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on 20 August 2003
It seems strange that when someone mentions "great female singer-songwriters", very few can come up with the name Rickie Lee Jones.
Well, Jones is not only one of the great female singer-songwriters but she is also one of the great songwriters of any gender and generation and her buoyant, energetic debut proves it.
Released in 1979 but mostly recorded during 1978, when Jones was still just 23 years old, RICKIE LEE JONES is one of the forgotten albums of the last 25-30 years, a huge hit when first released but forgotten soon afterwards. If all you have to go on is "Chuck E.'s in Love", you don't know much about Rickie Lee.
This record encompasses so much feeling and plenty of different genres; Jones seems comfortable with rock, pop, funk, R&B, jazz and folk, and she is an able pianist and a sublime guitarist. "Chuck E.'s in Love", her only major hit, is a great swinging, jazzy tune but not the best cut on the album.
Jones' humour is displayed on "Chuck. E", the similarly upbeat be-bop of "Danny's All Star-Joint" and the lounge jazz-y "Easy Money", which in effect set the ball rolling for Jones when Little Feat frontman Lowell George first recorded it.
But she shows unmatched emotion on such cuts as "On Saturday Afternoons in 1963", a piano ballad that has become one of Tori Amos' favoured live covers, the cabaret of "Company" and, particularly, on the beautiful "The Last Chance Texaco", one of the album's best compositions.
Jones' hipster chick persona comes across on "Coolsville" and the groovy "Weasel and the White Boys Cool", both peppered with interesting characters (the album is consistent in that characters such as 'Bragger' appear more than once), but she is not gimmicky by any means (she really did lead the "jazz lifestyle").
RICKIE LEE JONES is an album that combines so many different musical elements it is rewarding on numerous levels. With each listen, new touches and flourishes leap out and it sounds remarkably fresh, 25 years after its original release. Her vocal mannerisms may put some people off (she has a tendency to change volume frequently and miss out letters of words), but no one can deny she is a vocalist of immense elasticity and a songwriter of extraordinary depth.
After you've heard this, you'll be addicted. PIRATES is next...
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I can remember when every London Hi-Fi store you went into in the late Eighties had two discs to demonstrate what the new fangled format of CD was capable of - and both were debuts. One was Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly" from 1982 and the other was "Rickie Lee Jones" - her beautifully produced self-titled debut from 1979. Yet for such audiophile titles both have remained 'un-remastered' in singular form for the average Joe to buy with ease for decades since. For Steely Dan's Donald Fagen you have to buy the hugely irritating and disappointing MVI Trilogy Box Set and for Rickie you have to go to Japan. And that's where this superb SHM-CD reissue comes in...

Released 12 June 2012 - Warner Brothers Japan WPCR-14508 (Barcode 4943674118373) is a straightforward reissue/new remaster of the album on the SHM-CD format and breaks down as follows (42:15 minutes):

1. Chuck E.'s In Love
2. On Saturday Afternoons In 1963
3. Night Train
4. Young Blood
5. Easy Money
6. The Last Chance Texaco
7. Danny's All Star Joint [Side 2]
8. Coolsville
9. Weasel And The White Boys Cool
10. Company
11. After Hours (Twelve Bars Past Goodnight)
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album "Rickie Lee Jones" - released March 1979 in the USA on Warner Brothers BSK 3296 and June 1979 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56628

A SHM-CD doesn't require a special CD player to play it on (compatible on all) nor does it need audiophile kit to hear the benefits. It's a new form of the format that picks up the nuances of the transfer better (top quality make). I own about 15 of them and they're uniformly superb. The 5" repro sleeve is typical of Japanese quality - beautifully rendered (quite what they mean by 'Light Mellow 2012' on the outer sticker is anybody's guess). The black and white 20-page booklet inside has the lyrics in English and Japanese and little else by way of credits (who remastered what and where) - but a nice touch is a repro of the $2 Warner Brothers deal inner bag that came with original vinyl copies. The CD has the Warner Brothers cream-coloured label of the time and a protective plastic to hold the slightly heavier SHM-CD in the $2 inner bag (lovely attention to detail...as there always is with these Japanese reissues). But the big news is the sound...

Fans will know that outside of Rhino's 3CD career overhaul "Duchess Of Coolsville" in 2005 (which had 6 of the 11 tracks here) - her staggeringly accomplished debut has never been fully remastered as an album for CD until now. It did receive a coveted Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab remaster in 2012 - but only on vinyl. Here you get the full album and the sonic results are brills - as lovely and as warm a remaster as you could have hoped for. For sure there is hiss on some tracks but its not been dampened or Pro-tooled out of existence in the transfer. Key tracks like "Night Train", "Danny's All Star Joint" and "Easy Money" (represented on the "Duchess" set by a Previously Unreleased 'Demo' Version) has never seen a remaster since the advent of CD - and they shine like audio gold here.

Right from the opening seconds of acoustic guitars, drums whacks and clicking fingers of "Chuck E.'s In Love" - you can hear the clarity of musicians like guitarists Buzzy Feiten and Fred Tackett, keyboard whizz kid Neil Larsen, Willie Weeks on Bass and Jeff Pocaro (of Toto) with Victor Feldman on Drums (Michael McDonald does his backing vocals magic here and there too). Produced by Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman and mastered by Lee Herschberg - the audio was always going to be something special and this beautiful remaster on SHM-CD brings that out.

