the bad things but perseveres.

"You And Me Baby"

"You And Me Baby" is one of the best songs on this album. It is beautiful and sad, vocally perfect and lyrically wonderful. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Well I had a dream/Wasn't so long ago/If you hadn't come true/Well I never would have known/That angels are real." Jack Craft on cello and Sam Craft on violin really add to the song.

Barry Cowsill

"River Of Love" was written by Barry Cowsill, who drowned in the floodwaters after Hurricane Katrina. Susan plays Barry's guitar on this track. Susan's brothers, Bob, Paul and John Cowsill, sing harmony on this one, as does Vicki Peterson (Susan's sister-in-law and member of both The Bangles and The Continental Drifters).

"Lighthouse" Title Track

"Lighthouse" features Jack Craft on piano. It's a really nice song. The lighthouse of course is a beacon of light, providing hope, providing a way home. It's a simple image, and yet effective and powerful. This is a really good song. Susan sings, "It's always there, it guides my way/No matter where I roam/Through dreams of pirate ships that take me/Far away from home."

"That's The Way It Goes" is a sweet song about the uncertainties of life, and embracing both the life and the changes that come with it.


Wow. Susan Cowsill really pours her whole self into this song. How can a listener not be moved? This song contains powerful vocals and raw emotions. Susan sings, "Oh New Orleans/I'm growing weaker everyday/I no longer have the strength to stay."

In this song, as in a couple of the others on this album, Susan is dealing with the question of the reality of the tragedy. In this one, she sings, "And when I come back/I'll find it's just a dream/A real bad dream/A terrible dream." In "Could This Be Home," Susan sings, "And this is way too real."

In "Real Life," she sings, "'Cause sometimes real life can be/Much too much grown up for me." But in that song, right after those lines, she sings, "And sometimes real life can be/A beautiful place that you never ever wanna leave." Once again, she demonstrates her optimism. And it's that optimism that really makes this album special.

"Crescent City Sneaux"

The album concludes with "Crescent City Sneaux," a song which turns rowdy at the end, with references to "Iko Iko," The Saints and "When The Saints Go Marching In." The album ends on a positive note, both musically and with its reference to The Saints, who won their first Super Bowl. New Orleans is alive.

CD Track List

  1. Dragon Flys
  2. Avenue Of The Indians
  3. Sweet Bitter End
  4. You and Me Baby
  5. River Of Love
  6. Could This Be Home
  7. Lighthouse
  8. The Way That It Goes
  9. ONOLA
  10. Galveston
  11. Real Life
  12. Crescent City Sneaux
Lighthouse is scheduled to be released May 18, 2010 on Threadbare Records.

This album was written over the past four years during Susan's family's recovery from the hurricane. Her first solo album, Just Believe It, was released in 2005. Information on that album can be found on Susan Cowsill's official web site. In the 1960s, Susan was the youngest member (at the age of 8) of The Cowsills. They were known for such hits as "The Rain, The Park And Other Things" and their cover of "Hair" (from the musical of the same name). She was also a member of The Continental Drifters.

(Note: I originally posted this review on April 5, 2010.)

Count Crow: "Halloween Spooktacular" (2010 release) CD Review

This a wonderfully silly and fun Halloween album of original compositions by Matt Crowe.

Halloween is the best holiday. And while there is quite a bit of good music to play on that night, rarely is an album released that features completely new Halloween tunes.

Count Crow's Halloween Spooktacular is an entire album of original Halloween songs. It's a great mix of genres and tones, all designed to be played at a Halloween party. Yes, finally, a whole slew of new songs to play at Halloween. And the best part? These songs are fun. They've got a playful sense of humor which is just right for a party on Halloween night.

"Shout The Boo"

The album opens with "Shout The Boo," a goofy dance tune with a hip hop flavor, sung with a vampire-type voice. It begins with a few seconds of eerie Halloween sound effects, and an introduction: "Good evening. I am Count Crow."

