The Eva Cassidy album IMAGINE was released internationally in August 2002. During the week of August 25, 2002, IMAGINE was the #1 album on the album charts in the United Kingdom!
The songs on the album are:
1. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore
3. Who Knows Where the Time Goes
4. You’ve Changed
6. Still Not Ready
7. Early Morning Rain
8. Tennessee Waltz
9. I Can Only Be Me
10. Danny Boy
The information given here is drawn from the album notes, from conversations and interviews with Eva’s family and musical colleagues, from e-mail from Eva’s fans, and from my own personal knowledge.
- “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” the opening track of the album, was taped at Pearl’s Restaurant in Annapolis, probably in 1994. Eva’s father, Hugh Cassidy, told me he thinks this song will be a hit. “It’s catchy, it grabs the listener immediately.” The song was written by Paul Anka and recorded by Buddy Holly, but I believe Eva learned it from a Linda Ronstadt album (she also used to sing “Desperado”).
- “Fever” on this album is very different from the duet version on THE OTHER SIDE. Eva’s brother Dan Cassidy’s fiddle is featured in this recording, which was also part of Dan’s solo album DAN CASSIDY ON THE FIDDLE (available only in Iceland). Bill Straw of Blix Street Records says he especially enjoys this version of “Fever” because it is such a contrast to most recordings of this much-covered song, “more reminiscent of the 1956 Little Willie John original R&B hit than the Peggy Lee pop cover.”
- “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” was taped at the Maryland Inn on the same night as two of the songs on the TIME AFTER TIME album. Chris Biondo told me in 2000, “She was playing at the Maryland Inn and had asked me to bring my DAT machine. We hooked it up to the mixing board. I think it was in the winter of 1995. We had a violin player sitting in with the band who had never played with us before….” That violinist, Bruno Nasta, is heard on this song. None of Eva’s friends remember anything specific about Eva being a Sandy Denny fan, but years later Chris Biondo found a cassette tape under the seat of his truck, labelled “Sandy Denny,” in Eva’s handwriting. “Who Knows” was one of the songs on the tape.
“You’ve Changed” is another “repeat” song in that a duet version is part of the album THE OTHER SIDE. As a solo, it was a standard in Eva’s repertoire with the band, and she sang it at Blues Alley the night the live album was recorded. It was videotaped, and I have written a short description of her introduction to that song, with photos, which you can read here. The eloquent piano-playing of Lenny Williams is featured.
Two of the songs on IMAGINE are from one-take recordings Eva made as demos for nightclubs where she hoped to play solo engagements.
The title song, “Imagine,” is Eva’s own rendition of the famous pacifist anthem by John Lennon. This recording was made at Chris Biondo’s studio. He recalls, “Eva was interested in trying to get into Reynolds Tavern and a few other clubs like that. She wanted to make a demo tape to drop off for the people who booked the clubs. She came into the studio on two different days and sang ten or twelve songs, three or four times each. They were all shorter versions so as not to bore the club owners. Besides ‘Imagine’ and ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ she did ‘Wade in the Water,’ ‘Kathy’s Song,’ ‘Songbird,’ ‘The Bold Young Farmer,’ and a few others.”
“The way ‘Imagine’ got into her repertoire,” Biondo says, “is that we were out at a club called the Roxy, and a reggae group called Dwata started their set off with ‘Imagine’ in reggae style. She decided that it would be a cool song to do.”
On the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, MTV listed its choice of the five best covers of his song “Imagine.” Eva’s is listed, with the comment, “Released six years after her death, it showcases Cassidy’s jaw-dropping voice above all else, which is why it’s such a great version of the song. Tender and heartbreakingly simple, it sadly remains — like most of her work — vastly overlooked.”
- “Still Not Ready”: The only completely unknown song on the album, “Still Not Ready” was written by Chris Izzi and Leo LaSota and recorded as a demo in 1987. “It’s a very noir tune, a lot of pathos and feeling. It’s got a haunting melody,” says Hugh Cassidy, who had suggested that Izzi send his tapes to Blix Street Records for consideration for the album. To learn more about Chris Izzi and “Still Not Ready,” click here.
- “Early Morning Rain” was a song Eva often performed on her solo engagements. This was taped at Pearl’s, on a different night. The songwriter, of course, was Gordon Lightfoot. One of the UK fans who was listening to Radio 2 in August of 2002 wrote me, “With Wogan away on holiday, Johnnie Walker is sitting in for him and played ‘Early Morning Rain’ this morning. I enjoyed it so much I completely forgot that I was meant to give a guy at work a lift and drove straight past him at the roadside. I did eventually remember when the song finished and had to back-track a couple of miles to get him….”
