Rickie Lee Jones' eponymous debut album hit the streets in 1979 and immediately established her as a main contender to steal the crown of Joni Mitchell. Her unique phrasing, offbeat style and perfectly savvy compositional skills confirmed her as an artist to watch out for.
Indeed, Jones was nominated for a clutch of Grammy Awards, and at the 1980 ceremony picked up Best New Artist. However, she would not be pushed into making a rushed follow-up.
Instead, she took more than two years to deliver PIRATES, her second album. But the wait was more than worth it, and when it appeared in the summer of 1981, it was a breath of fresh air when the hits of the day came from post-punk rebels, New Wave pretenders and the invasion of the New Romantics.
PIRATES is undoubtedly one of the essential Rickie Lee Jones albums, if not THE essential Jones album. It appears to be short, with only eight songs, but they all act almost as musical suites. The work is not easily accessible like her sultry jazz-pop debut, but she sounds so confident and professional you are sure to be entranced.
Her vocals are obviously an acquired taste, and when she launches into unstoppable Beat rap on "We Belong Together" or the squeals of "Traces of the Western Slopes," it can be a little disconcerting on first listen.
But as you play PIRATES more and more, its magic works on you and it is truly a classic album to have in your collection (see the five-star Rolling Stone review). Jones uses piano here more than on her debut, as on the beautiful "We Belong Together," which changes pace from waltz to bopping jazz funk in an instant.