"Shout The Boo" is a song about a vampire searching for his posse - the mummy, werewolf, Frankenstein's monster, and so on. It's just pure fun, a perfect song to have on at a Halloween party.

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Shout the boo, shout out to you/Everybody come to dinner for a rendezvous/I said shout the boo, shout out for you/Why people taste like chicken, I don't have a clue."

"The Ghoulie Hop"

"The Ghoulie Hop" is custom-made for a Halloween party, especially one where folks will be dancing. It's got an early rock feel, and it mentions all the usual Halloween characters. This song urges its listeners to "Party till the dawn at the ghoulie hop."

"You Won't Survive"

"You Won't Survive" is a parody of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." It's a sort of love song from a vampire to his victim. Well, not really a love song at all, is it? But it's absolutely wonderful. And, like "Shout The Boo," it's sung with a vampire-type voice.

The vampire sings, "You should never let me in/You should have garlic around your chin/Had you known for just one second that your future looked so grim." And, "You've got so much blood to give/It's a shame that you won't live."

The original song, "I Will Survive," was written by Frederick Perren and Dino Fekaris. It was released in 1978, and has been a staple at disco dance clubs ever since.

"Reaper Man"

"Reaper Man" is a rap song from the perspective of the grim reaper who is something of a braggart. And why wouldn't he be? After all, as he boasts in the last line of the song, "No one gets away from the blade of the reaper man."

"Reaper Man" features rapper Alieon.

"Disco Mummy"

The fifth track, "Arise," is a short track of sound effects with the command, "Arise." It leads right into "Disco Mummy."

"Disco Mummy" is, as one might guess, a disco song. It creates the wonderful image of the mummy - the character whose movements seem the most impeded of all the main Halloween players - out there on the dance floor. And it's actually a fun disco tune. (The end of this song always makes me laugh.)

"The Ghost Of Baton Rouge"

"The Ghost Of Baton Rouge" is probably the coolest tune on the CD. It's sung as if by a 1960s male vocal group, with the vocals over a nice rhythm and the static of an LP. It tells the story of a vigilante ghost.

The chorus is, "So you better watch out and make sure your heart is true/'Cause if you're badder than bad, then you know he's coming for you/The ghost of Baton Rouge."

"The Ghost Of Baton Rouge" features Troy Horne on vocals.

"Dr. Jeckyll Mr. Hyde"

"Jeckyll's Elixir" is a short spoken word track wherein Dr. Jeckyll drinks his potion for the first time. It leads directly into "Dr. Jeckyll Mr. Hyde."

"Dr. Jeckyll Mr. Hyde" has a hard rock feel. Think Deep Purple in the 1970s, but with the attitude of The Cramps. This song is about that famous split personality, and it's sung from a bizarre union of the two. "When we see pretty people our heart fills with rage." But don't judge Jeckyll and Hyde too harshly; after all, "We just can't help ourselves tonight."

"Witch Doctor"

"Witch Doctor" is a reggae-flavored song about an island witch doctor who offers "a little bit of voodoo." This song is driven by the percussion, and also features Troy Horne on vocals.

This "Witch Doctor" is not to be confused with the 1958 David Seville song of the same name. (Both are good tunes for a Halloween party.)

"House Of Fate"

"House Of Fate" starts with piano, and the instrumental section sounds like something from the soundtrack to one of the later A Nightmare On Elm Street sequels. It's an eerie tune that lets folks know, "There's no escape." It also features the repeated sound of a knife being sharpened.

"Halloween Trance"

"Halloween Trance" is a techno dance tune that at moments is a bit reminiscent of Dead Or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)." When the majority of folks at the Halloween party are on the dance floor, put this one on. Though there needs to be an extended DJ remix of this tune, as it's only four minutes long.

The CD's final track is just the shout, "Creatures!"

CD Track List

  1. Shout The Boo
  2. The Ghoulie Hop
  3. You Won't Survive
  4. Reaper Man
  5. Arise
  6. Disco Mummy
  7. The Ghost Of Baton Rouge
  8. Jeckyll's Elixir
  9. Dr. Jeckyll Mr. Hyde
  10. Witch Doctor
  11. House Of Fate
  12. Halloween Trance
  13. Creatures

All of the songs on this release were written by Matt Crowe (Count Crow) and Trevor Huster.

