Judee Sill

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Her two LPs have just been reissued by Rhino Handmade, and are going for a bit less than the previous Japanese CDs... both include many bonus tracks, about which I care very little. But I do like what I've heard of Sill very much.

(Note: I can't order these CDs from where I'm at, but if anyone has them could they possibly make me copies? I'd be happy to compensate for the trouble somehow.)

What do we think of Judee Sill?

amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 30 October 2003 15:32 (nineteen years ago) link

I got both her albums on vinyl a while ago. Pretty tragic life story - albums are OK with maybe two moments of genius: "Lady O" (hearing the Turtles' version of this was how I first became aware of her) and "The Kiss". I should listen to these albums again.

Dadaismus (Dada), Thursday, 30 October 2003 16:32 (nineteen years ago) link

Actually, I reckon the s/t album is pretty excellent from stem-to-stern. "Lady-O" represents but doesn't encompass its wonderfulness...'Heart Food' is less good, but has 'The Donor,' which is a brilliant choral freakout.

I'd pony-up for the reissued first, and may soon...

M Specktor (M Specktor), Thursday, 30 October 2003 18:01 (nineteen years ago) link

i don't understand that last sentence.

amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 30 October 2003 18:31 (nineteen years ago) link

If you irrationally feel you must limit yourself to two moments from each disc:

s/t: "Jesus Was a Cross Maker" and "Abra Cadabra"
HF: "The Kiss" and "The Donor"

Beta, Thursday, 30 October 2003 22:06 (nineteen years ago) link

Sorry...I meant, I would advise someone to purchase the Handmade edition of the self-titled record, just as I myself intend to.

M Specktor (M Specktor), Thursday, 30 October 2003 23:09 (nineteen years ago) link

What does "s/t" mean?

Dadaismus (Dada), Friday, 31 October 2003 13:48 (nineteen years ago) link


M Specktor (M Specktor), Friday, 31 October 2003 14:14 (nineteen years ago) link

s/m (Silly Me)

Dadaismus (Dada), Friday, 31 October 2003 14:14 (nineteen years ago) link

Oddly enough, I was going to start a Judee Sill thread a few weeks back when I picked up the HandMade reissues myself. I'd long been a fan of her first LP, but the recent reissue was the first time I'd heard HeartFood, and I found myself actually preferring it. The Kiss and the Donor are both extraordinary moments: I don't think I've ever heard anything like The Donor before in my life, simply breathtaking. "Brilliant Choral Freakout" isn't the half of it. (As an aside, she also appears on the latest OGWT DVD performing The Kiss).
The bonus tunes are by and large superfluous (mainly live & demo versions), but there's a website here http://www.webnoir.com/bob/music/ where you can download demos of songs from her unreleased 3rd LP.

Amateurist: where are you that you can't order the CDs? The website states that they can ship to "World", so it shouldn't be a problem. If it is, I'd be more than happy to send you copies, but the accompanying booklets are packed with lovely photos & annotation, so get them if you possibly can.

harveyw (harveyw), Friday, 31 October 2003 15:18 (nineteen years ago) link

one year passes...
"Judee Sill" and "Heart Food" are no longer available, are they?

Bumfluff, Sunday, 9 January 2005 18:29 (seventeen years ago) link

They're still avail. from the Rhino Handmade website. But you should probably just download "Jesus Was a Crossmaker" and call it a day.

C0L1N B--KETT, Sunday, 9 January 2005 18:39 (seventeen years ago) link

don't call it a day.
both are also reissued on wax by 4Men with Beards.

Beta (abeta), Sunday, 9 January 2005 18:44 (seventeen years ago) link

>But you should probably just download "Jesus Was a Crossmaker" and call it a day.

no way man.. both LPs are solid amazing goodness from end to end.

Brad Laner (Brad Laner), Sunday, 9 January 2005 18:46 (seventeen years ago) link

What Brad said. I think the first is stronger by a nose, but they're both amazing. "Jesus Was A Crossmaker" ain't even the half of the half of it.

