A new recording by Judy Collins is always cause for celebration. Her latest "Paradise," consisting of ten selections, is no exception. The title of the CD comes from the last cut "Gauguin" by Jimmy Webb. "I'm going to go down to Paradise." This song is one of my least favorites although it may grow on me when I listen to it more. "Dens of Yarrow" is the kind of song that Judy recorded when she first started singing. What is amazing is that you would swear that she recorded it 50 years ago and not in 2010. On that one she plays the Roland keyboard. A little of that usually goes a long way with me but her accompaniment works here. "Kingdom Come" is the only song that Ms. Collins wrote. It is a tribute to the brave firefighters and others who lost their lives on 9/11. "They will not be forgotten."
"There is nothing wrong with Judy's rendition of the famous "Over the Rainbow" except she is the wrong Judy singing it. That song will always be Ms. Garland's unless you hear the incomparable version by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole which will blow you out of the Pacific Ocean. "Weight of the World" is a fine but terribly sad song about a son and brother-- his sister tells the story-- going off to a war in a desert (It was the first time I saw my father cry.) We know of course that the dad cried on at least one other occasion when the military send her brother home in the dead of winter and the flag on the hometown football field flew at half-mast. (The Dixie Chicks sing a similar song "Travelin" Soldier" on their "Home" CD.)
My three favorite selections on the CD are "Ghost Riders in the Sky," "Last Thing on My Mind," and "Diamonds and Rust." Ms. Collins in "Ghost Riders" has a great backup chorus consisting of Denver Collins, Joe Hurley, Bob Neuwirth, Tom Paxton, Paul Rolnick and Jimmy Webb. She recorded Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind" years ago and re-records it here with an old boy friend Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills and Nash and sometimes Young who almost as many years ago wrote "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" in praise of Ms. Collins. It is great to hear their gentle harmonies on this one of my favorite songs--"Didn't mean to be unkind/you know that was the last thing on my mind." Stills plays 12-string guitar; Judy is on guitar on this arrangement. But the grand prize goes to "Diamonds and Rust," the song Joan Baez wrote and recorded for Bob Dylan. Here we have two of the great women's voices of the folk era-- if not the two best-- singing in what appears to be close harmony in a delicate and haunting arrangement of this beautiful song. They are accompanied by Russell Walden on piano and the Nashville Rhythm Section that provide perfect accompaniment for this perfect duet. The enduring appeal of "Diamonds and Rust" has to be its universality: the remembrance of a love so long ago, a love in which you gave more than you received and you still have feelings for the person you loved.
I wish we had been given the lyrics to the songs and that Ms. Collins had used another photograph for this CD even though she is still very beautiful and Annie Leibovitz, who according to the notes took the picture, is of course considered by some critics to be the best celebrity photographer alive. Russell Walden plays piano on many of the cuts and Larry Campbell picks the 12-string guitar on really fine instrumentals. Judy's silvery voice of course still captivates, still moves the listener, still shines just as it has throughout her long glorious career.