76 year old Judy Collins is still making music and she recently released a new album called Strangers Again…
I found out about Judy Collins’ new album Strangers Again because I follow her on Facebook. She seems to be a very interactive Facebook user; from what I can tell, she personally updates her wall. And when I saw that she was releasing an album full of duets, I decided I wanted to have it. Collins was probably best known in the 1960s and early 70s, which was before I was born. Nevertheless, thanks to cheesy music compilations that were hawked on daytime TV back in the 1980s and 90s, I discovered her luminous soprano when I was in college. I used to play her lovely Colors of the Day compilation all the time. I owned it on cassette and later bought the download. I have always been enchanted by her voice, along with her mesmerizing blue eyes.
The deluxe download version of Strangers Again consists of fifteen songs. I recognized many of the people joining Collins on duet versions of some of her best known songs. She sings with Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Marc Cohn, Don McLean and Michael McDonald, among others. Some of the others who collaborate with Collins are people I don’t know. The very first song, “Strangers Again”, is a duet featuring Ari Hest, a singer-songwriter with whom I was unfamiliar. Given that until I bought this album, I didn’t know Ari Hest, it seems appropriate that they sing a ballad called “Strangers Again”, which has a very soothing, adult contemporary feel to it. Hest wrote this song and I like it… and now I need to get to know him.
Jimmy Buffett joins Collins on a surprisingly fun duet rendition of “Someday Soon”, which happens to be one of my favorite songs by Judy Collins. This song, which has always seemed kind of country to me, is given an update with a little rollicking piano, organ, and Buffett’s southern twang. They seem to have enjoyed singing together on this number.
I have to confess another reason I bought this album was because Judy Collins tackles “Feels Like Home”, a pretty ballad by Randy Newman that was featured on his musical, Faust. I’m pretty fascinated by how popular that song has become and how many people have covered it in the past twenty years. Bonnie Raitt was the first one I heard sing it. Then Linda Ronstadt, Chantal Kreviazuk, Diana Krall and Bryan Adams, Josh Groban, Neil Diamond… the list goes on. Here, Judy Collins sings with Jackson Browne. They sound good together, though this is not the most moving version I’ve heard. I don’t know what it is about that song, but it’s well-loved… and what’s really funny is that the character in Faust who sings it is not exactly a nice person. I’m guessing not many have heard the Faust soundtrack, though I used to listen to it all the time when it was new.
The sentimental favorite, “Send In The Clowns”, gets a remake with Don McLean joining Collins. I’ve always liked this song and Don McLean, who still sounds great.
“Diamonds and Rust” has always been a favorite song, mainly because I used to have a pony by that name… and the song is just so dramatic and expressive. Joan Baez and Judy Collins are great together, though I’m not sure if this song works as well as a duet. Are the women singing to each other or to a mutual lover? Collins and Baez harmonize beautifully, though.
All in all, I’m just impressed by how great Judy Collins still sounds at age 76. This is especially evident as she and Marc Cohn sing “Belfast to Boston” together. Collins shows off her still superb soprano range and phrasing. Cohn’s idiosyncratic vocals provide an interesting contrast to Collins’ lilting, lyrical voice. Willie Nelson and Judy Collins share an equally haunting duet with “When I Go”… especially considering that Willie is now 82 and still singing well.
Strangers Again is a lovely album, the kind of music that sounds great on a laid back Sunday morning over coffee and the newspaper. I suspect I will enjoy it for years to come. Surprisingly enough, I see on Amazon.com that the album frequently purchased with Strangers Again is Adele’s latest, 25. Go figure!