Judy Collins

True Stories & Other Dreams

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Judy Collins took a little longer than her usual one year between album releases before delivering True Stories & Other Dreams while Elektra Records filled the gap with a greatest-hits LP, Colors of the Day/The Best of Judy Collins. When Collins was ready with the new disc in January 1973 (it was actually her first studio album in more than two years, although the live Living of 1971 had contained mostly newly recorded songs), it became apparent what had required the extra time: five of the nine tracks were original songs penned by Collins herself. She had placed her own songs on previous LPs dating back to 1967's Wildflowers, but never so many. Nor were these, as earlier compositions tended to be, restricted in subject matter to personal reflections. Many of them did conform to that description, with "Secret Gardens" being a reverie about family, beginning with her grandmother, and "Holly Ann" a depiction of her baby sister. But "Fishermen Song" was a catchy, folkie tune about fishermen, naturally. "Song for Martin," while personal, was an elegy to a friend who had committed suicide. And the seven-and-a-half-minute closer, "Ché," was an ambitious recitative about the death of Ché Guevara and the hopes for freedom in South America. Always a master of varying moods, Collins had begun the album with the lilting "Cook with Honey" from the pen of Valerie Carter, and included the lovelorn "So Begins the Task," written by ex-beau Stephen Stills. But the tone of the album turned gradually darker. "Secret Gardens" and "Holly Ann" gave way to a percussion-filled cover of Tom Paxton's "The Hostage," an account of the then-recent Attica State Prison riot as told from beyond the grave by a slain prison guard who ended up blaming Governor Nelson Rockefeller for having police storm the prison, not the prisoners who held him. With that harrowing account followed by "Song for Martin" and "Ché," the album thus ended with three songs about violent death. That made True Stories and Other Dreams a downbeat collection, but it was in the mood of the times in the early '70s, presenting a hangover of ‘60s idealism that had given way to personal and political disillusionment. [The 2010 reissue features liner notes by Richie Unterberger that benefit from a new interview with Collins.]

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