This CD was released on October 5, 2010 through Honur Records.

Count Crow's Halloween Spooktacular is an excellent addition to a Halloween music collection. For folks looking for more Halloween party music, there are several classic Halloween songs, as well as some more recent, though lesser known tunes. There are also a lot of fun Halloween songs from the 1980s. There is also the compilation Haunted Hits: An Hour Of Scary Songs & Sounds.

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.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Judy Collins: "True Stories And Other Dreams" (2010 re-issue) CD Review

Judy Collins' 1973 release includes five original compositions, including "Song For Martin" and "Che." It also contains Tom Paxton's "The Hostage."

Judy Collins has one of the most beautiful and recognizable voices in folk music. Yet somehow several of her albums were allowed to go out of print, including her 1973 release, True Stories And Other Dreams. But later this month Collectors' Choice Music is re-releasing this album as well as eight others.

True Stories And Other Dreams was the first album for which the majority of songs were written by Judy Collins herself. Five of the nine songs on this album were written by Judy, including the wonderful "Song For Martin."

"Cook With Honey" Top 40 Hit

Judy Collins opens this album with "Cook With Honey," which was written by Valerie Carter. This song was also released as a single, and reached #32 on the Billboard Hot 100, her first top 40 song since 1970's "Amazing Grace." (That version of "Amazing Grace" can be heard on her album Whales & Nightingales, which is also scheduled to be re-released this month.)

Judy Collins Wrote Many Of The Songs

"Fisherman Blues" is the first track on the album written by Judy Collins. It features a catchy down-home guitar part as well as some nice fiddle. It's a fun and innocent song.

"Secret Gardens," also written by Judy Collins, starts with strings, and also features some nice work on piano. The song's first line was a line from her journal, written after her grandmother died: "My grandmother's house is still there, but it isn't the same."

Judy Collins has often written about her family. On this album, she included a second song about a family member. "Holly Ann" is about her sister.

Judy Collins wrote "Song For Martin" for Martin Hoffman, who had killed himself. Like it says in the song, he's the first person Judy ever heard sing Woody Guthrie songs. As much as it's about Martin, it's also about Judy, and her busy life at the time. It's a sweet and sad and beautiful song. It's painful to hear her sing, "Mart, I know I let you down somewhere."

The album concludes with another Judy Collins composition, "Che." A song about Che Guevera, it has interesting changes. It takes the listener on a journey, getting tense, then relaxing, releasing with the refrain, "Continue with your work."

Cover Songs

Though Judy did write much of the material for this album, she still of course managed to pick some great songs to cover. She always adds her own personal touch and flair to the songs she chooses.

"The Dealer (Down And Losin')" is one of those songs that uses gambling as a metaphor for life. It's a pretty good song, mellow and nice. It was written by Bob Ruzicka, and originally appeared on his first album. The lyrics are good and appropriately depressing, such as these lines: "You can't win and you can't break even/You can't get out of the game/You shouldn't stay, but you ain't leaving/Because your luck could change again."

Judy Collins also covers Tom Paxton's "The Hostage." This is the most lively track on this album. It was written about the 1971 Attica prison riots. Tom Paxton's own version was included on his 1972 release, Peace Will Come. This is a really good song, featuring nice touches on electric guitar.

CD Track List
  1. Cook With Honey
  2. So Begins The Task
  3. Fisherman Song
  4. The Dealer (Down And Losin')
  5. Secret Gardens
  6. Holly Ann
  7. The Hostage
  8. Song For Martin
  9. Che

True Stories And Other Dreams was originally released in 1973. It was released on CD in 1990. It is scheduled to be released by Collectors' Choice Music on July 27, 2010. Eight other Judy Collins are also scheduled for release on that date, including Fifth Album (1965), In My Life (1966) and Whales & Nightingales (1970).

