Monday, August 21, 2006

Judee Sill - Judee Sill (1971)



Judee Sill - Judee Sill (1971)

Judee Sill was a true original. A singer-songwriter with a wealth of influences and a fascination with religion, she referred to her work as "country-cult-baroque." She was the first artist signed to David Geffen's Asylum label, and, along with Joni Mitchell and Carole King, exemplified the breezy "Laurel Canyon Sound" of the early '70s. Sill scored moderate hits with "Lady-O" (originally written for The Turtles) and "Jesus Was A Cross Maker" and released two albums -- 1971's Judee Sill and 1973's Heart Food -- before suffering chronic pain and eventually dying of a drug overdose at age 35.
Sill grew up in Oakland, California, and began playing piano at age three. A troubled family life and brushes with the law landed her in reform school, where, as church organist, she developed the gospel style that would characterize her future recordings. After a stint in college and three down-and-out years of addiction, she cleaned up and began work on her dream of becoming a songwriter. She spent a short time penning songs for The Turtles' production company before signing her own deal with Asylum.
For her self-titled debut, Sill gathered a production team that included Jim Pons and John Beck of The Leaves, as well as engineer/producer Henry Lewy, known for his work with Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Leonard Cohen. Her guitar playing provides the foundation for most of the songs, joined by various combinations of pedal steel, strings, and brass. "Jesus Was A Cross Maker," built on a bed of Sill's gospel-flavored piano, was produced by Graham Nash and crafted as a single. Rich with cosmic imagery and ambiguously spiritual lyrics, the songs on Judee Sill often blur the line between the earthly and the divine.

Judee Sill - Judee Sill (1971)