Starting with 1967's Wildflowers, Judy Collins, previously known exclusively as an interpretive singer of the songs of others, began including compositions of her own on her albums, along with the traditional folk fare and the work of contemporary singer/songwriters. These songs tended to be piano ballads inspired by her classical training with highly poetic, semi- (or entirely) autobiographical lyrics well-suited to her ethereal vocal style. In addition to her albums, Collins also has turned out The Judy Collins Songbook, containing autobiographical writings along with the sheet music, and Trust Your Heart, a full-fledged autobiography. In a sense, Voices brings all these efforts into one package, a 6" x 6" box containing a 13-track CD; a collection of sheet music for the songs, printed on one large page that unfolds like a road map; and an 80-page book. The CD is a collection of Collins' own compositions dating back to Wildflowers, newly recorded in her Manhattan apartment, with her singing while playing the piano (on which she wrote most of the songs). The arrangements in the sheet music follow her actual piano playing, which is helpful since that playing, the product of her years of study to be a concert pianist, is so much a part of the songs. The book is another memoir, its chapters keyed to the songs, although she doesn't simply explain the inspirations for the songs, but extrapolates to reminiscences about her life. There's a natural connection, since her songs are often about her life, particularly about her family, whether it's "My Father," "Weaver Song (Holly Ann)" (about her sister), "Secret Gardens" (about her grandmother), or "Born to the Breed" (about her son). It turns out that "Open the Door (Song for Judith)" is about her friend Judith Weston, while the largely impenetrable imagistic poetry of "Albatross" was inspired by a painter friend (or enemy) she declines to name, and "Houses" at least reminds her of her relationship with Stephen Stills. Gathered together in one place for the first time, these songs make a case for Collins as a songwriter with an individual, highly personal style. The case for her as a singer has been made long since, and this album simply demonstrates that, in her mid-fifties, she's still got it. (The newly written title song is a call to help the children of war-torn places around the world, an appropriate statement for the singer, a UNICEF spokesperson).
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann