Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of Judy Collins' Paradise ARTIST BIO So despite a life containing so much heartache or trauma - including a suicide attempt at age 14, divorcing her first husband, a period spent in rehab for alcoholism and the suicide of her only child in 1992 - Collins forges ahead, finding the strength to grow from every experience.

Without a doubt one of the best musical arrangements I have heard in many years. It is true what Judy Collins says, “Alan Silverman is a genius”. Paradise is a collection of songs with universal themes, desires, and cries of a human being searching for paradise here on earth. There are nine richly lush and heartfelt songs with tales to tell about finding love, losing love, heroism, and salvation. (A tenth song, “Over The Rainbow” which Judy first sang live decades ago is a nice cover, but it neither matches the Judy Garland original, nor succeeds in reinterpreting the song in the way that Israel Kamakawiwo’ole did with his great rendition). Aside from that, when I hear Judy Collins singing, I know that these songs seem to come straight from the depths of her very being. After all these (50+) years of recording and performing, I am amazed at how passionate and beautiful this woman's voice sounds. One of best examples is a hauntingly beautiful traditional song, “Dens of Yarrow”, which is a masterpiece that aptly demonstrates that Judy Collins sounds better now than she did thirty years ago. Such pure tones! And the pan pipes as background really should become a classic – especially for a singer just turned 71! “Diamonds and Rust” with the original songwriter, Joan Baez, is (IMHO) one of the best duets ever recorded. It is so rich and lush,with a southwestern tempo – one can pick up the steel guitar playing so elegantly in time with the piano.. This is another example of the gifted Mr. Silverman organizing the restrained and elegant performance from Joan Baez in this duet - it's absolutely brilliant and hauntingly beautiful. On “Emilio”, if you close your eyes, you can visualize a vocal dance between Judy's silky voice and original songwriter Michael Johnson's husky and lightly accented tenor, accompanied by a flamenco-ish acoustic guitar played so well by Mr. Johnson. Tim Buckley’s soldier lament, ”Once I Was” continues to underscore her commitment to social and political activism, as does her cover of Amy Speace’s painfully evocative “Weight Of The World”. I swear that song and the tragically beautiful song by Ms. Collins, “Kingdom Come” actually raised the hairs on my arms, and sent chills up my spine. Stephen Stills joins his former lover for a beautiful harmony on Tom Paxton’s “Last Thing On My Mind”, lending a CSNY lilt to that standard. It seems on this cd that each duet sounds uniquely different, but the harmonies are so well-tuned, I could almost imagine each person finishing the other's sentences. One of the most beautiful arrangements on this album is Jimmy Webb's “Gaugin”, and the listener is fortunate to hear a tragic, yet richly told tale. The orchestration just makes this story-song so easy to hear, and the accompaniment on keyboard by the songwriter is so deep and intense. Another kudo to the brilliance of Judy Collins and her arranger, Alan Silverman. And now for the piece d' resistance: “Ghost Riders In The Sky”. The harmonies and round-robin choruses make this one of the most compelling reasons for purchasing this cd. This is such a well-choreographed and powerful rendition, that when I close my eyes, I can picture the fire-breathing thundering herds, driven by soulless cowboys on phantom horses. --- Nick

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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