STYLE: Roots/Acoustic RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 96277-17117 LABEL: Asylum SD5050 FORMAT: 12 inch vinyl Album
Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
My first encounter with Judee Sill was watching an Old Grey Whistle Test performance in the early '70s where she looked like a stern librarian sitting at the piano and singing solo. Who would have thought she could produce such enchanting music. At the time there were plenty of rumours that she was a Christian and certainly, the evidence here is that she employed a great deal of Christian imagery in her songwriting. By the time she was signed as the first artist to release an album on the fledgling David Geffen label Asylum Records, she had worked as a prostitute to support a drug habit and had spent some time in prison for theft. Cleaning up her act and developing her music, her skills as a songwriter are evident here and the album is very much of its time and sits nicely with other Asylum acts like Joni Mitchell, Linda Rondstadt and Jackson Browne. The mixture of Sill's delicate multi-tracked voice and the clever orchestrations give the album a distinctive sound. The big song on the album is "Jesus Was A Crossmaker" which sounds like it has spiritual connotations but was actually written after a break up with fellow musician JD Souther. Larry Norman covered the song in the '70s and anecdotally suggested that Sill was a catholic. Sill recorded a second album, 'Heart Food', for Asylum but neither albums were a commercial success. Contemporary critics observed that her songwriting and album releases were better crafted than those of some of her peers who had bigger successes. Sill's musical endeavours faded after an unreleased third album was made and she made a slow slide back into obscurity before dying of an accidental drug overdose in 1979. A sad tale indeed, but the artist left behind some truly haunting music.
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