The Elektra Albums
Audio CD | Import
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The big-voiced Ms Henske's two albums for Elektra 'Judy Henske' (EKS 7231) from 1963 and 'High Flying Bird' (EKS 7241) from the following year, released together on one CD. She had to be loud as she learned her trade warming up audiences, un-amplified, for Lenny Bruce in Sunset Strip coffee houses - her beat-keeping stamp occasionally destroying the stage.
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This CD collects Judy Henske's two albums on the Elektra label from the early '60s. It seems that Henske's early music (except for the "Farewell Adelbaran" album) is now pretty expensive, as is the 2 CD set "Big Judy, How Far This Music Goes 1962-2004". So for Henske fans (like me) this reissue of her early work is most welcome. She even lived in my hometown around 1960 and sang at the Zen Coffeehouse and Motorcycle Repair Shop before leaving for L.A.
Henske's first album, released in '63, has her taking on various styles of music including up tempo stuff, Dixieland, torchy love songs, and murder ballads. The album was recorded live in the studio with some songs backed by an orchestra (arranged by Onzy Mathews) and other tunes using a small folk style combo of John Forsha-guitar, Jimmie Bond-bass, and John Ewing-trombone.. There's between song patter by Henske as she talks to the audience which may annoy some people. But this is what a lot of performers were doing in the '50s/early '60s, and audiences lapped it up. As such this is an accurate representation of a concert very much of it's time. Songs like the well known "I Know You Rider" and "Wade In The Water", "Hooka Tooka", and "Love Henry" show her different singing styles with both orchestra and small group. But one thing these performances have in common is Henske's big voice--she was no shrinking violet when it came to singing--often compared to Bessie Smith.
Henske's second album "High Flying Bird," from '64, finds Henske finding more of her own style with more defined strains of folk, blues, and a combination of styles that gave this record a more solid sounding direction, with Forsha-12 string guitar, Bill Montgomery-bass, Earl Palmer-drums, Ewing-trombone, and Jack Marshall-guitar. Listen to the title track (one of the earliest performances in what would be labeled folk-rock), or "You Are Not My First Love" which is a torchy ballad, and "God Bless The Child", or "Blues Chase Up A Rabbit", both showing her more mature sound. Or try "Till The Real Thing Comes Along", which is a sad ballad which she performs well.
Henske married Jerry Yester (The Modern Folk Quartet, The Lovin' Spoonful) which helped both broaden and define her music. The fine (recently reissued) "Farewell Adelbaran" album is a good example of what Yester and Henske did together. She also was a member of the band Rosebud who issued one album which is still available. But her first albums under her own name are still well worth adding to your shelf of relatively obscure female singers who deserve not to be forgotten. The remastered sound is very nice--clean but with some of the sound and feel of those old Elektra albums. The 20 page booklet has a long informative and interesting essay on Henske's life (she has been blind for about a decade or so and still lives with her husband of 40 years, musician Craig Doerge), plus color photos of the two album covers and other ephemera, plus a track list and list of musicians on each album.
It's too bad that Henske's albums are so expensive because more people might want to take a chance and give her a listen. She had one of the better voices of that era and she will wake up anyone who thinks she's just another female "folkie" singer. Her versions of Fred Neil's "The Other Side Of This Life", and "Dolphins In The Sea" (neither included on these albums) are well worth hearing too. First Bonnie Dobson's two early albums, and now Henske's albums--the Ace label is doing a nice job of trying to spotlight relatively forgotten female singers who don't deserve to be forgotten.