Judy Collins

Fifth Album

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Judy Collins' last straight, folk-based album of the 1960s, 5th Album marks her transition from a "maid of constant sorrow" to a bona fide artist. With its covers ranging from Lennon and McCartney to adaptations from The Threepenny Opera, 1966's In My Life would readily attest to this. But 5th Album, cut in late 1964, may very well be her definitive folk statement. A trio of Bob Dylan songs act as the album's centerpiece, clearly showing Collins' growth into more progressive songs. In addition to these, Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" is given its classic reading, with Collins' voice echoing the song's melancholy and eerie but mellifluent precision and emotion. Aside from these recordings -- which would have been the highlights on any other record -- the album opens with perhaps its finest moment, Richard Farina's "Pack Up Your Sorrows." Led by Farina's sprightly dulcimer runs, Collins renders the song her own, with a unifying, karmic message and a vocal performance that is irresistible. The musical politics of the day, particularly concerning the entire West Coast/Byrds/folk-rock phenomenon, must have tempted Collins to approach this from a neo-folk-rock standpoint, and it fits the vibe and milieu perfectly. In the end, while not her farewell to folk music, this album is a graceful wave and a smile from Collins as she was about to conquer a new, more baroque direction in a matter of months.

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