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

Judy Collins: "Times Of Our Lives" (1982/2010 re-issue) CD Review

Judy Collins' 1982 album features her incredible rendition of "Memory," as well as five original songs.

Though Judy Collins is considered a folk artist, because of her roots, she has long chosen songs from various musical genres and realms, never feeling restricted by the folk label. And by the time of this release, she had moved more and more toward a pop sound. But of course there are still folk elements on this album, heard in songs like "Grandaddy." Judy Collins wrote half the songs for this album, including a couple of its best tracks.

"Great Expectations"

Judy Collins opens Times Of Our Lives with "Great Expectations," a song written by Hugh Prestwood, who also wrote "Almost Free," which Judy Collins covered on her 1980 release Running For My Life. "Great Expectations" is a song with a positive outlook on life and the future.

Judy Collins covered two other Hugh Prestwood songs on this album.


"Grandaddy" was written by Judy Collins. She really stretches her voice on this one, and the results are beautiful. The one has a timeless folk feel - and it's one of the best tracks on the album. The refrain is, "Wrap me up in your winter coat/Wrap me up so tight/I never will feel the cold/I'll be warm tonight."

"It's Gonna Be One Of Those Nights"

"It's Gonna Be One Of Those Nights" is another written by Hugh Prestwood. This is one of those soft pop songs that one can't help but love. It's very much a product of its time, but that's also a great part of its charm. Plus, it has a sax.


"Memory" is the famous song from the 1981 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. It's a beautiful song, and Judy Collins really nails it. Her voice is gorgeous and strong. And there is an excellent string section on this track too. This is one of the highlights of the album.

Anna McGarrigle

"Sun Son" was written by Anna McGarrigle. It was originally released by Kate and Anna McGarrigle on their Love Over And Over album.(On that album, the song is titled "Sun Son (Shining On The Water.") Judy Collins does an excellent job with it.

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "The sun was sinking 'cause night was falling/The boy went off to sleep/His wondrous city vanished/Into the icy deep."

"Mama Mama"

"Mama Mama" was written by Judy Collins. She has many songs about family - an important theme to her. About a minute in, the song kicks in, and has a rock edge. Judy is on the edge of Pat Benatar territory here, both vocally and musically. It's only for that section, the chorus, but it's wonderful.

"Drink A Round To Ireland"

"Drink A Round To Ireland" is the third and final tune by Hugh Prestwood to be included on this album. Judy sings, "To return to Ireland was his dream/Drink a round to Ireland, boys/I'm home again." What, a song about Ireland and drinking? What a strange combination. This is a sweet and pretty and sometimes touching song.

Judy Collins Original Songs

The album concludes with two more Judy Collins compositions: "Angel On My Side" and "Don't Say Goodbye Love." "Don't Say Goodbye Love" is an incredibly passionate song, with some beautiful work on piano as well as Judy's amazing vocals.

The lyrics are heartbreaking. Judy sings, "I'm begging you to stay, if it's just a lie/I'll take the crumbs you leave at my door/I just can't bear not to see you anymore/These years of love can't be gone/Take me with you, don't leave me here alone/Don't say goodbye love/I couldn't bear to hear it/Don't say goodbye love/It's what I've always feared." This is an amazing song, one of Judy Collins' best.

CD Track List

  1. Great Expectations
  2. The Rest Of Your Life
  3. Grandaddy
  4. It's Gonna Be One Of Those Nights
  5. Memory
  6. Sun Son
  7. Mama Mama
  8. Drink A Round To Ireland
  9. Angel On My Side
  10. Don't Say Goodbye Love

Judy Collins' Time Of Our Lives 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), Running For My Life (1980) and Home Again (1984).

(Note: I originally posted this review on September 7, 2010.)

Judy Collins: "Home Again" (1984/2010 re-issue) CD Review

This Judy Collins album features a mix of 1980s pop music and folk elements, and includes two original compositions, "Shoot First" and "Dream On."

