I remember seeing Judy in concert in the quite informal setting of Avaloch, a wonderful sylvan natural amphitheater that all the folk stars from Collins to Joan Baez to Kris Kristoferson to Tom Rush to James Taylor performed at in Lenox Massachusetts in the summers of 1970. Sadly, it is now the site of a ritzy set of summer condominiums for the New York summertime Berkshires crowd. Yet I can still recall hearing Judy with that magical soaring voice of hers warming up on stage with "Amazing Grace" as we filed onto the grass, and the song so echoed and reverberated over the warm humid airwaves that he older folks at Tanglewood, some six or seven miles way, complained about the noisome interruption. It became an inside joke that Collins, Baez and others would playfully aggravate when performing for the very mellow crowd of counterculture fans. I recall a certain sweet aroma wafting through the air, too, and it wasn't the smell of cotton candy.
Of course, it probably goes without saying that I love most of the songs on this album, from the opening cover of "Michael From Mountains" to her own beautifully and lyric "Since You've Asked" to two back to back Leonard Cohen classics, "Sisters Of Mercy and "Priests". Cohen's haunting and evocative lyrics are masterfully interpreted by Collins, an early champion of his amazingly poetic folk songs. Of course, the song propelling the sales of the album was her number one hit song, "Both Sides Now", a song that literally dominated the charts for months. I love her amazing vocal work in "Albatross", and one can almost feel the rush of emotion in the song as she advances through it. Finally, I still think her interpretation of Cohen's "Hey, That's No Way To Say Good-bye" is one of the best songs she ever recorded. This is an early snapshot of a one of the titans of modern American folk music, taken just as she reached the peak of her awesome vocal and collaborative talents. It is one sure to please the most discriminating of well-trained folk ears, and one I am sure you will come to treasure as much as I do. Enjoy.
Judy Collins is by now one of America's most enduring popular singers. "Wildflowers," along with "In My Life," "Whales and Nightingales" and one or two other albums, represents her particular sensibility in its best light. She started as a strong-voiced folk performer of a distinctly challenging bent. By "Wildflowers" her voice had become higher and lighter in timbre, and her repertory had broadened to include songwriters as diverse as Brel, Mitchell, Cohen and herself. One appreciates after thirty-plus years the quality of the material she chose, and the intricacy and intelligence of the lyrics, even if at times they seem somewhat precious. The beautiful orchestrations by Joshua Rifkin also still give much pleasure. In general the songs on this album do not cover as wide an emotional range as on some of her other discs, tending uniformly toward the gentle and contemplative. On the other hand, they play better to her particular vocal and interpretive strengths. For me, this remains my favorite Collins album.
For starters, the shot of Judy Collins on "Wildflowers" is probably my favorite album cover and the music inside matches the tranquil field of yellow flowers it displays. Collins started out as one of the premier interpretive folksingers of her generation, along with Joan Baez, but by the time this 1967 album was released she was becoming much more of a vocal artist. Given her gloriously pure soprano voice, this certainly made sense. There are still traditional folk songs, although "A Ballata of Francesco Landini Lasso!" presents the broadest definition of traditional possible, but there are more contemporary songs as well. Listen to Collins' soaring voice on a pair of Joni Mitchell songs, "Michael From Mountains" and "Both Sides Now." There are also a trio of songs by Leonard Cohen along with an equal number of original compositions by Collins. The latter evince a sense of meditation and spirituality that defined her music during this period of her career. The only substantial complaint against "Wildflowers" is that the album is just a little more than a half-hour long, which means you could have combined it with either the album that came before it, "In My Life," or after it, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes," to come up a more substantial CD. But that is a minor complaint all things considered.
on December 13, 2006
Judy Collins' "Wildflowers" is the epitome of avant-garde chic. It was released in 1967 and Judy obviously had the artistry, musicianship and nerve to release such an daring album, in the process paving the way for the modern "art-song", as "Wildflowers" straddles the gap between popular and classical music.
Recorded entirely backed by orchestral instruments, Judy Collins' "Wildflowers" contains songs which the artist presents with a classical aire yet still somehow have a popular music accessibility to them.
On "Wildflowers", the songwriting is particularly strong: Judy chose and combined material from a then unknown Joni Mitchell ("Michael From Mountains", about an elusive young man, opens the album and "Both Sides, Now", with it's glorious harpsichord arrangement, became a big hit single); Leonard Cohen ("Sisters Of Mercy", the trance-like "Priests" and the vocal harmony-layered "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" are each one more beautiful than the other!); the legendary French composer Jacques Brel ("La Chanson de Les Vieux Amants", sung in French); and a traditional 14th century Italian chant ("A Ballata di Francesco Landini" - honestly, I don't know where she digs up some of these interesting pieces!).
