Sanity and Grace, recorded June 10, 1988, in Tarrytown, NY, is Judy Collins' third live album, following The Judy Collins Concert (1964) and Living (1971), and like its predecessors, it is an unorthodox live album in that it consists largely of songs Collins has not previously recorded, rather than being a collection of her favorites performed in concert. Thus, it is less a live album in the conventional sense than a regular album that happens not to have been recorded at a concert hall before an audience. It is also Collins' first regular album in four years, since 1984's Home Again, her final album for Elektra Records, although, in the interim, she did cut the inspirational collection Amazing Grace, released only in the U.K. in 1985 (with an abridged and revised version, Trust Your Heart, issued in the U.S. in 1987). If the disc has a theme, it is a sometimes rueful reflection on Collins' life as a traveling musician. In the new original "Lovin' and Leavin'," she looks back on an early romance scuttled by her peripatetic lifestyle and pointedly apologizes to her old lover. A cover of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" examines the price that children of musicians pay, and so does a re-recording of Collins' own "Born to the Breed," addressed to her son. Also on the theme is a cover of "The Wind Beneath My Wings," an artist's sincere, if unintentionally condescending, tribute to a selfless supporter. (The song has been kicking around since Gary Morris' 1983 country chart entry. Collins probably didn't know that it would be given renewed prominence by its inclusion in the late-1988 film Beaches, with Bette Midler's version climbing the pop singles chart just as Sanity and Grace was released.) Collins sings these and the other songs on the collection over soft rock arrangements that make this the album for fans who have been waiting for her to make another LP in the style of 1968's Who Knows Where the Time Goes; indeed, it boasts a new version of "Pretty Polly" from that album, paced by Zev Katz's Jaco Pastorius-like fretless bass playing.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann