Of all the many scratched-up, sleeveless LP's left behind by a wayward dad for his offspring to rummage through and explore (Leadbelly, Ian & Sylvia, Beatles and Stones in thrilling mono-reprocessed-for-stereo), the 1963 Elektra debut album by Judy Henske looms largest in my memory.
Even as a wee swami-in-kneepants, I knew I was in the presence of greatness when that record was on the box, with its rambling, wickedly funny song intros, whacked-out murder ballads, and wryly delivered torch songs and standards - all of it beamed straight to my 8-year-old cerebral cortex by Judy's voice, a formidable instrument which threatened to (in the words of Elektra boss Jac Holzman) "shatter tempered windshields in the parking lot."
In later years, the LP became a much coveted and sought-after item – a task made far easier once internet message boards and email discussion groups came into vogue. In the late '90's a very kind listserv-dwelling soul hooked me up with a cassette of JH's first two albums plus a couple of errant singles, and later with a tape of Judy's and then-husband Jerry Yester's way obscure 1969 pop-folk-psych meisterwork 'Farewell Aldebaran'.
As it happened, quite coincidentally, a Judy who'd spent many years out of the public eye began to resurface in little ways at the same time as I was making this blissful re-acquaintance with her back catalogue. A welcome resurgence of activity since then has produced two CD's of new music, along with websites, CD reissues, a handful of live gigs, musings on whether or not she was the true inspiration behind Annie Hall, and so on.
And now Judy has received the Rhino Handmade treatment - a beautifully realized, cannily compiled, tastefully appointed two-CD anthology is now available in a limited edition of 5000 copies via the Rhino Handmade website. It's as thorough and as effective an introduction/overview as one could hope for, spanning her entire recording career and jam-packed with all manner of JH classics and rarities alike. Now if only Rhino would get moving on a proper reissue of 'Aldebaran'...
New York Press interview, 2000
JH interview with Richie Unterberger for his book ‘Unknown Legends of Rock & Roll’
Courtesy of YouTube: JH performs 'High Flying Bird',Hootenanny! TV show, 1963
Kind regards and many thanks once again to my long-time occasional spiritual advisor, the eminent *Swami Almond Roca for his contributory entry to Crenellation.
*The “Swami” currently lives and works in NYC as a theatre sound designer and has enlightened me in all-things-musical for at least 10-years running. XO forever.