At the advice of her fan, then friend, then ultimately mentor, Leonard Cohen, Collins had just begun songwriting herself; and the album is rounded out by her very own first three compositions: the abstract "Sky Fell", the imagery-laden "Albatross" and "Since You Asked", all three beautiful and polished, sounding like the works of a seasoned writer.
All of these songs are further enhanced by Judy's wonderful singing. While being technically proficient, her vocals have a warmth and sincerity which brings each song full circle by making them resonate with the truth of the subject matter, lending an understanding to the listener.
"Wildflowers" is a magnificent album which does, indeed, stand up to the test of time: it is still a fresh bouquet all these years later.
on August 31, 1999
Some of the lyrics are a little laughable now (very hippie thoughtful, self-dramatic) but the whole light, airy quality of the album makes it the best of her work. I like this album very much, but I can't say I'm a huge fan of hers (in other albums, its evident she takes herself too seriously). The ballads are lovely. Her voice has come apart since the mid 1980s, so if you're going to get something, aim for her earlier work. She does not have the range she used to have.
on December 2, 2000
What can one say about an album that so closely approaches perfection? There are no weak links in these recordings. For those who would purchase this album for the hits included, the rest of the songs will be a revelation. My favorite on here was always "La Chanson Des Vieux Amants".
For me, this is 'transportation' music. It can carry me back to the time of its release in an instant. This music is so very, very far from what is done today; the reproduction on CD lends a sonic immediacy that truly wasn't present even on the original LP.
I have yet to hear the younger generation of performers approach the honesty, the clarity, or the emotion of this era.
Judy Collins' "Wildflowers" is a classic album released in 1969, and is Judy at her finest.
Her mentor, another favorite of mine, Leonard Cohen helped her began to write and publish. Thank you Mr. Cohen'
As usual, the music writing is powerful, and some of it from other artists, such as Leonard Cohens ("Sisters of mercy", Priests, and " Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" (one of my all time favorites), as well as "Both Sides Now" and Michael from the Mountains" by the unknown artist Joni Mitchell (glad she didn't stay unknown too long!). She even has a cut by Jacques Brel, which he sings in French, "La Cjanson de Les Vieux Amants". It also includes her own work in "Albatross", "Since a you Asked" and "Sky Fell".
Wildflowers is a mix of popular music with a classical aire. The music on this album is very fresh and clean. If it does not move you, nothing will. A true classic.
on November 20, 2015
This classic album can't be praised enough. Although I feel that the 'Donna di Lasso' is a bit of a stretch, it
is well produced and since it's followed by 'Both Sides Now' any shortcomings are soon forgotten. The
over all tone of the album is a bit melancholy but all the songs are eminently likeable and Ms. Collins'
soprano voice handles the various songs, written by her and others, with great charm.
Judy Collins was my favorite folk singer. The voice, of course, was amazing, but also the variety she could bring to strophic material like folk ballads -- the same music for every verse -- and her consistently excellent arrangements and backups found in me an appreciative audience. In fact, as a teen (I had more energy then), I transcribed her arrangement of "Golden Apples of the Sun" from the recording, just to understand what she was doing. However, even before the folk craze waned, she had started to branch out from traditional and Sixties folk music, beginning with the album In My Life, where she sings stuff by the Beatles and Kurt Weill, for example. In that album, it was very clear that she was interested more in good songs, rather than in genre. She became unclassifiable, and in many ways pioneered the direction of such people as Ronstadt, Raitt, and even Baez. So Wildflowers seemed less of a surprise and more of a natural progression. In a way, Wildflowers -- part of the informal trilogy of In My Life, Wildflowers, and Whales and Nightingales -- provides a snapshot of a corner of the cultural smorgasbord of Sixties pop: a Renaissance air by Landini jostles with Mitchell, Cohen, Brel, and Collins herself. I may have indulged in a small lament for the passing of the pure folk side of her art, but I can't say she disappointed me.
Joshua Rifkin, I believe, did the Wildflower orchestral arrangements. I played the LP until the grooves became glassy. I had to put it on tape. I bought the CD when it first came out. I still listen to it. In fact, I still listen to most of her albums. With Wildflowers, her voice still has a fullness to it. I like much of her newer stuff (LOVED Just Like a Woman). She still can communicate to a listener like nobody's business, but the voice has, inevitably, aged. Here, she's in her considerable prime. It holds up after all these years. It's one of her best.
on August 22, 2004
I bought this LP way back when I was in college...when it first came out.I immediately fell in love with it.Why?Because it seemed just so perfect for the "times." Love-ins;peace rallies,etc.Lots of love,really.And here it is nearly 40 years later,and this music still evokes for me the gentleness and well,"hippie" philosophy that it sprung from.I especially love"Albatross"for its haunting lyrics,and "Since You Asked," which could serve well as a wedding song.I miss those days,but they are brought back to me in a very wonderful way each time I listen.Judy's voice is beautiful here.