Judee Sill (album)

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Judee Sill
Juddee Sill debut.jpg
Studio album by Judee Sill
Released September 15, 1971 (1971-09-15)
Recorded 1969-71
Genre Folk rock
Length 32:55
Label Asylum Records
Producer Henry Lewy
John Beck
Jim Pons
Graham Nash
Judee Sill chronology
Judee Sill
Heart Food
(1973)Heart Food1973
Singles from Judee Sill
  1. "Jesus Was a Cross Maker"
    Released: October 1, 1971
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Pitchfork (8.7/10)[2]

Judee Sill is the eponymous debut album by the American singer-songwriter and musician Judee Sill. Released on September 15, 1971, it was the first album on David Geffen's Asylum label.[3] Backing musicians include John Beck and Jim Pons from the Leaves. While the majority of the album was produced by Henry Lewy, Graham Nash handled the duties for the single "Jesus Was a Cross Maker", with his production designed to aim for radio airplay.

In 2017 Intervention Records reissued Judee Sill on 180-gram double 45RPM vinyl. The reissue earned a score of 10 for sound quality from noted vinyl critic Michael Fremer.[4]


Sill had played piano since her childhood, and honed her skills at reform school in the early 1960s where she was sent for forging checks. After a drugs bust, Sill spent time in jail where she kicked her heroin addiction and made a promise to pursue a songwriting career.

The songs that appear on Judee Sill were mostly composed in 1969–71. In 1969, Sill was hired by the Turtles to write songs for $35 a week for their publishing company, Blimp Music. The earliest of these are "Lady-O," which was recorded by the band, "Crayon Angels," "My Man on Love," "Lopin' Along Thru the Cosmos," "Enchanted Sky Machines," and "Abracadabra."

The latest additions to the album were "The Archetypal Man," "Ridge Rider," and the single "Jesus was a Cross Maker." Originally, two other new songs, "The Pearl" and "The Phoenix," were slated for inclusion, but were removed from the track list to make room for "Jesus was a Cross Maker." They were re-recorded and appeared on Sill's second album, Heart Food, in 1973.

Musically, the songs are delivered in an acoustic style on guitar and, for "Jesus was a Cross Maker" and "Enchanted Sky Machines," piano. The songs, after work by Sill and Lewy, feature elements of folk, country, and gospel, but also a strong classical influences. Two of Sill's biggest influences were Bach and Ray Charles. Lyrically, Sill's songs follow a theme of finding redemption.


Sill began touring as an opening act in late 1970, a year before the release of Judee Sill. Her first major tour was with Crosby & Nash, and she also opened for Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot and Tom Paxton. A full opening-act performance, recorded on October 3, 1971, in Boston in support of Crosby & Nash, appears on the Rhino reissue of Judee Sill. The set was recorded two days after the release of the "Jesus was a Cross Maker" single.

Sill did not enjoy working as a support act. She told NME in April 1972: "At the start it was hell. As I walked on stage I used to think, "Oh God I'd rather die than do this. I'd rather stick a knife in my heart than go out and say, "Nice to be here!" Unfortunately, sometimes I've played with rock groups which is - urrrrrgh - terrible, ridiculous in fact. If somebody is ready to hear rock and roll they're ready to have a certain part of their mind or body stimulated. It's asking too much of anybody to suddenly switch round and have another part of them stimulated by something else." [1]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks arranged and composed by Judee Sill.

Side one
  1. "Crayon Angels" – 2:35
  2. "The Phantom Cowboy" – 1:40
  3. "The Archetypal Man" – 3:35
  4. "The Lamb Ran Away with the Crown" – 3:10
  5. "Lady-O" – 3:10
  6. "Jesus Was a Cross Maker" – 3:20
Side two
  1. "Ridge Rider" – 4:28
  2. "My Man on Love" – 3:23
  3. "Lopin' Along Thru the Cosmos" – 3:00
  4. "Enchanted Sky Machines" – 2:40
  5. "Abracadabra" – 1:54



Versions & tributes to Sill[edit]

Cass Elliot covered "Jesus Was A Crossmaker" on her eponymous fourth studio album in 1972.

Warren Zevon covered "Jesus Was A Crossmaker" on his 1995 album Mutineer.

"Jesus Was A Crossmaker" was also covered by the Hollies. A version by Rachael Yamagata was featured in the opening credits of the Cameron Crowe film Elizabethtown.

Jackie Leven wrote and recorded a tribute to Sill in 2006 entitled "The Silver In Her Crucifix" on his recent album Oh What A Blow That Phantom Dealt Me.

Robin Pecknold, lead singer of Fleet Foxes, often performs "Crayon Angels" during the band's live shows.

In 2007 Canadian singer Lori Cullen covered the song "Lopin' Along Thu The Cosmos" on her CD Buttercup Bugle.


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Pitchfork review
  3. ^ "Full Talent Line-Up for Atl, Geffen Label". Billboard. 1971-09-11. p. 3. Retrieved 2010-09-15. First releases, on Sept.15 from the new label (...) will include product from Judee Sill, Jo Jo Gunne, Jackson Browne and David Blue. 
  4. ^ "The Judee Sill Cult Continues, This Time at 45rpm Read".  line feed character in |title= at position 50 (help)