In 1966, Judy Collins
fans probably were startled by the opening of her In My Life
LP, as flutes heralded the beginning of a baroque-style orchestration for a cover of Bob Dylan'
s "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," signaling that Collins
was trying something different after her years as a folksinger. A similar surprise may be engendered by the first sounds on her 17th album of new material for Elektra Records, Home Again
, as electronic blips introduce her cover of Yaz
's "Only You." Resembling the synth pop duo's own 1982 original, Collins'
"Only You" announces that this is not your mother's Judy Collins
album. At 45, Collins
is among the last graduates of the folk revival to remain a front line artist on a major record label, with peers such as Joan Baez
long sidelined. She has maintained her status by adapting herself, notably moving toward becoming more of a traditional pop singer with her popular 1975 album Judith
, with its hit cover of Stephen Sondheim's
"Send in the Clowns." But recent albums have had diminishing sales, and Home Again
represents an attempt to meet the marketplace of the mid-‘80s on Collins
' terms. Produced by jazz-pop record executives Dave Grusin
and Larry Rosen
, it is full of well-crafted songs in AC arrangements, with the occasional use of synth pop, all in search of a hit. "Sweetheart on Parade" is a new Elton John
song, and a good one. "Shoot First" is Collins
' own composition, a sardonic examination of gun violence and media, set to the most aggressive of the synth pop tracks. "Don't Say Love" has an electronic reggae accompaniment, seemingly ready for its MTV video. Collins
concludes with another original, the love song "Dream On," and the hopeful "The Best Is Yet to Come." (Included as a sop to the record company is a duet with country singer T.G. Sheppard
, "Home Again," co-written and produced by Michael Masser
in hopes of scoring an AC and/or country hit.) Old Judy Collins
fans are not likely to feel at home with much of Home Again
, but the album is a bold attempt to reinvent the singer for a new generation of fans, and she certainly can't be criticized for trying something different; that's what's kept her music fresh for more than two decades.