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5.0 out of 5 stars Judee Sill's abandoned third album plus bonuses - a welcome addition to her canon, 14 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: Dreams Come True (Audio CD)
After two well-received but poor-selling albums, Judee Sill was justifiably downhearted. While Joni Mitchell was scaling the heights of the pop charts, Sill was recovering from a series of botched back surgeries after a car accident.

During her convalescence, she wrote some new songs and in late 1974 went into the studio with a band of musicians to record these. The sessions were relaxed and carefree, but the album was soon abandoned and sessions were aborted. Sill slid into obscurity and poverty, battling drug addictions, and she died five years later from a cocaine overdose at the age of 35.

The tapes for these sessions were found again in 2004 and Jim O'Rourke has done a fantastic job of producing them in a way to reflect both the nature of the sessions and the hallmarks of Judee Sill's sound.

The eight new songs here (it sounds skimpy, but there were only nine for 1973's Heart Food) are all very strong and also quite different to her previous material. The melancholy quality is gone and she seems in fine spirits here. The music is melodic and driving, and there aren't many slow, sad songs. Instead, it's actually quite a rocking album.

Opener "That's the Spirit" sets the scene with Sill's trademark piano playing with an unusual rhythm pattern and a vocal delivery that seems more free than before. Sill lets go vocally on this album, using her vibrato more as well as her higher range. "That's the Spirit" is an immediately memorable, joyous opener, and joins the ranks of Sill's finest songs. Her vocal is strong, if not as polished as on the first two records, which lends the song a certain charm in itself.

The countrified-gospel-classical sound of Heart Food is present on songs like "I'm Over" and "The Good Ship Omega," but for the most part this is new territory for Sill. "The Living End" boasts a sassy rhythm and "Things Are Lookin' Up" is genuinely jaunty and fast-paced, while "'Til Dreams Come True" is the only real slow song, a ballad of hymnal intensity.

Happy and carefree though the songs may be, Sill never compromises her immense melodic, harmonic, and poetic abilities and she still astounds here. The songs do not possess the fragile beauty of those on Judee Sill and Heart Food, and somehow seem more straightforwardly pop-inspired. That is an interesting new direction for Sill and it would be intriguing to hear how the album would have turned out had it been completed. The demos are of great quality too.

A disc of "lost songs" is also included, and despite low sound quality the power of Sill's performance is captured on her own songs such as "Dead Time Bummer Blues," "Waterfall," and "Emerald River Dance," the former being an eerie, off-kilter, deadpan song about Sill's time in jail, and the latter two, particularly "Emerald River Dance," incredibly beautiful - it would have been worthy of a place on her debut. There is also a 1968 set of folk covers, and video footage of a 1973 mini-set.

The packaging is exquisite, with a keepsake slipcase, the two discs packaged in envelopes and a 72-page colour booklet featuring interviews with family members and biographical details, as well as photos and lyrics. It's all extremely well-done, and reflects the high quality of the music.

Intricate, professional, fun, and melodic, the music on Dreams Come True may not match the bewitching beauty of Sill's first two records but it never tries to, instead going for a fuller band sound. If Sill recorded more albums, the quality would no doubt have remained incredibly high.

This isn't the best place for first-time listeners music wise perhaps, as it's not the finished product - nobody knows how Sill wanted it to turn out (although Dreams Come True was always her intended title.) However, this is worth the money even for the book alone, which gives major insight into Sill's life. A worthy addition to the Judee Sill collection, and the closing part of a beautiful, extraordinary trilogy.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 May 2011 16:39:27 BDT
Red on Black says:
Excellent review - tells me all I need to know about this release. I have been listening to the Abracadabra coupling of her first LP and Heart Food for an age and its gets better and better. Will check this out. Thanks R o B

Posted on 12 Jul 2011 15:45:22 BDT
The album may have turned out differently and you would have been saying that you "preferred the demos because they were warmer", or something. They are what they are and that's it. The best place to start is from the beginning and working your way through. That way you can see Judees' development clearly. Simples!
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