The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

11 January 2004

Sweet silver angel

With an assist from Dawn Eden, I have learned that Rhino's Handmade division has reissued the two albums by the late Judee Sill, the first of which has been a valued part of my collection for over thirty years.

Judee Sill was the very first LP issued under David Geffen's Asylum imprint, then distributed by Atlantic. Her earlier songs listed a copyright by Blimp Music, the Turtles' publishing unit; indeed, the Turtles had cut a version of her "Lady-O" in late 1969, which charted at #78. But nothing here is truly Flo-and-Eddie-esque; Sill's songs are sort of what you might get if you replaced Joni Mitchell's frustrated eroticism (see For the Roses, Mitchell's first release for Asylum) with a spirituality that's part Sixties cosmic, part traditional Christian, and if that seems perhaps contradictory, here's the chorus of "My Man on Love":

One star remains in the false darkness
Have you met my man on love?
One truth survives death's silent starkness
Have you met my man on love?

Most of the songs center on Sill's voice and guitar, but "Jesus Was a Cross Maker", the intended single (and produced, unlike the rest of the LP, by Graham Nash), borrows the gospel-piano style to stirring effect. It did not chart, and the album was a relative stiff; two years later, Heart Food went largely unnoticed.

A friend of hers once quoted Judee Sill as saying that she would become famous and die before she was forty. She made it to thirty-five before the drugs took their toll; "famous," of course, is open to discussion. Certainly she's remembered here and there, and I'm not above dropping her name when the circumstances permit. (And, of course, I'm grateful to Dawn for providing some circumstances.)

Posted at 11:03 AM to Tongue and Groove

Very happy that my list of my Voice-poll picks let you know about the Sill reissues. (Thanks for the hat-tip, too.) I hope you do check out Sill's second album, "Heart Food," if you haven't already. Or even if you have...

I actually owned "Heart Food" twice--both times, I found it in a dollar bin--and gave it away twice, before falling in love with the Rhino Handmade reissue (which, like their reissue of Sill's debut, contains several must-have bonus tracks). Her first album, "Judee Sill," is such a classic that the second seems like a comedown in comparison.

Now that I find I finally appreciate "Heart Food," I see that the difference between it and "Judee Sill" is that any song from Sill's first album is brilliant on its own, whereas the second album's strengths come from its overall feel--it's significantly more than the sum of its parts.

Posted by: Dawn Eden at 7:23 PM on 11 January 2004