Judee Sill

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Judee Sill (1971), 7/10
Heart Food (1973), 7/10

Los Angeles' singer-songwriter Judee Sill, a juvenile delinquent, drug addict and occasional prostitute, recorded only two albums.

Judee Sill (1971) presented a not just a folk singer but a full-fledged orchestral composer, one who borrowed from both Bach and from Christian liturgy. perhaps less experimental than Van Morrison but no less daring, one who sounded like a neoclassical Donovan in the pastoral Crayon Angels, and a Renaissance-era Joni Mitchell in the vibrant quasi-gospel piano ballad Jesus Was A Cross Maker. The album also contains the catchy country-rocking The Phantom Cowboy (with an orchestral arrangement), the yodeling The Archetypal Man (with a hummed Bach-ian break and chamber strings throughout) and the open-prairie adagio of Lopin' Along Thru The Cosmos. Even the children's fairy tale Lamb Ran Away With The Crown has a coda of interlocking vocal harmonies and horns that defies gravity. She also toys with the big-band jazz of Enchanted Sky Machines and the soaring Broadway-style aria of Abracadabra but those are really footnotes to her Bach-inspired genius.

Heart Food (1973), perhaps influenced by Joni Mitchell's new intellectual stage, includes the stately piano ballads The Kiss and When The Bridegroom Comes. The album thrives on a more conventional use of the orchestral arrangements: the country elegy There's A Rugged Road, the trotting country-western The Vigilante and the quietly bluesy The Phoenix are classy in a more traditional manner. She reveals a more extroverted side with the poppy and jazzy Down Where The Valleys Are Low (her most Van Morrison-ian song), and the swinging, gospel-y, exuberant, organ-driven Soldier Of The Heart. The centerpiece, however, is the eight-minute The Donor that redeems any experimental reluctance displayed in the other songs with its vocal games borrowed by the Catholic masses.

Her unfinished third album was released only 30 years later as Dreams Come True (2005).

She died of a drug overdose in 1979.

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