Portrait of an American Girl

Portrait of an American Girl

by Judy Collins
     
 

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The voice is still gorgeous, the ability to either find or compose perfectly suitable songs still unerring, the humanist sensibility still pure. As Portrait of an American Girl attests, Judy Collins’s expressive artistry and aesthetic vision can still be counted on, as she continues to evolve both musically and emotionally. Now five-plus decades into her

Overview

The voice is still gorgeous, the ability to either find or compose perfectly suitable songs still unerring, the humanist sensibility still pure. As Portrait of an American Girl attests, Judy Collins’s expressive artistry and aesthetic vision can still be counted on, as she continues to evolve both musically and emotionally. Now five-plus decades into her career, Collins remains a stalwart of a personal musical genre that openly embraces both folk and adult pop, shortchanging neither in the process of recording. Self-produced and largely self-composed, American Girl announces itself as a labor of love, a focused project that Collins has invested herself in wholeheartedly. The album’s title rings true: The diverse songs present a wide-ranging musical vista: gently intoned pop tunes (“Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”), Joni Mitchell classics (“That Song About Midway”), folk-era evergreens (“How Can I Keep from Singing”), reverent takes on established Americana (Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait”), and Collins's own deeply felt songs touching on candid spiritual and emotional matters. The spare but effective production puts this accessible diva's ever-affecting vocals in the forefront, where they belong. Sometimes clichés put it best: Collins isn’t getting older; she’s getting better.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
For about a quarter century, through the 1960s and '70s and up to the mid-'80s, Judy Collins released a new album nearly every year on Elektra Records, which began as an independent folk label and, during her tenure there, expanded into rock and was sold to the major label Warner Bros. Records. Collins' annual albums mixed traditional folk material with songs by the crop of new, up-and-coming folk-rock singer/songwriters and, as of her 1967 LP Wildflowers, one or more of her own original compositions, which tended to be piano ballads with personal, poetic lyrics that touched on her own family. After Collins left Elektra at the end of 1984, she recorded less frequently, and when she did she usually went in for thematic albums -- children's albums, Christmas albums, live albums, songbook albums, albums of re-recordings of her hits, etc. Meanwhile, she drifted from label to label until founding her own label, Wildflower Records, in 1999. 2005's Portrait of an American Girl is her first album since 1990's Fires of Eden that might be termed a "regular" Judy Collins album in the sense that she used to make them, a newly recorded collection of varied material. She begins it with the first of five original compositions, "Singing Lessons," which is also the title of a memoir she published in 1998 and, in song form, is a prayer and invocation setting the tone for the record. The strongest tie to her old LPs may be the next track, "That Song About the Midway," a Joni Mitchell song of the same vintage as "Both Sides Now" and "Chelsea Morning," which Collins made into hits and standards. She has written that, since the suicide of her son, Clark Taylor, in 1992, every song she writes is about him. Certainly, that is true of "I Can't Cry Hard Enough," as it may be of "Voyager" and definitely is of "Checkmate," all songs in which she laments the absence of a loved one. But Taylor is not the subject of "Wedding Song (Song for Louis)," except by his absence from Collins' wedding to her long-time partner Louis Nelson, which this a cappella performance commemorates. In addition to these originals, she further strengthens her long-lasting ties to folk music by covering the works of Bruce Cockburn ("Pacing the Cage") and Pete Seeger ("How Can I Keep from Singing"), and evokes her classical background and sense of Americana by reciting the text of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait." The album's least effective tracks are the ones in which she tries to rock out a little and be contemporary, covering the old Jaynetts hit "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" and the more recent Train hit "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)," neither of which benefit from her considered interpretations; but at least they provide changes of pace. These false steps aside, Collins remains, at 65, in possession of excellent musical taste and a wonderful voice on an album that will remind old fans of what her records used to be like.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/19/2005
Label:
Wildflower
UPC:
0687348130523
catalogNumber:
1305

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Judy Collins   Primary Artist,Guitar,Piano,Vocals,Narrator
Gary Anderson   Synthesizer
Tony Beard   Drums
Katie Geissinger   Choir, Chorus
Zev Katz   Bass
Hugh McCracken   Guitar
Lee Musiker   Piano
Peter Stewart   Choir, Chorus
Russell Walden   Piano,Keyboards
Frank Barr   Choir, Chorus
Johnson Flucker   Conductor,Choir, Chorus
Alexandra Montano   Choir, Chorus
Brian Dougherty   Choir, Chorus
Susan Lewis   Choir, Chorus
Elizabeth Norman   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Aaron Copland   Composer
Judy Collins   Arranger,Composer,Producer
Pete Seeger   Composer
Bruce Cockburn   Composer
Joni Mitchell   Composer
Gary Anderson   Arranger
John Bettis   Composer
Steve Dorff   Composer
Roy Hendrickson   Engineer
Alan Silverman   Producer,Engineer,Vocal Mixing
Abner Spector   Composer
Russell Walden   Arranger
Robert Lowry   Composer
Annie Leibovitz   Cover Photo
Johnson Flucker   Arranger
Scott Underwood   Composer
Charlie Colin   Composer
Rob Hotchkiss   Composer
James Stafford   Composer
Arnold Mischkulnig   Engineer
Louis Nelson   Logo Design

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