Judee is an influence to many
Who? One-time armed robber/heroin addict, Judee Sill mellowed out enough by the early seventies to release two of the finest albums of a contemporary style that switched easily from baroque pop to lilting country.
The first artist signed to David Geffen’s Asylum label, Sill’s eponymous debut, including the Graham Nash produced single,‘Jesus Was A Cross Maker’, lent heavily on multiple vocal overdubbing giving it a distinctly chorale feel. What?
Her second (and final) album followed in 1973, eighteen months after its predecessor.
Written, orchestrated and arranged by the artist herself,‘Heart Food’, reflects interests in both the occult and Christian theology, prevalent in tracks like‘The Donor’ and‘Down Where The Valleys Are Low’.
Elsewhere,‘Soldier of the Heart’ features a fuller band sound, while ‘When the Bridegroom Comes’, co-written with then-boyfriend David Omer Bearden, is a solo-piano excursion more evocative of Carole King or Laura Nyro than Joni Mitchell, to whom she is more often compared. When?
Released in March 1973. Where?
Details are sketchy as to where the finished article was actually recorded, although Crystal Sound in Hollywood is where Judee laid down her demos. With?
Joni producer Henry Lewy shared console duties with Ms Sill, whilst a plethora of fabled LA session men, including Doug Dillard, Spooner Oldham and Jim Gordon, stood by to lend an expert hand. Stand-out?
Irresistible though that trademark western beat running through the album tends to be, Judee’s hauntingly ambitious‘The Donor’ provides a glorious finale to the album. What Happened Next?
Sadly, and with a follow-up to ‘Heart Food’in the making, drugs conspired to reclaim Judee Sill and she died of an overdose in North Hollywood the day after Thanksgiving in 1979. Legacy?
A colossal influence to many, Judee’s songs have been covered by artists right across the spectrum, from Cass Elliot, Linda Ronstadt and Shawn Colvin to the Fleet Foxes, Judie Tzuke and Warren Zevon.
‘Lady-O’from the first album even reached number 78 in the Billboard Top 100 for the Turtles in 1969.
The year 2006 saw the release of ‘Abracadabra: The Asylum Years’, which combines both albums with loads of bonus tracks.
‘Dreams Come True’from the year before includes eight studio demos for that prospective third LP.
Haunting work The album cover for Judee Sill’s ‘Heart Food’