Judy Collins

Send in the Clowns: The Collection

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Judy Collins' recording career began in 1962 and continues into the 21st century. She's had her share of hits, but her larger contribution has been the most culturally important: through her recordings on that crystalline piano, she's brought attention to countless songwriters we now consider legends, not the least of whom are Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. That said, as a subject for anthologies, there isn't a single collection that defines her by capturing her breadth and depth as an interpreter of songs and as a songwriter. Send in the Clowns: The Collection, issued by Rhino in the U.K., focuses on her 22 years with Elektra Records, from 1962 to 1994. It contains 20 tracks, all of them stellar. It features her versions of Mitchell's Both Sides Now" and "Chelsea Morning," Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat," Bob Dylan's "Farewell," Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans," Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Spring," Jimmy Webb's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," and her iconic version of Stephen Sondheim's title track. It also contains a number of her radical reinterpretations of traditional songs such as "Maid of Constant Sorrow," "Pretty Polly," and her own composition "Albatross" among others. As fine as this set is, and as easily as it flows, any fan will be as troubled by what isn't here as for what is. It becomes the latest in a long line of anthologies that are deeply satisfying for what they are, but by their under-representation, make the Collins' fan yearn that much more for a definitive, cross-licensed box that would, once and for all, settle the arguments and reveal the her iconic place in popular music history.

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