Personnel: Ira Siegel (guitar); Eric Weissberg (banjo, mandolin); Yoed Nir (cello); Tony Beard (drums).
Recording information: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.
Directors: Francois Lamoureux; Pierre Lamoureux.
Photographers: Kat Villacorta; Julia Reinhart.
This live set was recorded in the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with a full band and a stellar array of guests to celebrate Judy Collins' 50th anniversary as a recording artist. (This is the audio version of the performance -- there is another package that includes the full concert on DVD as well as the disc.) For starters, none of Ms. Collins' elegant, mysterious, sophisticated charm has worn off over the decades. In fact, it feels less studied and more organic now. In addition, unlike almost all of her peers, her voice is actually richer and her range wider than in her hitmaking years. This is fact, not hyperbole. The program includes some of her biggest hits, including "Both Sides Now," "Send in the Clowns," "Mr. Tambourine Man," and "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" -- the latter sung with its composer, Jimmy Webb, on piano and backing vocals. It is one of two Webb tunes of the night; the other is "Campo de Encino." Collins also offers a moving read of Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty" with Ani DiFranco, her own "Since You've Asked" with Shawn Colvin, and a gorgeous version of Stephen Stills' "Helplessly Hoping" with Kenny White. Other highlights include a steely reading of Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust" and her own rocking "Open the Door." The set closes, of course, with Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns." Collins has performed the song for decades, but even now it flows without artifice or any hint of weariness. The stellar sound, the inspired performance, and the song selection will more than likely make Live from the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the Temple of Dendur an essential album for fans. ~ Thom Jurek