Dark Horse, Sunday, 9 January 2005 19:38 (seventeen years ago) link

three months pass...
i've been listening to the first album a lot lately.

she seems to use the same melodic devices very consistently through the album, but it seems to float by nonetheless, slipping in and out of bombast very gracefully. i wouldn't expect to be pleased with such little

jesus was a crossmaker is a good early climax, but it's not the only worthwhile song by a long shot.

derrick (derrick), Sunday, 17 April 2005 07:02 (seventeen years ago) link

agreed. the whole first album is pretty sweet throughout.

not into the second one as much though, which i find a little tuneless.

Ordered that 2XCD demos and rarities thing a while back but it hasn't arrived yet.

Roger Fidelity (Roger Fidelity), Sunday, 17 April 2005 12:56 (seventeen years ago) link

six months pass...
Water, the sister label to 4Men With Beards, just reissued the albums on cd this month without all the Rhino Handmade clutter. Got both of 'em in the mail Thursday having only heard "Jesus Was..." and "The Kiss" prior to buying (not sure how I managed to avoid her all these years).

I can honestly say these two albums are one of the best discoveries I've made in a long, long time.

What's the verdict on that Dreams Come True thing that came out this year as well? Roger... did you ever get your copy?

Johnny Fever (johnny fever), Saturday, 12 November 2005 07:43 (seventeen years ago) link

it's somewhat different. less ornate in the arranging, more her playing piano as her friends sing choruses. there's a quote somewhere that she's influenced by Bach, Pythagoras, and Ray Charles, and the latter factors in most with this one. wish the packaging was a little easier to deal with though.

Beta (abeta), Saturday, 12 November 2005 17:10 (seventeen years ago) link

any truth to the rumour that the first two are due for a wider reissue in the next few months?

derrick (derrick), Saturday, 12 November 2005 21:16 (seventeen years ago) link

Both are back out on Water. Nice since the Rhino reissues are going for big money now.

Brakhage (brakhage), Saturday, 12 November 2005 22:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Oops, posted without seeing the previous Water reference. Does it still count as 'wider'?

Brakhage (brakhage), Saturday, 12 November 2005 23:36 (seventeen years ago) link

Does it still count as 'wider'?

You can buy them on Amazon, so that counts as wide release I'd think.

Johnny Fever (johnny fever), Sunday, 13 November 2005 00:52 (seventeen years ago) link

derrick would have done well to read a mere two posts above his.

Stormy Davis (diamond), Sunday, 13 November 2005 01:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I like the French horn on that lamb/crown song.

The Vintner's Lipogram (OleM), Sunday, 13 November 2005 01:57 (seventeen years ago) link

i scrolled to the bottom, having read the rest of the thread before, and only saw the last line about Dreams Come True.. whoops.

derrick (derrick), Sunday, 13 November 2005 03:01 (seventeen years ago) link

I am shocked, simply shocked, to find that posting without reading the thread properly is going on around here.

klaude rains (Ken L), Sunday, 13 November 2005 03:49 (seventeen years ago) link

Guilty. But the records are great. Haven't heard Tommy Peltier's Chariot of Astral Light, which she's on as well.

Brakhage (brakhage), Sunday, 13 November 2005 15:11 (seventeen years ago) link

three months pass...
I can't stop listening to her.

Dominique (dleone), Sunday, 26 February 2006 03:48 (sixteen years ago) link

that's some pretty nifty drumming Kevin Kelley does on That's The Sprit - not anything like his Byrds work (country drumming is sort of restrictive)

Anyway, she's the tops, easily one of my top 5 favorite artists, and I've only been listening to her for less than 9 months.

timmy tannin (pompous), Sunday, 26 February 2006 04:28 (sixteen years ago) link

she's neat.

Autonomous University of Zacatecas (Jody Beth Rosen), Sunday, 26 February 2006 04:39 (sixteen years ago) link

the wife just watched one of the worst movies ever made and there were two covers of Jesus was a Crossmaker on it. one by the hollies and one by Rachel Yamagata.

also, The Donor is one of the fucking raddest songs ever.

team jaxon (jaxon), Sunday, 26 February 2006 05:02 (sixteen years ago) link

does she have anything else that layered and heady?

team jaxon (jaxon), Sunday, 26 February 2006 05:02 (sixteen years ago) link

I'll take you to the mat over Elizabethtown, man. I love that movie.

