Judee Sill

Dreams Come True

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When singer/songwriter Judee Sill died at the age of 35, she had issued two albums under her own name on David Geffen's Asylum label in 1971 and 1973, respectively. (Both have since been re-released with bonus material by Rhino's web-only Handmade imprint.) She had another one more or less in the can, recorded in 1974, but it was never finished or released. Her brand of folk music was enigmatic, full of light breeziness, nicely orchestrated (she wrote the charts herself), and drenched in a natural world mysticism that was more ethereal than the standard California fare of the early '70s. Dreams Come True is that lost third album, produced by Bill Plummer and track engineered by Emitt Rhodes, with the finished mix done by Jim O'Rourke in 2004, 30 years after the album was shelved. Water Records, quickly becoming the obscurantist's reissue label, has put together a lavishly presented package that houses Dreams Come True, bonus tracks in the form of demos and rehearsals, and a second disc entitled "Lost Songs," recorded by Tommy Peltier in his home studio and in his living room, which includes nine unreleased tracks and a 12-minute QuickTime movie of Sill performing in concert. The musical -- and production -- quality on Dreams Come True is high, given that it was recorded in a professional studio. Sill had been fully in possession of her muse when making it. Sill and Art Johnson did the musical charts, and she and Marc McLure arranged the vocals. Those familiar with her first two offerings will find this to be deeper in the vein, fleshed out, more focused. Sill could write hooks as well as she could write words, and these tracks, particularly "That's the Spirit," "The Living End," and "Til Dreams Come True," are moving emotionally, while not being at all mopey. They are jaunty and full of a sun-drenched airiness that stood out, even when the subject matter -- as spiritual as much of it was -- was melancholy. Sill never beat a lyric of a tune over the head. Disc two is, naturally, much rougher. This is for the fans, the hardcore devotees who feel there was never enough out there. Some of these tunes have appeared in various guises on the Internet, but these versions are cleaner, though there are almost no credits for the other musicians on the sessions. "Dead Time Bummer Blues" is a fully realized outing, while "Sunny Side Up Luck" is barely a sketch. The stunner on the set is the acoustic home recording of "Emerald River Dance." Its starkness and unpolished beauty are intoxicating, and give the listener a true portrait of the artist in an intimate environment. The package is lavish -- the CDs are in an envelope-folded slipcase and the 72-page book contains interviews with the artist, friends, family, and acquaintances, offering a deeply troubling and even heartbreaking slice of biography that underscores just how remarkable Sill's music was in lieu of her life circumstances. This is a treasure.

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