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Judy Singh

Judy Singh - A Time for Love

A Time for Love
CBC Radio-Canada - 1970

Michael Panontin
Judy Singh's A Time for Love is a deliciously rare recording that fetches upwards of $800 a pop in the high stakes world of record collecting. The little-known gem was recorded in Edmonton's CBC studios in 1970 and features, in addition of course to Singh's silky vocal performance, some of the earliest known work by Canadian songwriter David Foster, from whose pen would flow songs for the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire, the Tubes, Boz Scaggs and Chicago (and who, for what it's worth, would earn the ignominious title of "master of...bombastic pop kitsch".)

But no doubt a good part of the record's rarity also stems from the fact that it was issued on the coveted CBC Radio-Canada imprint. The national broadcaster had been in the business of pressing up limited quantities of vinyl by Canadian artists since 1945. Those records were never commercially available, but rather were sent off to radio stations in Canada and abroad with the express purpose of making quality Canadian content available around the globe. Most of the discs are nigh impossible to track down in any condition. But it is those jazz and pop albums produced from about 1966 to 1970 - known to record nerds as the CBC-LM series, after their serial numbers - that have soared to stratospheric price points these days.

Judi Singh, as she more often spelt her name, was just a wide-eyed jazz singer kicking around clubs like The Yardbird Suite in her hometown of Edmonton when she received a call from CBC Winnipeg music producer Ray McConnell. The year was 1966 and McConnell was looking for a couple of vocalists to accompany guitar extraordinaire Lenny Breau, who was still a few years away from international fame, but who was quickly becoming a household name amongst the cognoscenti in the 'Peg.

"Ray found Judy Singh in Edmonton and me in Calgary," Karen Marklinger would later tell John Einarson in the Winnipeg Free Press. Singh, Marklinger and Yvette Shaw started singing together as the Nocturnes. "We all got along well," she recalled, "but I didn't socialize with Lenny. I certainly was aware that he was involved in drugs. You could tell he was higher than a kite, but I wasn't interested in being around druggies. I was surprised that Judy got involved with him."

Singh and Breau hooked up and by 1967 were growing tired of the limited scene out west. The two, Singh first and Breau soon after, made their way to the bright lights of Toronto, shacking up in an apartment in Toronto's boho Annex neighbourhood. Though it was certainly a heady time for both Breau and the city, with the nearby Yorkville neighbourhood serving the talented guitarist quite well, for Singh it was a quite different experience. For one thing, she was saddled with their new daughter, Emily, who was born there on October 20, 1968. Add to that the mostly absent Breau, who was either down in the U.S. recording, on stage at the Riverboat in Yorkville or at George's Spaghetti House down at Dundas and Sherbourne, or just plain stoned out of his gourd.

"[Lenny] was using drugs and gone all the time, and I was starving with Emily," Singh remembered in Ron Forbes-Roberts' One Long Tune: The Life and Music of Lenny Breau. "Then [jazz pianist and fellow Edmontonian] Tommy Banks called and offered me a job and I took it."

On the liner notes for A Time for Love, which Singh recorded with Banks in July of 1970, Banks writes that "there are a half-dozen glistening new tunes by young Canadian composers." In addition to the two by Foster, there is Banks' own tropical 'Samba del Sol' and a couple of tunes by Vancouver's Jim Walchuk (of brother/sister duo Judy and Jim). Add to that a very early version of Jimmy Webb's 'Everybody Gets to Go to the Moon', which Thelma Houston issued the same month this album was recorded, and Sergio Mendes' 'Look Around' and you can see why A Time for Love has become a holy grail of sorts for jazz vocal collectors.

Judi Singh never really achieved the sort of fame that many expected her to. She did manage to record a second set of songs with Banks (Make Someone Happy, as Tom and Judy) but other than that was never really heard from again. That is, outside of Edmonton, where she regularly performed...as recently as March 2007 in fact when she took the stage at the Yardbird Suite as part of the iconic club's 50th anniversary celebrations.

(MajikBus has announced plans to reissue A Time for Love as well as two other equally rare CBC-LM series discs by the Emile Normand Sextet and the Perth County Conspiracy on high-quality 180-gram vinyl, so you can probably put your cheque books away for now.)

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