Judy Collins

Judy Collins Sings Dylan: Just Like a Woman

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Considering how closely the two singers are associated, it's somewhat surprising that Judy Collins never recorded an entire album of Bob Dylan songs before. Who better to interpret this material than someone who often bore witness to its creation? Well, actually, there are a lot of people who could've (and have) done it better. Obviously, the songs themselves are beyond reproach and Collins is an astonishingly talented vocalist. In fact, well into middle age, she is still possessed of a voice as pure and clear as any heard in the history of popular music. Unfortunately, therein is where the problem often lies. Dylan songs have always celebrated their (and their composer's) own rough edges. Impossibly intricate turns of phrase, intentionally and humorously misused colloquialisms, double entendres, and just plain rough slang are the nuts and bolts of Dylan's work. Anyone who hopes to give a decent reading of these tunes must have a thorough understanding of and feel for the country, blues, and hillbilly music from which Dylan draws inspiration. Though Collins has certainly proved herself an able interpreter of some types of traditional music, she does not a have an artistically rough or bluesy bone in her body. For this reason, many of Dylan's most humorous, scandalous, and poignant lines are rendered almost comical by Collins' overly earnest smoothing-out process. That said, it's hard to imagine a more heart-wrenching, sublimely elegant version of "Dark Eyes" than the one contained on this CD. Collins would have done better to stick with more obscure, more serious tunes, leaving ragged classics like "Like Rolling Stone" and "Gotta Serve Somebody" to less refined vocalists. Overall, Judy Sings Dylan...Just Like a Woman is a loving and carefully crafted, but ultimately flawed, tribute to a fine songwriter whose underrated skills as a vocalist are here revealed by their absence.

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