Johnny Fever (johnny fever), Sunday, 26 February 2006 05:03 (sixteen years ago) link

worstest dude, worstest

team jaxon (jaxon), Sunday, 26 February 2006 05:12 (sixteen years ago) link

I want to like her more, but her songs seem a bit too clever for their own good (ie too many melodies.) Granted I should probably go back for another listen, I do remember there being some gems on the first album.

Michael F Gill (Michael F Gill), Sunday, 26 February 2006 06:42 (sixteen years ago) link

"thats the spirit" and the next song on dreams come true are great. all three albums are pretty incredible - she's definitely my favorite "discovery" of 2005. has anyone heard any of the album(s) where she guest-appeared? i know theres at least one...

pssst - badass revolutionary art! (plsmith), Sunday, 26 February 2006 07:11 (sixteen years ago) link

wtf is with rhino handmade releasing these "limited edition--never again available $$$$$$" cds and then the licensing is handed over a mere one or two years later to some other label? no one is ever going to buy anything from them again.

amateurist0, Sunday, 26 February 2006 07:46 (sixteen years ago) link

sill is crap. do you also enjoy james taylor, joan baez, and joni mitchell? you should then.

corey c (shock of daylight), Sunday, 26 February 2006 08:37 (sixteen years ago) link

While her arrangments are straightforward and her voice is sweet, her records have this undercurrent of masochism that put her as close to Leonard Cohen and Lee Hazelwood as Joni Mitchell. I'm sure I'd heard the Hollies' version of "Jesus Was a Crossmaker" a dozen times, but it never resonated. I only recently heard Sill's- and I've been transfixed ever since. She's sort of a like Karen Carpenters bad-girl sister- still trapped in a scene and a role that doesn't suit her, but that pathos comes through.

bendy (bendy), Sunday, 26 February 2006 12:48 (sixteen years ago) link

sill is crap. do you also enjoy james taylor, joan baez, and joni mitchell? you should then.

actually, i do. have fun listening to limp bizkit.

team jaxon (jaxon), Sunday, 26 February 2006 21:01 (sixteen years ago) link

that's some pretty nifty drumming Kevin Kelley does on That's The Sprit - not anything like his Byrds work (country drumming is sort of restrictive)

-- timmy tannin (timmytanni...), Yesterday 8:28 PM. (pompous)

OTM, they way he controls the (muliple) tempos of that song is great.

Steve Shasta (Steve Shasta), Sunday, 26 February 2006 21:21 (sixteen years ago) link

I find Judee Sill kind of overrated, but not near as bad as a james taylor or joen baez.

I do enjoy Joni Mitchell, esp. Hissing of Summer Lawns.

Special Agent Gene Krupa (orion), Monday, 27 February 2006 04:34 (sixteen years ago) link

I like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, yes.

Melissa W (Melissa W), Monday, 27 February 2006 05:34 (sixteen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
someone who posts here, and on this thread, reviewed the Judee reissues today. Good reviews, but you're WAY off about DREAMS COME TRUE

timmy tannin (pompous), Friday, 24 March 2006 16:57 (sixteen years ago) link

Why are these being reviewed now?

Steve Shasta (Steve Shasta), Friday, 24 March 2006 17:09 (sixteen years ago) link

pfork in being behind teh curve shockah.

