Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones (1979): Review

jones

Produced by Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman
Label – Warner Bros.

The cover perfectly portrays the original street savvy American bohemian chick. The red Beret, the dark cigarette, and the nonchalant pose all draw the listener into the complex world of Rickie Lee Jones. It is one of the great album covers, simple and yet unequivocally intriguing, and one wonders beyond the cover does the music have the charm and insistence to make a permanent etch on the listeners ordinary world. Without doubt Rickie’s street observations come from well worn experience and an affinity with the dark and bright side of city life. Having left a volatile home as a young teenager, Jones’s drunken travels along the West Coast of the States eventually led her to Los Angeles where she took waitressing jobs and honed her song writing skills in small clubs wherever she could get a gig. She met Tom Waits and began a relationship, which would lead her to take song writing more seriously and her first taste of success came through credits for her own composition “Easy Money” on Lowell George’s solo album “Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here”. On the strength of this and a four track demo, she signed to Warner Brothers and began work on a debut which although mainly written in 1978 was eventually released in 1979.

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“Rickie Lee Jones” is generally a Pop album with heavy Jazz and Folk overtones. Ofcourse, there will be many comparisons with Joni Mitchell (isn’t there always ?), but Jones opts for simple melodies, and her vocal delivery of lyrics is far more earthy, almost teasing the listener as at times she sounds like the little girl lost in the big city, at others she’s the slurring drunken boho, fully aware of the intricacies and dangers of life in dark bars, cool enough to know more than you do about how to survive. The album is observational, the stories of people and places she knows and loves, and it’s all consistently good stuff, particularly the ode to musician Chuck Weiss (“Chuck E’s In Love”), the beautifully arranged ballad “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963”, “Easy Money” a strong lyrical song issuing the well known fact that everyone has a price, and the down to earth swing of “Danny’s All Star Joint”. This album would have surely been a bigger hit had it not been due to the fact that by 1979 fans were looking for bands, more aggression, and simpler song structures rather than singer songwriter material. If it had been released in 1972 this would have been in everyone’s collection. One can’t deny its damn good though.

Rickie Lee Jones is an important writer, given today’s shoddy non imaginative artists that pass off as pseudo Pop Jazz. Katie Melua take note.

8/10

Track Listing
1.”Chuck E.’s In Love” 3:28
2.”On Saturday Afternoons in 1963″ – 2:31
3.”Night Train” – 3:14
4.”Young Blood” – 4:04
5.”Easy Money” – 3:16
6.”The Last Chance Texaco” – 4:05
7.”Danny’s All-Star Joint” – 4:01
8.”Coolsville” – 3:49
9.”Weasel and the White Boys Cool” (Rickie Lee Jones, Alfred Johnson) – 6:00
10.”Company” (Rickie Lee Jones, Alfred Johnson) – 4:40
11.”After Hours (Twelve Bars Past Midnight)” – 2:13

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One response to “Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones (1979): Review

  1. Thanks. She’s a true artist prone to triumphs and mis fires. I love her album Pop Pop and will feature it on the jukebox later. Loved your review of her debut here. She swings! Regards Thom.

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