Judy Collins' 1967 album "Wildflowers" is a lovely collection of thoughtful songs sung beautifully to inventive, timeless orchestral arrangements. The songs were mostly by Collins herself, and Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, who were receiving some of their first exposure on the album. There hasn't been another album quite like it, before or since. In October, 2013, Judy Collins joined David Garland on Spinning On Air to talk about and present selections from "Wildflowers."
In this companion to that earlier show, Joshua Rifkin, who created the sensitive arrangements for "Wildflowers," and conducted the recording, joins Garland in the WNYC Studio to tell of his experiences helping to make this timeless album at age 23. We learn how he was at first stuck for ideas, and how at a convivial California lunch of wine and Collin's Beef Stroganoff, inspiration suddenly struck. Rifkin shares insights about a few specific arrangements, and we learn a bit about Rifkin's own diverse career as a member of The Even Dozen Jug Band, arranger of "The Baroque Beatles Book," catalyst for the revival of interest in composer Scott Joplin, and Rifkin's life-long involvement with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Last week Judy Collins' performance of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" from "Wildflowers" served as the closing music for this season's final episode of the TV show "Mad Men," underscoring how "Wildflowers" is somehow an artifact of its time that still resonates today.
A related interview with Joshua Rifkin about the music of Bach, The Bach Ensemble which Rifkin founded in 1978, and his artistic directorship of The Bach:Sommer Festival in Germany, can be heard tonight at 9 PM, immediately after Spinning On Air, on David Garland's WQXR early music show Old School.