Special Agent Gene Krupa (orion), Friday, 24 March 2006 17:10 (sixteen years ago) link

i agree re: dreams come true. the first two songs on DCT are two of my favorite JS songs, for sure. i think that was the only thing about dom's review that i disagreed with, though.

pssst - badass revolutionary art! (plsmith), Friday, 24 March 2006 17:14 (sixteen years ago) link

oh wait yeah - two more things. i disagreed about the spelling of carole king's name, and also JONI MITCHELL IS SO MUCH MORE THAN PROTO-ADULT-CONTEMP.

but these are trifling matters. awesome piece, DL.

pssst - badass revolutionary art! (plsmith), Friday, 24 March 2006 17:16 (sixteen years ago) link


whatever (boglogger), Friday, 24 March 2006 17:20 (sixteen years ago) link

can someone tell me where is this song from originally?


nostormo, Monday, 21 October 2013 20:47 (nine years ago) link

there's a couple of songs on that comp that were based on unrecorded sheet music

Number None, Monday, 21 October 2013 21:05 (nine years ago) link


nostormo, Monday, 21 October 2013 21:24 (nine years ago) link

two years pass...

why was i not told about this artist

Treeship, Saturday, 9 April 2016 05:31 (six years ago) link

listening to "heart food" over and over. saving the s/t for tomorrow.

Treeship, Saturday, 9 April 2016 05:31 (six years ago) link

oh wow i'm jealous. she's literally the greatest

J. Sam, Saturday, 9 April 2016 05:38 (six years ago) link


Austin, Saturday, 9 April 2016 16:09 (six years ago) link

Yeah I also discovered her pretty recently. Incredible.

human life won't become a cat (man alive), Saturday, 9 April 2016 16:14 (six years ago) link

I cry almost every time I hear the bridge on "The Kiss." This brief set from '73 is a little rough but endearing: http://youtu.be/AnVa2GK3_T8

one way street, Saturday, 9 April 2016 16:23 (six years ago) link

this performance of "the kiss" is sublime


map, Saturday, 9 April 2016 16:54 (six years ago) link

Treeship, seek out Sybille Baier next for extra joy


clog dabussy (fgti), Saturday, 9 April 2016 18:39 (six years ago) link

^^^ otm. Also, Connie Converse doesn't sound much like Sill or Baier, but as she has a similar quality of being both eccentric and uncomfortably emotionally direct.

one way street, Saturday, 9 April 2016 18:45 (six years ago) link

long time judee fan

i always thought her first record was way better than her second

have a first pressing of it in near mint condition

she was one wacky lady which adds to the allure

F♯ A♯ (∞), Monday, 11 April 2016 17:17 (six years ago) link

One thing that's amazing about her live is that the records have a lot of enhancements and overdubs, yet she manages to get the same level of intensity with just her voice and a guitar or piano.

human life won't become a cat (man alive), Monday, 11 April 2016 17:20 (six years ago) link

ya'll like mary mccaslin?

ian, Monday, 11 April 2016 17:58 (six years ago) link

I really, really like that LP ("Way Out West") but haven't heard or got around to hearing any others. Where next with Mary?

Tim, Wednesday, 13 April 2016 11:08 (six years ago) link

four months pass...

I just heard Heart Food for the first time. What an Incredible record.

Really wishing that it wasn't expensive to get a copy on vinyl right now. Even the reissue is really hard to get.

Kitchen Person, Tuesday, 16 August 2016 22:33 (six years ago) link

Tim, I love the Old Friends album as much as I do Way Out West. Sunny California is her major-label debut and also quite good.

Edd Hurt, Tuesday, 16 August 2016 22:48 (six years ago) link


That's a really good compilation that has a lot of really worthwhile bonus material and the price is right.

Austin, Tuesday, 16 August 2016 22:49 (six years ago) link

Thanks for the link. I might have to get that for now. Feels like I'm discovering my next big musical obsession.

Kitchen Person, Tuesday, 16 August 2016 22:52 (six years ago) link

judee looks like an aunt who incidentally also grew up in california in the 70s and was obsessed with religion and was a bit of a hippy

must've been something in the air at that time

F♯ A♯ (∞), Tuesday, 16 August 2016 23:04 (six years ago) link

You got it, also a bit of a junkie, as she forthrightly confessed/professed. What do yall think of that Laura Veirs song about her on the album w Neko Case and kd lang? So far (only heard a few times, on the stream, which can filter sound), seems like music & lyrics sail in candid, vivid and undersold, but maybe a little too much of that last--?
I also really like xpost Mary McCaslin & semi-reformed ramblin' hubbie Jim Ringer's duet album, The Bramble and the Rose.

