Born in 1939, Judy Collins played classical piano as a teenager before encountering the songs of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, which took her in a new direction and saw her swap piano for guitar. She began her folk career singing in small clubs in Denver. Signing with Elektra Records, she made her great first album, ‘A Maid Of Constant Sorrow’, in 1961. By this time she was active on the wider folk circuit and had played at the first Newport Folk Festival. Judy possessed a striking and pure singing voice which she used effectively on traditional and contemporary songs, although in her earlier years it was the former category for which she was best-known.
The 14 songs on this collection are drawn from appearances at the Newport festival between 1959 and 1966, but they blend seamlessly into what feels like a single concert. After an introduction fromNewportboard member Theodore Bikel, she duets confidently with him on ‘The Greenland Whale Fisheries’. Judy herself was soon to become an active board member and was particularly engaged with work to establish a singer/songwriter aspect to the festival menu. In this regard, she became among the first to cover writers such as Ian Tyson, Leonard Cohen, Richard Fariña, Eric Andersen, Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman. On this collection she performs Pete Seeger’s ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, Fariña’s ‘Hard Lovin' Loser’ and makes special mention of the brand new talent of Bob Dylan before singing ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’. Also here are her wonderfully pure versions of Billy Ed Wheeler’s ‘The Coming Of The Roads’, Jim Friedman and Shel Silverstein’s ‘Hey, Nellie Nellie’ and one of the earliest covers of ‘(Let’s) Get Together’ from Chet Powers (aka Dino Valente), a song destined to become a celebratory anthem of the hippie years of the late 60s. She draws from her traditional song catalogue with ‘Anathea’, ‘The Bonny Ship The Diamond’, ‘Silver Dagger’, ‘The Bullgine Run’ and a particularly lovely version of ‘The Great Silkie’.
The ensuing years found her establishing herself as a major mainstream artist, scoring big hits with songs by Ian Tyson (‘Someday Soon’), Sandy Denny (‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’) and Stephen Sondheim (‘Send In The Clowns’) as well as a series of big-selling albums. The seeds of her commercial success are all present on these fine Newport Folk Festival performances, showing her huge talent and her unerring ear for a great song, whether traditional or from an exciting new writer.