'An exorcism of low-riding smack-shooting ghosts' was how Rolling Stone described Judee Sill's life in issue 106/April '72. It was, interestingly enough, that same issue carried an article about Todd Rundgren and his associations with the then semi-unknown poetess Patti smith, and all three of these people have got one thing in common ... God, or 'god', depending on how you view the old feller. Or more precisely, the search for same.
While the Runt seeks him through Yes-emulations and Patti faces him eye-to-eye on a rock'n'roll battlefield, Judee Sill comes on rather differently - listening to her records is like going to church, except that she's a whole lot more inspired and inspiring than your local preacher's likely to be these days. Her first album was sporadically brilliant ('Jesus was a cross maker' etc.) but 'Heart Food' is the goods, the, ah, deliverance if you will.
Asylum is famed for it's 'non-rock' output, and the sight of Judee on the cover in her faded denim jacket with sew-on patches isn't likely to alter your preconceptions. But, wow, the music ... I never think of this record as being made up of separate songs, it's sooo unified. Basically, imagine the Californian low-key orchestral magic and pastoral elegance of Brian Wilson's 'Pet Sounds' masterpiece filtered through the noise of the Blue Oyster Cult's 'Redeemed'...hey, this is getting weird, eh? No, actually, the only Cult connection is the emotional content contained in that final cut from their first album. The great whoooosh of freedom and happiness after purgatory....
'The Kiss' is like a sound-painting, William Blake clouds and soft-focus dissolves, music for David Hamilton photographs. Strings, strings everywhere, or so it seems, it's that clear and pure. 'Soldier of the Heart' is almost poppy, instantly memorable. 'When the bridegroom comes' (with lyrics by someone named David Omer Bearden, to whom the album is dedicated) is piano and voice and sounds like so much more, unstated.... 'The Donor' is greatly ecstatic, a tone-poem maybe (actually, I neither know nor care what a tone-poem technically and really is...that's just how it sounds to my ears).
In that RS article, Judee tells how she painted this big bird and then came to believe that if she rubbed it's beak she could have a wish come true. So she wished to be the greatest living songwriter in the world, and this record shows that maybe wishes can come true...So where is she now? 'Heart Food' appeared in 1973 and since then I've heard absolutely nothing by or about the girl. Who knows where she might be...I certainly would like to think she's around somewhere, writing more of this amazing stuff. Easter rising..I'll attempt to find out and let you know (if any of you are still reading this with the fevered interest that this artist honestly deserves).
Mr Iggy Pop, threatened to write a song for Ms Sill after he saw her on 'OGWT' complaining about how young rock groups were always so snotty to her.
Cut back to that same issue of Rolling Stone : A Cliff Richard article, headed by a quote...'When I came out for Jesus, most people said, 'Well there goes a good career', When it didn't end they said, 'Oh what a wonderful gimmick'.' Both of these viewpoints would be irrelevant and demeaning to the work that Judee Sill created on 'Heart Food'. Boring orthodox religion has nothing to do with it...If she never is heard from again, she's created something of value right here, and it's a genuine shame that the only place you can find this masterpiece is in the odd deletion rack at virtually next to nothing prices.
Wherever you are, come back.
Sandy Robertson, Sounds, 22nd April 1978