Album Review

Twenty-four-year-old folksinger Judy Collins' performance at Town Hall in New York City on March 21, 1964, was billed as her first concert, which is to say, her first appearance in a theater, as opposed to the folk clubs she was accustomed to playing. It was a big step up for a performer who was just releasing her third album and was gradually moving from a traditional repertoire to one consisting largely of songs written by her contemporaries, many of them having a political bent. Unlike most live albums, The Judy Collins Concert, culled from the Town Hall show, consisted of songs the singer had not previously recorded, with the exception of Shel Silverstein's "Hey Nelly Nelly," which was on the then-new Judy Collins #3. And, except for the unknown authors of traditional tunes "Bonnie Boy Is Young," "Wild Rippling Water" and "Cruel Mother," the songwriters were all living. Collins gave special attention to coal-mining veteran Billy Edd Wheeler ("Winter Sky," "Red-Winged Blackbird," "Coal Tattoo") and Tom Paxton ("The Last Thing on My Mind," "My Ramblin' Boy," "Bottle of Wine"), and the audience seemed familiar with Paxton's songs, applauding the opening bars of "Ramblin' Boy" and singing along with it, and "Bottle of Wine" (which did not become a hit for the Fireballs until almost four years later). Collins' calm, considered performance style sometimes gave way to a more strident tone if that was appropriate to the material, and she gave particularly stirring renditions of Fred Neil's "Tear Down the Walls" and Bob Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" (which had only just appeared on his The Times They Are A-Changin' album). The latter and Richard Weissman's "Medgar Evers Lullaby" treated the subject of Civil Rights, the most significant political issue of the day, and "Hey Nelly Nelly," which concludes the album, drew direct parallels between the Civil War a century earlier and the recent struggles. (The album is also notable for introducing "Me and My Uncle," a tale of the Old West written by John Phillips, then the leader of the Journeyman and later of the Mamas & the Papas. Phillips always denied remembering writing the song at a party Collins attended, but said that as each royalty check came in, particularly after the Grateful Dead recorded the song, his memory improved.)
William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Winter Sky
  2. The Last Thing on My Mind
  3. Tear Down the Walls
  4. Bonnie Boy Is Young
  5. Me and My Uncle
  6. Wild Rippling Water
  7. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  8. My Ramblin' Boy
  9. Red-Winged Blackbird
  10. Coal Tattoo
  11. Cruel Mother
  12. Bottle of Wine
  13. Medgar Evers Lullaby
  14. Hey, Nelly Nelly