Judee Sill – Live in London: The BBC Recordings, 1972-73 CD (Water)

In these intimate, revealing solo performances (just Judee with her piano or guitar) recorded over three sessions for a British audience, the mistress of L.A.’s Rosicrucian folk mysteries shares her exquisite, multi-layered compositions alongside memories of her musical influences and inspirations, and where the songs fit in her personal cosmography of romantic and spiritual loves. I imagine the disk will appeal to people who are already fans of her debut and “Heart Food,” but it’s strong enough to stand as the introduction it was to UK radio listeners. Sill describes how the Turtles found her living in a car with five other people and gave her a break when they recorded the lovely “Lady-O,” then turns in an effortless, stripped down take on that stunner. After hearing Sill talk about the UFO-as-savior symbolism of “Enchanted Sky Machines,” the ’50s R&B sources of “Down Where the Valleys Are Low” and how “The Donor” signifies a plea to god for a break she no longer feels she deserves, those songs will take on new layers of significance. This is a surprisingly warm and funny series of performances for so esoteric a songwriter, and well worth seeking out, though the multiple versions of five songs should be noted. Too, Michael Saltzman’s tender notes reveal the tragedies of Judee’s short life, from fears of madness, romantic obsession, drug abuse, injury and the ill-advised crack about David Geffen that scuttled her career, and explore the conflicts that pulled at the artist and finally pulled her down.