Judee Sill – Yesterday’s Genius

Judee Sill was an unknown entity to me until yesterday when I heard her shining light come pouring through the air waves. I turned up the volume and listened quite mesmerised to Radio 4 as Ruth Barnes explored this ‘Lost Genius’ of the 70s. In this short but compelling programme ‘’The Donor’’ was the main Judee Sill backcloth track that hooked me from the onset; a lengthy eight minute arrangement that oozed Bach-like harmonies, ethereal incantations and quirky digital piano jazz/folk arabesques from the Judee Sill ’72 album ’’Heart Food’’. Her life was a path woefully trodden as death, drugs and damnation seemed to accompany this tragic singer song-writer through the years. Though chased by demons to the bitter end, yet the yesteryears music of Judee Sill still nourishes the soul today as her combo of deep-seated spirituality and musical prowess come floating to the surface. Her presence is still felt… Judee Sill – Yesterday’s Genius

Back To Bach And Before

1979 saw Judee Sill and her demise as drug abuse took its final hold. Recording for the ironic name of Asylum label, this music maiden had had her share of sadness of which she used the experiences to heighten her lyrics and share her dark times through religion and redemption. Much of the Judee Sill sound hovers over an eclectic mix of folk and Baroque pop as is epitome by such musical treasures as ‘’The Donor’’ with rich orchestrations scored by Judee Sill herself.

Judee Sill Donates Her Soul

’The Donor’’ begins with the low register of the digital piano playing moderate arpeggiated motif  in 4/4, accompanied by strident hymnal chords with a contemporary jazz bent, booming side drum thuds and canonic styling shadowed by the glockenspiel:

E    Bm   Em   B

The intricate workings weave their web as angelic harmonies add their heavenly ‘’Na Na’’ veil and the polyphonic feel finally peaks. The repetitive nature of ‘’Kyrie Eleison’’ seems to increase the feel of foreboding as this ‘’Lord Have Mercy’’ plea reins down its bad tidings. Judee Sill adds lyrics that behold a profound depth and reflect her restless mind as all the while the cyclic structure continues to revolve and the digital piano chords steer the way home:

           D                         Em                                B          Em      D                G

‘’I’ll chase ‘em to the bottom, ‘til I’ve finally caught ‘em, Dreams fall deep’’ etc

Final swoops of ‘’Kyrie Eleison’’ can be heard in SATB harmony as ‘’so sad, so true’’ cast their ‘’evening shadows’’ and resignation come to pass with the digital piano heralding a playful step-wise motif and a wind chime catch the breeze. Judee Sill; lost genius of yesterday has finally found her way.

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