Judy Collins,
Maids & Golden Apples
(Elektra, 2001)
reissuing Maid of Constant Sorrow and
Golden Apples of the Sun (1961-62)

This is a resurrected gem -- in fact two gold nuggets in one cluster. Re-released in 2001 from a pair of albums published in 1961 and 1962, respectively, it gives us 24 classic tracks. We may be more used to Judy Collins singing her own work, but here we get a unique opportunity to hear her renditions of some great traditional songs from her first two recordings.

Opening with a fabulous rendition of "Maid of Constant Sorrow," the scene is set for a tour de force of the folk genre. Her beautiful voice, coupled with a very basic accompaniment, equals pure magic. "Wild Mountain Thyme" must be heard to be believed. Opening with voice and banjo and going to an unaccompanied voice before rejoining the music it is hair-raising in its simplicity and depth of feeling.

There is only one nontraditional track among those on the first album. Written as only Ewan MacColl can write, "Tim Evans" is one of the greatest folk song tales of the 20th century. It is a tale of the man executed in the wrong for murder.

Add to these tracks such classics as "Pretty Saro" and "Bold Fenian Men" coupled with the lesser-known "Sailors Life" and "John Riley," and you get an idea of the importance of the first half of this CD.

The second album was named from the song setting words of W.B. Yeats to music on "Golden Apples of the Sun." It has been recorded by other artists under its Yeats title "Song of Wandering Aenghus." Collins returns to 1820 for a rollicking "Bonnie Ship Diamond," about whale fishing. This may be the beginning of her cycle of whale-inspired works. "Twelve Gates to the City" is the beautiful spiritual and Collins gives it the respect it deserves.

She ranges wide in her choices on this album and includes a song of Polish origin -- unusual in folk music -- called "Tell Me Who I'll Marry." The title may be different but the song "Fannerio" is top class. Yes, you know it as "Pretty Peggy O." Other classics on offer on this half of the CD include "Crow on the Cradle" from the pen of Sidney Carter and the beautiful Gaelic " Shuil Aroon."

These albums were originally released before I realised the importance of folk music and our traditions. Without this release I would never have heard this musical magic. Whether you are an old folkie or a new convert, get this album. The insert features background notes and reproductions of the original album covers.

This is folk as it should be: voice, music, heart and soul combined in equal measure.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 20 March 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.