dow, Tuesday, 16 August 2016 23:36 (six years ago) link

I do like the Way Veirs simulates Sill's aw-I'm-gonna California accent throughout, but the song is a bit slight. I do think it would've been far swankier if it had tried to emulate Sill's compositional method, which was really sophisticated and mathematical--voice leading and stuff, real structural stuff that hung together and all that. This doesn't do that, but it's not bad at all, just vague musically. Judee Sill really was a composer. I don't know anyone who does that kind of thing now--does Rufus Wainwright count? I've had moments where I rate her up there with Joni Mitchell, she's the classical writer and Joni's the one who breaks the rules.

Edd Hurt, Tuesday, 16 August 2016 23:52 (six years ago) link

Yeah, xgau didn't and doesn't get into most folkie singer-songwriters, or *anything* to do with religion, as a matter of course---but back in the 70s, her music and even her visions or what she made of them got to him, as much as possible:

Judee Sill [Asylum, 1971]
It's her devout hope that we'll "savor each word like a raspberry," and I do mean devout--Sill yearns for the day when Christ the Bridegroom will "take all the gentle away." Thank god her music is spiritually unpresumptuous--pythagorean melodies and spare, delicate chamber-folk arrangements that set off her homespun drawl (the lyric sheet favors spellings like "cuz" and "gunna"). Wish I could also say her lyrics were tart as raspberries, but they remind me more of peaches--fuzzy. B

Heart Food [Asylum, 1973]
Beneath a lusher surface, her voice enriched with overdubs and less idiosyncratically accented, Sill has become a real militant. Christ is a "Soldier of the Heart," a "Vigilante": although "the chosen are few" we're supposed to "see how His mercy shines," presumably because he saves any of us sinners at all. Last shall be first or not, this is pretty repulsive as ideology, yet until the kyrie eleisons at the climax I find it paradoxically seductive. Say she's a mad saint instead of a sainted madwoman and make room for another rock crazy. B+

dow, Friday, 19 August 2016 17:10 (six years ago) link

Rufus Wainwright does write well at least some of the time, and can see how he attracted Van Dyke Parks as arranger, but his literal long-windedness tends to distract me: he can hold a note forever, so he does---not always; I love some of his tracks---but often.
In a less polished but surefooted way, the 20-year-old Julien Baker---from a Southern fundamentalist family, out lesbian, still Christian---sounds like one of Sill's pilgrims, seems like; the live stream from Newport got and held my attention even while I was puttering around in a lot of mental clutter. Here's a post of the whole set, and yeah some Judee appeal:

dow, Friday, 19 August 2016 17:23 (six years ago) link

Andy Partridge is a huge Judee fan, and once I got into her stuff, it made total sense.

Dominique, Friday, 19 August 2016 17:25 (six years ago) link

Heart Food is indeed an incredible record, and yeah, it's totally not hard to see why Partridge is a fan!

the hair - it's lost its energy (Turrican), Friday, 19 August 2016 17:28 (six years ago) link

I don't take her Christianity at face value fwiw, although I haven't like thoroughly analyzed it to see if I can back that up.

socka flocka-jones (man alive), Friday, 19 August 2016 20:39 (six years ago) link

four years pass...

she had such a crazy life. she would be a good subject for a biopic.

na (NA), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 19:43 (one year ago) link

Good stuff. Thanks, Ned.

