Album Review: Judy Collins, ‘Spellbound’

Cascading piano runs eddy and swirl through the opening measures of the title track of Judy Collins’ entrancing new album, flowing gently under Collins’ crystalline vocals that soar ethereally into a sonic stratosphere. The lyrics in the song’s third verse evoke the spellbinding beauty of nature and the sheer emotional heights to which we fly as we take wing with Collins on her shimmering musical journey: “Birds of paradise were walking/As though they were angels’ songs/Bright wings flew along the beaches/In their shimmering sarong.”

Collins elegantly paints word pictures that draw us into the scenes that she so exultantly brings to life with the clarity and purity of her vocals. The title track lifts us to towering sonic and emotional heights, and we live there in this rarefied air with Collins in every song on Spellbound.

Vibrant piano chords dart under and around sparkling strings on “Grand Canyon” echoing—like whispers  reverberating around canyon walls—with the tender caress of a lover looking back fondly on a cherished relationship. The gently escalating sonic structure also celebrates the beauty of the canyon in a paean to the “Red and turquoise, orange and blue/Wandering through the painted desert/Like some bewildered drunken fool.”

In the haunting “So Alive” Collins recalls her halcyon days in Greenwich Village and the folk songs that provided the life in the parks and clubs around McDougal Street: “What is left of Greenwich Village lives among your songs/The ones we thought were always right and never would be wrong.” Gentle guitar strums open “When I Was a Girl in Colorado” and piano notes and crisp steel guitar lines weave over and around the guitar chords. Collins’ lush vocals flow over this luxurious musical bed, creating a palpable intimacy and recreating the days when she could “fly with wings of silver, whisper and sing.”

Intoned in hushed whispers, the elegiac “Thomas Merton” is an incantatory eulogy for the great Trappist monk who quietly strove to promote interreligious dialogue and who, in his letters—and in his public meetings outside his monastic hermitage in Gethsemane, Kentucky—worked as an anti-war activist. Collins alludes in her second verse to Merton’s autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain: “I met him on the mountain/Seven times we walked/I heard his voice and saw his life/And listened to his talk.”

The album closes with the sonically spacious ballad of restoration and regeneration, “Arizona,” with Collins’ soaring lead and harmony vocals floating over her luxuriant piano chords.

Spellbound is Collins’ 29th studio album, and the first on which every song is a Collins original. Collins dwells in these songs, imbuing them with emotional depth and the incandescent splendor of artistic genius. Listening to these songs, we’re spellbound, indeed.


Spellbound is available HERE.



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