on 10 December 2010
Those who would write learned tomes about the role(s) of women in popular culture could have a field day with Jackie DeShannon. `Back in the day' she was `seen on Presley's arm' -makes her sound like a patch of dry skin- and she toured with the Beatles, but so what? She wrote songs in their way every bit as distinctive as Bobbie Gentry's and she sang them in a voice which -as it were- crossed the racial divide with aplomb. She obviously also had what it took to produce this album, which is a gem.
DeShannon could do tender in the way that Laura Nyro could, as she proves on the self-penned song-cum-character-portrait that is "Holly Would" which has a lyric which avoids every cliché that was in the book at the time and with some degree of prescience even a lot of those that have become such in the forty-odd years since this album was recorded.
In this reviewer's opinion she tops The Band's version of "The Weight" which is of course saying something. She's assisted in this achievement by Dr. John's rolling piano and the vocal assists of Barry White -yes THAT Barry White- and others, but ultimately it's her ability as a reader of lyrics and the tight-yet-slinky band which brings it off.
There are four tracks DeShannon either wrote herself or had a hand in the writing of and three by Bobby Womack amongst the bonus tracks. Of the latter she unsurprisingly gives "Trust in Me" a very different kind of reading to anything the composer could have come up with and the groove that runs through it like letters through Blackpool rock raises the spirit and gets the feet patting.
But still, there's no point in some track-by-track `discussion' as far as this one's concerned because it's an example of what could be achieved in the days before singers of both genders got hooked on the celebrity game and doing as they're told. It's the stuff for cold winter nights, enervating summer days and every type of weather in between.
In the liner notes, Jackie says that she had more freedom when recording her 1968 album, Laurel canyon, than she ever had previously, with very little feedback from the record label. This could be because the record label had plenty of confidence in Jackie, or it could be that Jackie wasn't very important to them at the time (maybe somebody else was occupying their attention), but Jackie doesn't explain why she had this extra freedom. Whatever the reason, the result was a pop-rock album with folk influences, which may have inspired folk singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Carole King. While the tracks that made up the original album all date from 1968, the bonus tracks do not. The first four, all produced by and three of them written by Bobby Womack, date from 1967 while the last four, all written by Jackie, date from 1969.
Laurel Canyon is the area of Los Angeles in which Jackie lived at the time. The title track reflects the feeling of the area at the time. Come and stay for me, a song that Jackie wrote for Marianne Faithfull in 1965, finally made its appearance on a Jackie DeShannon album in 1968, but one is left to wonder why it took Jackie so long to record her own version. Jackie also wrote three other songs on the main album (L A, Too close and Holly would), all of them superb. I got my reason (written by Barry White and featuring his vocals), Crystal clear, She's my best friend and Bitter honey are all wonderful original songs although Jackie didn't write them. The main album also includes great covers of Sunshine of your love (Cream), The weight (The Band) and You've really got a hold on me (Smokey Robinson).
Four of the bonus tracks have never been released before, but they are worth hearing. Of the other four, two Bobby Womack productions (Trust in me, What is this) were released together as a single but not on an album. One of Jackie's own songs (Effervescent blue) appeared as the B-side of a single. The final bonus track (Put a little love in your heart) is Jackie's biggest-ever hit and many other singers have covered the song. It didn't really need to be included here as the entire album from which it came is available on another CD in the series, complete with its own bonus tracks, but I don't really mind it being here too.
This is yet another magnificent collection of Jackie's music, further reminding us just what a fantastic singer and songwriter she is.
on 24 April 2013
I have more than a few Jackie De Shannon CDs and they are all better than this one. Its not her, its the songs. The songs are repetitive and to me at least, boring. There are a few exceptions, but these are mainly among the bonus tracks. This isn't the disc to start your collection.