By: Sandi Durell
Slim, trim with black mesh patterned stockings and short black skirt and jacket, the iconic Judy Collins returned to the Café Carlyle, guitar over her shoulder and long white mane signatures.
She chats easily with her audience, almost immediately inviting them to join her as she opens with “Wild Mountain Thyme” (Francis McPeake). There’s always been an other-worldliness about the famous Ms. Collins. At an age when many have retired, she is busy concertizing, filming and speaking around the world, writing books (last memoir Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music), always a social activist, represents UNICEF and remains, what one easily refers to as, a Renaissance Woman.
Nostalgic chestnuts like Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” and “Both Sides Now,” “Harry Chapin’ s “Cats In The Cradle,” filled the air along with the poignant “Coal Tattoo” (Billy Edd Wheeler), which she felt she had to sing as a reminder: “That’s a strange tattoo You have on the side of your head.” I said “That’s a blue print, left by the coal Just a little more and I’d be dead” . . . I’ve stood for the union, walkin’ the line, Fought against the company; Stood for the U. M. W. of A. Now who’s gonna stand for me? I got no house and I got no pay, . . . Someday when I’m dead and gone To Heaven, the land of my dreams, I won’t have to worry on losin’ my job To bad times ‘n big machines. I ain’t gonna pay my money away For pensions and hospital plans. . . “
Judy Collins has written daringly as a songwriter, speaking her mind and heart – “Morocco;” the sad, yet joyful dreams of life “My Father.” Her light, bell-tone sound is ever present as she trills and gracefully moves from note to note; never pressing, always presenting in a simplified style. She is funny in her delivery sometimes being side-tracked tuning her guitar and then quipping “that’s close enough for folk music.” Adding to the mix was a Sondheim medley featuring a reflective “Send in the Clowns.”
There are many tales connected to her Irish heritage, aside from “New Moon Over the Hudson,” as she speaks about her childhood, her father and . . . the Clintons. She does believe that after they heard her sing “Chelsea Morning,” that was the catalyst to naming their daughter which then begot funny stories about her coffee needs; bringing her coffee and grinder with her when she slept at the White House in the Lincoln bedroom!
Together with piano accompanist Russell Walden, the evening flys by leaving one with a wistful smile and many thoughts to ponder.
An Evening with Judy Collins continues at the Café Carlyle thru October 26th. (35 East 76 St. at Madison Ave.) NYC 212 744-1600