Home Again was Judy Collins' final studio release with Elektra (she did release a live Christmas album a decade later). She contributed two original songs to this album, including the surprising "Shoot First." The album was produced by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen.

"Only You"
What, a Judy Collins album that opens with something approaching a techno beat? You bet. This song starts like the mid-1980s pop song that it is. But once Judy's voice comes in, this song is separated from other 1980s pop tunes. Judy Collins' voice is so beautiful, so strong, so unmistakable, that this song won't get lost among others of similar instrumentation from the period. And the thing is it's actually a really good pop song, written by Vince Clarke, who was a founding member of Depeche Mode.

Elton John

"Sweetheart On Parade" was written by Elton John and Gary Osborne. It's a sad tune about a person on the stage who is adored by the crowd, but not by the one person she loves. It features piano and vocals, and the line, "If everybody loves me, where are they tonight?"

"Everybody Works In China"

"Everybody Works In China" is an odd pop song written by Henry Gross, who was a founding member of Sha Na Na. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "The sun is setting, but I'm still in my bed/Taking something for my aching head/I used to run just to get out the lead/But now I just change the channels instead."

"Yellow Kimono"

"Yellow Kimono" is about a woman who calls her husband who is in Tokyo, with the refrain "She's waiting on Tokyo time." He doesn't answer, so her imagination takes over, attempting to answer the question of what he could be doing, and leaping to the worst conclusions, as imaginations are wont to do.

The song has a surprising electric guitar section which leads to an even more surprising quiet keyboard section. Toward the end of the song, the woman receives a gift in the mail - the promised yellow kimono. This song was written by Graham Lyle.

"From Where I Stand"

"From Where I Stand" is a song about a relationship gone wrong, a sad song about endings. It features the great lines, "I was standing in your shadow/Now I'm standing in your way."

Title Track

"Home Again," the title track, is sung as a duet with T.G. Sheppard, a country music singer. Something in the way T.G. Sheppard sings this song is reminiscent of Neil Diamond's approach to songs. Gerry Coffin, known for co-writing hit songs with Carole King, wrote the lyrics for this song. Michael Masser wrote the music and produced the track. It's the only song on the album not produced by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen.

"Shoot First"

"Shoot First" is the first of two songs written by Judy Collins for this album. The song begins with vocals and a marching beat on the snare drum. It then goes into a 1980s dance beat - seriously. And yes, it's catchy. But the lyrics are serious, not mindless '80s pop silliness.

This is a song aimed at the Reagans and the absurd NRA, with lyrics like, "You gotta shoot first/Shoot first.You gotta get them before they get you." Those lines lead into an interesting instrumental section that has both a 1980s pop feel and an Irish folk feel. And then the song ends the way it began. This is one of the best tracks on the album, and one of the most surprising for a Judy Collins record.

"Dream On" is the second of Judy Collins' compositions for this album. It features the line, "If you're a dream, don't let me wake."

"Don't Say Love"

"Don't Say Love" is a pop song that could easily be played at '80s nights in dance clubs. Who'd have thought that could be said of Judy Collins song? It was written by Randy Goodrum and Brent Maher, and features lines like, "Don't say love if you don't feel it/Because I'm fool enough to believe it."

The album concludes with "The Best Is Yet To Come," a love song written by Clifford T. Ward and featuring piano and strings.

CD Track List
  1. Only You
  2. Sweetheart On Parade
  3. Everybody Works In China
  4. Yellow Kimono
  5. From Where I Stand
  6. Home Again
  7. Shoot First
  8. Don't Say Love
  9. Dream On
  10. The Best Is Yet To Come

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

(Note: I originally posted this review on September 8, 2010.)

Judy Collins: "Fifth Album" (2010 re-issue) CD Review

Judy Collins' excellent Fifth Album features great renditions of songs by Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Gordon Lightfoot.

Somehow several of Judy Collins' CDs were allowed to go out of print. How did this happen? It's ridiculous that any of this important singer's material is unavailable. But Collectors' Choice Music is going to re-release nine of her albums in July. This is cause for music lovers to rejoice, for Judy Collins has a sweet and strong voice, and has always chosen excellent material for her records.

