While Randy Newman's 1968 self-titled debut foundered (later going out of print), that record's most straightforwardly compelling song, "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," emerged as a timeless, female-voiced anthem of despair and hope. It was covered in 1966 by Judy Collins (on her album In My Life), in '68 by a mesmerizing Dusty Springfield, in '69 by Nina Simone, who made the cosmos weep with her emotionally roiling version — not to mention by a cavalcade of names ignominious, legendary, and banal (Claudine Longet, Helen Reddy, Melanie, Bette Midler, Peggy Lee, Maxine Weldon, Cass Elliott, Barbra Streisand, Norah Jones, et al.).
But there's something delicately, unforgettably poignant about this version by French chanteuse Francoise Hardy from her mixed-bag 1972 album If You Listen. That record had mythical origins in a meeting, arranged by producer/label impresario Joe Boyd, at Hardy's Paris apartment with iconic folk singer Nick Drake. She tried to speak with (the mutely shy) Drake about writing some songs for her that she'd potentially record with him in a London studio, but the collaboration never materialized (though it was reported that Drake did show up later at the Los Angeles studio where Hardy was working on If You Listen). Instead, she substituted Newman's composition plus a variety of others, included a couple of tunes written by a young upstart named Mick Jones, the future guitarist of Foreigner, and father of natty retro-soul-bro Mark Ronson. CHARLES AARON