Judy Collins

Judith

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By the mid-'70s, Judy Collins had earned a reputation as a masterful interpretive singer as well as shown a late-blooming gift as a songwriter. But while much of her work displayed an artful and contemplative tone, after she scored a surprise hit single with her a cappella rendition of "Amazing Grace," Collins was nudged a few steps closer to the mainstream, and 1975's Judith often strikes an uncomfortable balance between misguided pop confections and sturdier material which more readily suits her talents. While several of the cuts feature unexpectedly lush orchestral arrangements, these are often among the highlights. Her graceful and affecting versions of Jimmy Webb's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" and Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" (as well as her own "Houses") are lovely and inspired, while the overcooked light rock of "Angel, Spread Your Wings" and "Salt of the Earth" (one of the least effective Rolling Stones covers ever) serve as perfect examples of what doesn't work for Collins in the studio. Other highlights include two vintage chestnuts, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" and "I'll Be Seeing You" -- which suggest Collins would have done well to consider an album of great songs of the 1930s -- and two very different songs about motherhood, "Born to the Breed" and "Pirate Ships," both of which ring honest and true throughout. Judith's high points are sublime, but the low points are just sorry enough to mark this as a turning point toward one of the less-distinguished periods of Collins' career.

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