Rickie Lee Jones

Posted by Al Barger on November 08, 2004 11:06 PM (See all posts by Al Barger)

Rickie Lee Jones was born 50 years ago today in Chicago, November 8, 1954. If you have any interest in popular music, you really should have at least her eponymous first album.

That Rickie Lee Jones album came out when I was 16. I completely bought her smart jazzy street poet thing. And why wouldn't I? Besides being honest to who she really was and appealing to every red-blooded romantic element in a teenage boys' soul, she every bit had the songs to back it up.

"Chuck E's in Love" made a fine, clever and sweet hit single. The imagery, personality, tuneful development and pure joy of "Easy Money" and "Danny's All Star Joint" just cannot be denied.

But the secret weapon for the likes of me was "Last Chance Texaco." The pure dramatic yearning of this classic composition just did me in. Did you see her performance of this on SNL? Then throw in the dramatic weight of "Coolsville" and "Night Train." Resistance would have been futile.

Obviously, Rickie was THE ultimate romantic fantasy object of any cool guy my age (along, of course, with "Precious" Chrissie Hynde). The time less spiritual of my classmates were spending concentrating on the Farrah Fawcett poster or some such, I spent enthralled with that album cover with the beret and chewing on the cigar.

She only had the one actual hit single, but she's gone on to make quite a bit of outstanding music. The second album, Pirates, was nearly as good as the first. Nothing could have quite that impact of discovery, but just as a collection of songs it ran head to head. You couldn't very well argue against "We Belong Together" or "Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking."

After that, the records became somewhat spotty, though she's always worth hearing. The writing has just not been consistent.

On the other hand, she's turned out to be a particularly outstanding interpreter of popular song. She has a very good vocal instrument, and great skill and expressiveness in using it.

Whoever exactly she's working with, she's also been excellent at generating groovlicious jazz pop arrangements of classics. I particularly recommend her definitive reading of "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys." I never cared for that song before she did it.

Also in the range of classic covers, she does the unknown yet still definitive version of "Sunshine Superman." She also puts a unique personal spin to "Rebel Rebel."

She made her stage entrance doing sexy things to "Low Rider" when I saw her live, somewhere circa 1995. She was playing a small outdoor theater, touring with Lyle Lovett, whom she obviously had totally whipped. I got his sheepish behavior in her presence implicitly.

It's a good thing Lyle was eager to submit. She messed up my little mind about two thirds of the way through the show, calling out a handful of chattering idiots yammering on down front while she's playing. They needed to shut it if they were going to stay, which wasn't absolutely necessary. "If you want your money back, I'll give you your f%^*ing money back."

I'll just say that all my precious bodily fluids were in flux there for the rest of the show.

Now she's 50, and still has The Power. Drop on by her website. She's generally got some groovy free mp3s.

Happy Birthday!


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