The Ballad of Mel Cooley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 21:10 (one year ago) link

i loved this--

Another afternoon, they were laying on the deck in Sill’s backyard, right below an enormous beehive. Souther was nervous about getting stung, and Sill said, “Oh, for God’s sake,” handing him two Percodans. She welcomed the bees to land on her. “She’d talk to them and call them ‘little poo-poo face,’” Souther remembers. “The whole time she lived in that house, she’s the only one who never got bit.”

map ca. 1890 (map), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 21:18 (one year ago) link

and the story about selling a car in mexico for heroin. she really did see it all.

map ca. 1890 (map), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 21:23 (one year ago) link

her stepdad sounds like he was a true monster. and alcohol abuse not exactly helping anyone out.

map ca. 1890 (map), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 21:24 (one year ago) link

that was really good. the doc will be great, i'm sure. cool anecdote from andy partridge about "the kiss" being his favorite song (and also one he can't listen to).

also, it sent me off on a nice walk down David Blue lane, like a nice parting gift

Zach_TBD (Karl Malone), Tuesday, 16 March 2021 22:25 (one year ago) link

Hadn't seen that, thanks! I do still remember some lines from her encounter w Grover Lewis, who helped establish and maintain RS Real New Journalism cred very early on (it's also in at least one of his collections):


dow, Tuesday, 16 March 2021 23:27 (one year ago) link

It's always interesting to see the nuances of someone's life when you've only heard the outlines. Like hearing she died "a lonely junkie's death" in liner notes and shorter articles, and then seeing her eating a sandwich at a family wedding or reading about a walk with a friend she took shortly before her death. Different sides of a life that don't fit with the cliches.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 00:43 (one year ago) link

Wow, what a great article. But also incredibly sad. I always hear her music as very affirmative and hopeful, but next time I listen it may have more of a bittersweet tinge.

o. nate, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 19:11 (one year ago) link

i'll definitely watch the documentary.

definitely a major "this person should have been huge" artist, perhaps the best example of this i can think of. although seems unlikely it might have saved her.

the kiss is an all-timer for me

himpathy with the devil (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 17 March 2021 19:27 (one year ago) link

six months pass...

This is all I want to listen to atm

Urbandn hope all ye who enter here (dog latin), Sunday, 3 October 2021 03:39 (one year ago) link

I'm lookin' so hard for a place to land,
I almost forgot how to fly

Urbandn hope all ye who enter here (dog latin), Sunday, 3 October 2021 03:42 (one year ago) link

It's all so great but here are my very favourites based on having the two albums on rotation these last two days? Anything essential I'm missing?

Urbandn hope all ye who enter here (dog latin), Sunday, 3 October 2021 11:01 (one year ago) link

Dreams Come True is very good. Not better than the two proper albums, but I still highly recommend it if you need more Judee.

Cow_Art, Sunday, 3 October 2021 14:37 (one year ago) link

co-sign dreams come true. "i'm over" is maybe my favorite song she did.


things repeat forever and there never is a remedy (Austin), Sunday, 3 October 2021 15:34 (one year ago) link

I found Dreams Come True a bit of a letdown, years passed and I forgotten I'd ever heard it but I should give it another spin.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Sunday, 3 October 2021 18:21 (one year ago) link

The disc of demos/home recordings on Dreams Come True is wonderful

J. Sam, Sunday, 3 October 2021 18:29 (one year ago) link

"Emerald River Dance" tears my heart in half every time


Soundslike, Sunday, 3 October 2021 23:50 (one year ago) link

Apart from Dreams Come True, there's demos, alternates, and live tracks found on the CD reissues. It can all be found on Abracadabra, The Asylum Years. There's one outtake, "The Desperado," from Heart Food. Vinyl nerds can find these tracks on the Songs of Rapture and Redemption 2lp set. I'm glad I have these different versions but I never find myself reaching for them.

Live In London: The BBC Recordings is pretty good.

Chariot Of Astral Light by Tommy Peltier features Judee on some songs and while it's not bad, it does feel like the bottom of the barrel. There's a nice interview with Tommy where he talks about his relationship with Judee. I should give it another chance.

Cow_Art, Monday, 4 October 2021 04:25 (one year ago) link

eight months pass...

That judee sill documentary I helped out on (as music supervisor) is nearly done https://t.co/onbJqaaoD4

— Pat Thomas (@PatThomas1964) July 2, 2022

dow, Sunday, 3 July 2022 03:40 (five months ago) link

four months pass...

Guardian article on the new Judee Sill documentary, including a teaser trailer

Portsmouth Bubblejet, Thursday, 24 November 2022 13:37 (one week ago) link

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