Album Review

Judy Collins' 15th regular album, Running for My Life (1980), suffered disappointing sales, becoming her first album since 1964's The Judy Collins Concert not to reach the Top 100. Not surprisingly, her 16th, Times of Our Lives, is a more aggressively commercial effort. Unlike its predecessor, her first self-produced effort, she co-produced this one with Lewis Hahn, and Arif Mardin, who produced her best-selling regular LP, 1975's Judith, is credited as co-producer. Collins leaves little doubt that she wants to regain her commercial clout, leading off the disc with Hugh Prestwood's uptempo adult contemporary pop number "Great Expectations," which, while nominally about romance, comes off as a statement of purpose for the singer, who declares, "I believe in beginning again, I expect to be winning again." But if Times of Our Lives is a simpler, more accessible album than Running for My Life, it's not as if Collins is selling out to commercial considerations by any means. In fact, this is her first album since 1973's True Stories and Other Dreams in which she has written half of the material herself. Her songs are typical of her, and they help make the LP something of a theme album about family. Collins, whose best-known original compositions include "My Father" and a song about her son, Clark Taylor, "Born to the Breed," here dedicates another song to Taylor, "The Rest of Your Life," before going on to songs with the titles "Grandaddy" and "Mama Mama" (the latter a story song about a Midwest woman with five children deciding on an abortion). She also covers Anna McGarrigle's "Sun Son." "Angel on My Side" is a cautionary tale in which the singer recounts rescuing herself from the brink of disaster, while "Don't Say Goodbye Love," which reminds listeners of Collins' classical roots, is an impassioned romantic ballad. Prestwood provides two more contributions, the sexy "It's Gonna Be One of Those Nights" (which also seems aimed at the AC charts) and the sentimental "Drink a Round to Ireland." On an album with far fewer songwriters than usual for Collins, the remaining track is her version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Memory" from Cats, no doubt intended to be another "Send in the Clowns" for her, although, in this case she seems to have been scooped by Barbra Streisand, who put out her version on an album called Memories shortly before the release of Times of Our Lives. That's a shame, since this is the sort of album that just needs a hit single to achieve its purpose and return Collins to commercial success.
William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Great Expectations
  2. The Rest of Your Life
  3. Grandaddy
  4. It's Gonna Be One of Those Nights
  5. Memory
  6. Sun Son
  7. Mama Mama
  8. Drink a Round to Ireland
  9. Angel on My Side
  10. Don't Say Goodbye Love