Judy Collins

Times of Our Lives

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Judy Collins' 15th regular album, Running for My Life (1980), suffered disappointing sales, becoming her first album since 1964's The Judy Collins Concert not to reach the Top 100. Not surprisingly, her 16th, Times of Our Lives, was a more aggressively commercial effort, at least in intent. Unlike its predecessor, her first self-produced effort, she co-produced this one with Lewis Hahn, and Arif Mardin, who produced her best-selling regular LP, 1975's Judith, was credited as co-producer. Collins left little doubt that she wanted to regain her commercial clout, leading off the disc with Hugh Prestwood's uptempo adult contemporary pop number "Great Expectations," which, while nominally about romance, came off as a statement of purpose for the singer, who declared, "I believe in beginning again, I expect to be winning again." But if Times of Our Lives was a simpler, more accessible album than Running for My Life, it wasn't as if Collins was selling out to commercial considerations by any means. In fact, this was her first album since 1973's True Stories and Other Dreams in which she had written half of the material herself. Her songs were typical of her, and they helped make the LP something of a theme album about family. Collins, whose best-known original compositions included "My Father" and a song about her son, Clark Taylor, "Born to the Breed," here dedicated another song to Taylor, "The Rest of Your Life," before going on to songs with the titles "Grandaddy" and "Mama Mama" (the latter a story song about a Midwest woman with five children deciding on an abortion). She also covered Anna McGarrigle's "Sun Son." "Angel on My Side" was a cautionary tale in which the singer recounted rescuing herself from the brink of disaster, while "Don't Say Goodbye Love," which reminded listeners of Collins' classical roots, was an impassioned romantic ballad. Prestwood provided two more contributions, the sexy "It's Gonna Be One of Those Nights" (which also seemed aimed at the AC charts) and the sentimental "Drink a Round to Ireland." On an album with far fewer songwriters than usual for Collins, the remaining track was her version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Memory" from Cats, no doubt intended to be another "Send in the Clowns" for her, although, in this case she was scooped by Barbra Streisand, who put out her version on an album called Memories shortly before the release of Times of Our Lives and was granted permission for the first U.S. single That was a shame, since this was the sort of album that just needed a hit single to achieve its purpose and return Collins to commercial success; it didn't get that single. [The 2010 reissue includes liner notes by Richie Unterberger based on a new interview with Collins, who explains that her version of "Memory" could not be released as a single for licensing reasons, leaving the field to Streisand.]

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