Judy Collins celebrates Saint Patrick's Day week with the release of both her live concert CD and DVD Judy Collins Live in Ireland. Whether bought separately or together, they are sure to delight. It is worth noting that the DVD includes three songs that are not featured on the CD, Leonard Cohen's brilliant "Bird On A Wire", the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace", and the Broadway song "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?". The DVD also includes an informative interview with Collins on the genesis of the Live in Ireland project and how her love for the music of Ireland has shaped both her career and life. For more details refer to my review of the DVD.
The magnificent CD opens with a singalong with the audience of Collins' vocal tour de force, "Wild Mountain Thyme", a song which first appeared on her debut CD "Maid of Constant Sorrow" in 1961. There is tasteful accompaniment, unlike the earlier version, which was largely a capella. This version benefits from the treatment, although Collins' beautiful soprano voice is front and center throughout the entire concert.
This is followed by the Joni Mitchell penned "Chelsea Morning", one of Collins' many signature songs, delivered here exquisitely. The next two songs, "Gypsy Rover" and "Barbara Allen" were seminal influences in Collins' decision to abandon her classical piano training for a career in folk music, leading her virtuoso piano teacher Antonia Brico to later mournfully reflect, "Oh little Judy, you really could have gone places." Each is given a reverential treatment here, one as an audience singalong (Gypsy Rover) and the other as a heartfelt ballad (Barbara Allen), each song essential in the development of Collins as a folk artist. "Gypsy Rover" and "Barbara Allen" appear on the DVD as bonus tracks.
One of the highlights of the CD is Collins' own underrated "Granddaddy" from her 1982 masterpiece "Times of Our Lives" CD. It is done even more gloriously here than on the original. The tenderness she felt for her grandfather is palpable in every note, a song sure to evoke similar memories in the listener.
Another highlight is Judy's newest composition, "New Moon Over The Hudson", which thoughtfully explores her roots as an Irish American making her home in New York City. A touching tribute to her irish ancestors, it features evocative lyrics and a beautiful melody.
Harry Chapin's "Cat's In The Cradle", a perennial concert favorite, scores as well with the appreciative audience in Clare County Ireland's Dromoland Castle. This is followed by another Irish folk song from the beginning of her illustrious career of 50 plus years in music. The song is "John Riley", a ballad about a young maid who promises to be true to her lost lover and whose loyalty is tested by a strange man who later turns out to be her "long lost John Riley". Collins' voice, which has grown in elasticity and beauty since her beginnings in 1961, soars on this lovely tune, making it a definite highlight of the disc.
Next is a duet with the national treasure of Ireland, singer-songwriter Mary Black, with a unique treatment of "She Moves Through The Fair", where harmony vocals and new accompaniment make it markedly different than Judy's beautiful solo version of the same song on 1999's Live at Wolf Trap CD.
Judy then collaborates with talented singer-songwriter Ari Hest on Hest's own composition "The Fire Plays". The song sports evocative lyrics and a melody you just may find yourself humming long after the first few listens. Following is a beautiful version of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree:, with Judy accompanying herself on the piano, with lyrics by the celebrated Irish poet W.B. Yeats. This song is the third bonus track on the DVD as well. "Innisfree" first appeared on Judy's 1971 CD "Living"
Rounding out the set is a glorious version of "Danny Boy", an Irish staple, which begins a capella and midway through is accompanied by a lovely string section, with audience participation to boot. The result is a definite showstopper and, short of "Amazing Grace" is the perfect way to end a Judy Collins Irish music concert. I consider this CD a must have for Judy Collins fans; it is definitely a treasured addition to my own personal music library.