Atco SD 33-319, 1970
Reissued as Shayomi CD-102, 2001
I don't know where this record came from. It's been sitting here for a quarter of a century, occasionally played, but never yielding up more than a handful of its history.
What I know about Judy Mayhan herself is not much, either. She is reported, variously, to have recorded a collection of traditional Irish folk songs in the Sixties, to have done an LP for US Decca shortly before it mutated into MCA in the early Seventies, and to have been a friend of erstwhile Monkee Peter Tork. More recently, Kate Wolf, on her Poet's Heart album, dedicated the song "See Here, She Said" to Judy Mayhan.
Then there is the music, and it tells a story of its own. Mayhan's voice is resonant, with the vaguest hint of instability at full volume, as though she had learned the hard way what happens when you let everything pour out at once. Latter-day Doobie Brother Michael McDonald seems to exhibit the same effect. But where McDonald, given a choice, goes for bluesy, Mayhan opts for ethereal. And it may have been that ethereal quality that drew the attention of Atlantic chairman Ahmet Ertegun, who took it upon himself to produce "Dream Goin' By", which somehow came out resembling a George Harrison sequel to John Lennon's "Across the Universe".
No hint of Beatlitude, with the occasional exception of McCartneyesque longing, appears in the other eight songs, produced by Marlin Greene and Eddie Hinton with the Muscle Shoals studio crew. The originals are wistful yet grounded in reality; you could imagine Otis Redding coming off the dock of the bay to sing them. The covers are respectful.
Perhaps I'll never know for sure why this record is here on my shelf. I can barely recognize anything of my 1970 self these days. But I'm sure I had my reasons, and in retrospect, I think they were good ones.
Further exploration: The West Coast operation Shayomi Productions has opened the official Judy Mayhan Web site, with biographical information and how to order Judy's music (including Moments) on CD. Judy herself has been in less-than-great health in recent years, and I have to believe it does her some good to know that there continues to be interest in her music, not only around her Northern California home, but around the world and the Web.
The American Music site of Stefan Wirz offers a Judy Mayhan discography.
For "Dream Goin' By":
For all other selections:
Updated 25 August 2004
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Cover art © 1970 by Atlantic Recording Corporation
Thanks to Nicholas Wilson.