Judy Collins

In My Life

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After the release of Judy Collins' Fifth Album in November 1965, Collins seems to have determined to expand her stylistic range instead of competing with such fellow commercial folksingers as Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary for the wares of contemporary singer/songwriters, especially since she often came in second. (PP&M, for example, had managed to get their version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" out just before hers.) This meant not only seeking out new sources for material to cover, but also, in the wake of the folk-rock fad of 1965, employing more elaborate arrangements. So, on In My Life, she drew from the off-Broadway musical theater for such songs as "Pirate Jenny," from The Threepenny Opera, and a suite assembled from Marat/Sade; she also looked internationally, to France for Jacques Brel's "La Colombe" and to Canada for the first songs by poet/novelist Leonard Cohen, "Suzanne" and "Dress Rehearsal Rag." Then, she decamped to England with arranger/conductor Joshua Rifkin, who orchestrated the tracks in imaginative chamber pop settings. The result might have been pretentious or silly, but thankfully Collins, who had classical music training, knew what she was doing. The material was well chosen; the arrangements showed it off to perfection; and Collins' vocals were alternately soothing and stirring, but always clear and well articulated, as well as carefully pitched to the tone of the material. All of this made In My Life a breakthrough, artistically and commercially (the album eventually went gold). It also helped launch Cohen, who had never recorded or performed his music publicly at the time of its release, as a musical artist. The 2010 reissue on Collectors' Choice Music features liner notes by Richie Unterberger that benefit from an interview with Collins.

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