“Tennessee Waltz” is another studio demo (see “Imagine,” above). Like “Early Morning Rain,” Eva often performed it live.
As a teenager Eva had this novelty photo taken of herself posing with a cardboard picture of her hero. See also the “Eva’s Birthday Page” for Eva’s cartoon drawing of Stevie!
- “I Can Only Be Me” is a Stevie Wonder song from the movie soundtrack School Daze by Spike Lee, a filmmaker whom Eva greatly admired. Chris Biondo tells me that this recording was one of the earlier ones that he and Eva made together, and one of the first with Lenny Williams on keyboard. Stevie Wonder was one of Eva’s idols, and Lenny shared Eva’s enthusiasm: “I was a Stevie Wonder freak too. I remember she knew every tune, even stuff I thought was obscure she would know.” Eva only ever recorded two Stevie Wonder songs, however — this one and an unreleased version of “Superstition” that Biondo describes as “funky.” Bill Straw writes in the liner notes for the album, “If, according to her friends, one of Eva’s life ambitions was to be a backup singer for Stevie Wonder, perhaps her dream will finally be fulfilled in reverse — if Stevie ever sings along with Eva’s ‘diva’ version of his song.”
- “Danny Boy” — yes, “Danny Boy.” I know you’ve heard it a million times, but this is Eva’s version, and it’s my favorite song on this album. When Terry Wogan played it on his morning radio show on August 2nd, he said “If that doesn’t turn you to jelly, nothing will,” and “We should quit now — have heard many version of this song — none as beautiful as this one by Eva Cassidy.”
THE ALBUM COVER
Barbara Cassidy tells me that the beautiful picture of Eva on the cover of the album was taken by Eva’s cousin Walter Wunderlich, the son of Barbara’s sister Dorothea. The setting was Green Hill, Nova Scotia, which is a little village next to the huge green hill where Walter snapped the photo of Eva. On the interior of the album cover, the charming drawing of a little girl embracing a honeybee is Eva’s own artwork, from a label she designed for a honey jar. The girl looks remarkably like Eva herself as a child! The black-and-white closeup photo of Eva was taken by Eva’s friend Larry Melton, who also photographed Eva for the cover of LIVE AT BLUES ALLEY.
ADDITIONAL ALBUM INFORMATION:
From Amazon.co.uk critic Mark Walker (this is on both the Amazon sites, in slightly different versions): ‘For anyone who suspects that record companies will soon be releasing Eva Cassidy’s voice mail messages, it’s extraordinarily pleasing to note that IMAGINE is more than just a bottom-of-the-barrel-scraping exercise. All of these tracks are previously unreleased and most are live recordings, but listeners who already own LIVE AT BLUES ALLEY know just how refreshing Cassidy’s live performances were. Check out her take on Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” to feel a shiver of delight at another effortlessly ideal cover, or listen to her laid-back “You’ve Changed” from the Blues Alley sessions to experience more of her soulful jazz. Elsewhere, the solo acoustic reading of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” shows off her guitar skills, and if “Imagine” doesn’t ever scale the heights of Songbird’s “Over the Rainbow” it still demonstrates how she always had something new and uniquely compelling to say when performing a familiar standard. Studio recordings “Still Not Ready” and “I Can Only Be Me” are, oddly perhaps, the least successful cuts. Happily, the album concludes with another lovely solo standard, “Danny Boy.” The recording quality varies noticeably from track to track, and there are a few awkward fade-outs–presumably to remove audience noise–but still the sparkling music comes across quite vividly. Imagine may not be the best way to discover Eva Cassidy for the first time, but established fans will warmly welcome this new collection. –Mark Walker’
This additional material appears on Amazon.co.uk only: “Album Description: Album compiler Bill Straw writes: ‘IMAGINE continues our tradition for showcasing Eva Cassidy’s genius for mixing and matching various musical genres with an unerring sense of style that transcends their differences. Among the highlights in this collection of previously unreleased tracks are Eva’s interpretation of “You’ve Changed”, the jazz standard most associated with Billie Holiday, a version of “Fever” that is more reminiscent of the 1956 Little Willie John original R&B hit than the Peggy Lee pop cover two years later, a haunting redefinition of Sandy Denny’s classic “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?”, Eva’s starkly moving tribute to John Lennon’s masterpiece, “Imagine”, her “true to the original spirit” expansion of the country/pop standard “Tennessee Waltz” and her diva version of Stevie Wonder’s “I Can Only Be Me”.'”