The “Listen Again” series went over well enough that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some TV executives and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. In this edition we revisit Judy Collins’ Who Knows Where the Time Goes.
For those not up on their pop history, Judith Marjorie “Judy” Collins is an American singer-songwriter born on May 1, 1939. She is a social activist who has thus far recorded a wide variety of material in the genres of folk, pop, rock and show tunes. Following the success of her 1967 hit cover of Joni Mitchell’s song “Both Sides, Now” which climbed to number 8on the Billboard Hot 100 and scored her a Grammy, Collins returned to the recording studio in L. A. in 1968.
On this 9-track LP Collins (vocals, guitar and piano) would be assisted by an assortment of other artists including: her then lover Crosby, Stills & Nash member Stephen Stills on guitar and bass, Buddy Emmons, “The World’s Foremost Steel Guitarist”, on pedal steel guitar, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Burton on dobro and electric guitar, The Flying Burrito Brothers’ Chris Ethridge on bass, Grammy Award winner Jim Gordon on drums and percussion, Michael Sahl on keyboards, pianist Michael Melvoin and the legendary Van Dyke Parks on electric piano.
The album opens on “Hello, Hooray”. This is a cover of a song by Canadian singer/songwriter Rolf Kempf. (Oddly enough, it was later also covered by Alice Cooper.)
The second selection is the first of two adaptations of Leonard Cohen tunes “Story of Isaac”. It’s followed by her own original work “My Father”. The latter is a noteworthy example of Collins’ abilities as a songwriter.
“Someday Soon” was written by Ian Tyson. This would eventually one of Collins’ signature songs. It is, perhaps, slightly overshadowed by the titular tune “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” which was written by UK singer-songwriter Sandy Denny.
She does her own version of a Bob Dylan song next. She sings “I Pity the Poor Immigrant” which is still a topical, timely tune decades later. Her critically-acclaimed cover of “First Boy I Loved” by The Incredible String Band’s Robin Williamson follows. It’s also the longest cut on the record with a running time of just short of six and a half minutes.
The final Cohen cover, “Bird on the Wire”, follows. This was actually one of if not the very first cover versions of this tune. The closing cut is Collins’ version of the traditional piece “Pretty Polly”. It’s essentially a murder ballad and would later become the B-Side song of her single “Chelsea Morning” which was recorded along with all the previously mentioned work.
Released late that same year (1968) on the Elektra label, the nearly 42 minute long art-rock/country/folk platter peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts. It was an eclectic work to be sure.
This was perhaps her master album due largely to the wonderful variety of songs and genres. Her vocals are perfectly suited to this material and the above-mentioned all-star accompanists are deft and loose making Who Knows Where the Time Goes /Elek. 74033 a truly memorable musical mélange.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.