"Pack Up Your Sorrows"

Judy Collins starts Fifth Album with "Pack Up Your Sorrows," a very pretty song written by Richard Farina and Pauline Marden. Richard Farina plays dulcimer on this track, adding a wonderful sound. Eric Weissberg (who is perhaps still best known for his rendition of "Dueling Banjos" from the film Deliverance) plays second guitar.

Judy Collins had started out by doing mostly traditional folk songs, as did most folk singers at that time. By the time of this album, she was covering a lot of contemporary songwriters, but not to the extent that she excluded traditional songs. Her version of "So Early, Early In The Spring" is one of the highlights of this album. It's a beautiful song, and Judy's voice soars and plays within its framework.

Bob Dylan Songs

Judy Collins covers three Bob Dylan songs on this album. The first is "Tomorrow Is A Long Time," a song that Ian & Sylvia covered in 1963 and Elvis Presley covered in 1966. Judy's version is beautiful.

Also included on this album is her version of Dylan's "Daddy You've Been On My Mind," a song for which Bob Dylan never issued an official version. Joan Baez also included this song on a 1965 release. Danny Kalb plays guitar and Bill Lee plays bass on Judy Collins' version.

The third Dylan song on this album is one of Bob Dylan' most famous songs, "Mr. Tambourine Man." This was Hunter S. Thompson's favorite song. The version by The Byrds would become famous. Judy Collins' version is more in the folk vein, but interestingly has more power than other versions, particularly due to the vocals. Also, the guitar work is great, containing a wonderful urgency. Bill Lee plays bass on this song.

"Thirsty Boots"

"Thirsty Boots" is another beautiful song. It was written by Eric Anderson. Judy sings, "Then take off your thirsty boots/ And stay for a while/Your feet are hot and weary/ From a dusty mile/And maybe I can make you laugh/And maybe I can try/Just lookin' for the evening/And the morning in your eyes." Who wouldn't want to be comforted in that way by Judy Collins' loving voice? Even for those who are not tired from traveling, this song has the power to soothe and comfort.

John Sebastian (from The Lovin' Spoonful) plays harmonica on this song, and his is a strong presence. Eric Weissberg plays second guitar.

Phil Ochs and Gordon Lightfoot

Judy Collins covers the Phil Ochs song "In The Heat Of The Summer," which is about the riots and racial violence that erupted in cities in the mid-1960s. It's an earnest and effective song, and Judy's version is emotionally charged. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Now no one knows how it started/Why the windows were shattered/But deep in the dark, someone set the spark/And then it no longer mattered."

She also covers "Early Morning Rain," which is possibly Gordon Lightfoot's most famous song. Certainly, it's one of his best. This version is wonderful and features Eric Weissberg on second guitar and Bill Lee on bass.

"Carry It On" is a song written by Gil Turner. It's a pretty and powerful song, and one of the best on this album. It features Richard Farina on dulcimer.

Live Track

The album concludes with a live recording of "It Isn't Nice." This song was recorded at a concert Judy Collins did on March 21, 1964 in New York. This is the same concert that yielded Judy Collins' fourth album, The Judy Collins Concert (1964).

Eric Weissberg plays guitar and does backing vocals on this one. Jerry Dodgion plays flute. Chuck Israels plays bass.

CD Track List

  1. Pack Up Your Sorrows
  2. The Coming Of The Roads
  3. So Early, Early In The Spring
  4. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
  5. Daddy You've Been On My Mind
  6. Thirsty Boots
  7. Mr. Tambourine Man
  8. Lord Gregory
  9. In The Heat Of The Summer
  10. Early Morning Rain
  11. Carry It On
  12. It Isn't Nice

Fifth Album was originally released in 1965. It was released on CD in 1990. It is scheduled to be re-released by Collectors' Choice Music on July 27, 2010. This is one of nine Judy Collins albums scheduled to be re-released.

(Note: I originally posted this review on June 30, 2010 on another site.)

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 .)