Saturday, 23 September 2017

Stephen Stills & Judy Collins - Everybody Knows, album review

Together Again Suite

Of a quintet of recent releases that got me interested – David Crosby; Steven Stills & Judy Collins; Chris Hillman; Van Morrison; Leon Russell – it is the second that has engaged the most, with Crosby, Russell and Morrison following, but all good.

The Stills/Collins is the most ‘familiar’ [along with Crosby], both sounding as good as ever and as original as ever. There are detailed reviews out there which plot the relationship between Stills and Collins in the 60s and how songs here reflect this, and Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows reminds of Collins and her influence on Cohen to become a singer. Judy Collins is as exquisite as ever in her vocal as I have observed in reviews of her more recent solo releases; Stills, who has hearing problems that have, apparently, affected his singing, still performs exact harmonies, no doubt set by Collins’ perfections: opener Handle Me With Care a good example where Stills holds his note and Collins takes on the melody [though this gets a highly critical take in Paste Magazine, panning Stills’ as painfully flat, not perhaps understanding his situation, and I think overstating as flat its intentional monotone]. But that’s opinion. Yes, this is, as I have said, ‘familiar’ territory, but that’s brilliant to me. Listening to second So Begins the Task, I don’t think the criticism of the harmonising holds, Stills sounding most like his past, and Collins again polishing.

There are songs where Collins is at the solo fore, like third River of Gold, though Stills does provide a fine foil to the chorus, and also in sixth Houses where she soars vocally. Fourth Judy is beautifully sung by both, and Stills on guitar is as crisp as ever. Tim Hardin and Bob Dylan get confident covers of their respective Reason to Believe and Girl from the North Country, while Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes is elegantly echoed by Collins’ equally gorgeous voice, and the lyrics resonate with the reflection on these two former lovers and lifelong friends in their seventies now performing together.

Closer Questions from Stills’ Buffalo Springfield days reasserts the nostalgia, and his guitar work reminds of his prowess.

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