Judy Collins

Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen: Democracy

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Singer and songwriter Judy Collins is credited with having "discovered" Leonard Cohen in 1966. She was the first person to record the classic "Suzanne" and "Dress Rehearsal Rag," launching the career of one of popular music's most profoundly talented singer/songwriters and enigmatic figures. Collins was revered at the dawn of the baby boom for her crystalline, breathtaking voice and her ability to emotionally translate even the most elliptical forms of musical poetry. Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen: Democracy collects ten performances of these tunes from the singer's Elektra catalog, one from her fine 2000 album Judy Collins Live at Wolf Trap, one from her 1967 album, Wildflowers, and three new recordings. The sweep in years is covered almost seamlessly. The title tack opens the record with its jarring modernity of programmed drums and keyboards and is immediately followed by the original recording of "Suzanne," only to be book-ended with a stunning reading of "A Thousand Kisses Deep," full of modern production and Collins' emotionally loaded, sensual performance. The set moves to "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" from Wildflowers. This and "Priests" both come from this seminal album where Collins covered not only Cohen, but Joni Mitchell as well, and scored big with "Both Sides Now." The album is given added significance because it was the first to feature her own songs. These songs were inspired, according to Collins' unflinchingly honest, elegant and moving liner notes, by Cohen himself; she states that he exhorted her to write her own material. Given the beauty of these notes, one wishes she would still. There are no weak or substandard selections here; Some of the other standouts are a rollicking country-rock read of "Bird on the Wire," and her acoustic reading of "Famous Blue Raincoat," accompanied only by her acoustic guitar. There is one near-rarity here: Collins' gorgeous reading of "Take This Longing," from her Bread and Roses collection with bassist Tony Levin, is breathtaking. Ultimately, this collection speaks volumes not only to Collins' considerable gifts as an interpretive singer, but more than this, to the fact that her voice, at once instantly recognizable, has lost none of its empathy, its steely conviction, or its aching vulnerability. This album, in past and present tenses, underscores Collins' under-celebrated contribution to excellence and history..

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