thu 18/07/2024

CD: Judy Collins - A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Judy Collins - A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim

CD: Judy Collins - A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim

Judy Blue Eyes forsakes Stephen Stills for Stephen Sondheim

From folk song to Broadway

Judy Collins was one of the great folk icons of the 1960s, competing for the spotlight with Joan Baez. Where the latter was instrumental in bringing Bob Dylan to wide prominence, the former was crucial in putting Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen on the musical map. She was first to record their music – on Wildflowers (1967), a seminal collection arranged by Joshua Rifkin, celebrated scholar of Bach, Beatles and Scott Joplin.

Collins’ tastes are no less eclectic: she was exploring Brecht and Blitzstein in 1966 and, a decade later, won a Grammy nomination for “Send in the Clowns”, a trans-Atlantic hit when Stephen Sondheim was not yet the intellectual darling of musical theatre. She has always been a fan, dipping into his songbook sporadically.

This Sondheim collection follows album-length explorations of Dylan, Cohen and Lennon and McCartney and it began as a live project. It is Sondheim stripped bare: just Collins and her long-time pianist Russell Walden and 10 songs, not all of them obvious picks, from shows including Merrily We Roll Along (“Not a Day Goes By”), Sweeney Todd (“Not While I’m Around”), Sunday in the Park with George (“Move On”, “Finishing the Hat”) and, of course, A Little Night Music (“Liaisons” and “Send in the Clowns”). There’s also “I’m Still Here”, Carlotta’s big number from Follies. There’s none of the brassiness often associated with the song, Collins breezy rather than emphatic and strident though, like Carlotta, she too is a great survivor. That is, of course, the nature of her voice: pure, light, true – even at 77, in remarkably good nick.

If there’s a criticism it’s perhaps that it’s all a little too polite, insufficient light and shade. But Collins knows how to swing, as does Walden, and like any Love Letter this is a collection to return to. Maybe she should fulfil that long-held ambition to star in a Sondheim production.

(This review was written from a download but buyers of the CD have noted online that it is bereft of notes, which is a great shame as Collins writes well and would surely have something illuminating to say about Sondheim.)


Pure, light, true – even at 77 her voice is in remarkably good nick


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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