Not to be swamped in audiophile for the sake of it - the music is amazingly touching too - the best examples of which are "Night Train", "Company" and "The Last Chance Texaco". "I remember you too clearly...but I'll survive another day..." she pines on the gorgeous and affecting "Company" featuring truly beautiful string arrangements by Johnny Mandel. Its here you also hear her other secret weapon - those off the cuff streetwise lyrics that have depth and sass - flirty one minute - then aching the next - like a female Tom Waits. The squeaking of the acoustic guitar strings on "Night Train" sound amazing (even if the beginning of the track is a little hissy) - and I still get bowled over by those "broken like valiums and chumps in the rain that cry and quiver..." lyrics. The double-bass intro to "Easy Money" slides into definite Tom Waits "Blue Valentyne" territory where "A couple Jills with their eyes on a couple of bills..." and although it doesn't say so in the liner notes but I'd swear that's Dr. John on the slinky New Orleans keys with Victor Feldman on Vibes.

Funky genius comes in the brilliant Side 2 opener "Danny's All-Star Joint" sounding like Paul Simon's "Stranded In A Limousine" - a stunning mixture of brass and scat like lyrics that amaze. "Coolsville" is admittedly hissy (but it was on the original recording) but it still sounds awesome. "The Last Chance Texaco" features "sleepy diesel eyes" and a floating synth note that ominously backs up the big acoustic chords - it's fabulously accomplished stuff and lyrically grates at a raw nerve in us all about emotional success. Things get hip and street funk with "Coolsville" and the brilliant "Weasel & The White Boys Cool" where Sal is selling 'articles' to his people downtown. Two tracks were recorded Live on 22 December 1978 - the lovely piano and "years may go by" strings of "On Saturday Afternoons in 1963" and the final cut "After Hours" where she croons about "America" and how some of its citizens may have lost their way but are still hopeful dreamers.

Rickie Lee Jones won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1979 and her follow-up albums "Pirates" (1981) and "The Magazine" (1984) articulate even more stunning emotional soundtracks - opting for longer songs and richer arrangements. But this is where her jukebox first went 'doyt doyt'.

You could of course argue that you simply buy the "Duchess Of Coolsville" triple CD anthology and get a lot more bang for your bucks - but this is one of those occasions where only the 'whole' album will suffice. It doesn't just sound good - it is 'all' good...

PS: there are two others albums in this Japan-Only SHM-CD remaster series:
1. "Pirates" (1981), Warner Brothers Japan WPCR-14509 - use Barcode 4943674118397 to locate the right issue
2. "The Magazine" (1984), Warner Brothers Japan WPCR-14510 - use Barcode 4943674118403 to locate the right issue
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on 24 April 2006
I had never heard of Ricki Lee Jones. I was watching an episode of the TV shows "Alias", and heard this beautiful song - one which was unique enough that I could still remember it after only one listen. I found out online that it was "On Saturday Afternoons In 1963", by Ricki Lee Jones.

Sometimes I'd put the "Alias" episode on, just so I could listen to this song. Then I heard it at the end of an episode of "House, MD" and decided to take the plunge and buy her album (with my office Grand National sweepstake winnings!). It arrived today, I've just finished listening to it as I type this, and wow.

I also found myself bopping along to the more upbeat song, like "Chuck E's In Love" (I knew the song but hadn't realised Ricki Lee Jones sang it).

"On Saturday Afternoons In 1963" is one of the rare ballads on the album (along with "Coolsville"), but you know, I'm SO glad I took a chance and bought this album, because this is something special. I might even play it again straight away.

I think with its pure piano melody and haunting clear voice, "On Saturday Afternoons In 1963" has just catapaulted into my top 10 favourite songs. And that's no easy task...
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VINE VOICEon 22 February 2006
This is one of the most assured and unique debut records ever released. The vocal style and songwriting marked her as a true original and undisputed heir to Joni Mitchell. The jazzy rhythms and vocal loop de loops, the infectious grooves and bluesy melancholy of the work is entrancing. On Saturday Afternoons in 1963 is heartbreaking in its piercing nostalgic sadness, whilst Danny’s All Star Joint is a bopping joy. It’s all here; the ups and downs of street life are moulded into perfect compositions that have resonated through the years since the album’s release. Rickie Lee Jones has continued to record, and although she doesn’t sell in the millions as she did with this debut and the equally brilliant Pirates, she is still doing her thing regardless of public interest. A true artist in a time of shallow performers.
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on 31 March 2015
There are some great songs on this album its so cool. bukowski, tom waits kind of vibe. Its just a classic simple as. the voice, the poetry and the music (saxophones etc) think rickie lee jones is very gifted and i bet hardly anyone you could ask wouldve heard of her.
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on 3 May 2016
I love this album, Rickie Lee Jones is a true original artist. Her songwriting and her singing style which for me will always be the vocal equivalent of Miles Davis cannot be catergorised. Super cool, very sexy, and very talented. Make sure you hear this.
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on 13 October 1999
This is rare, she is almost a goodess. My favourite songs haveto be Chuck E's in Love and Dannys All Star Joint just because they both make me boogie, other songs make me think, some make me smile, the best thing about this album is that it is very honest and doesn't try very hard to make it trendy it is just a straight down to earth classic as far as I'm concerned.
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on 19 November 1999
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on 16 February 2013
I had the original album way back when and then along came CD. I gave my albums to a friend (who got rid of them) as CD was de rigeure and been so for so long. It was a favourite on CD but my interests waned due to life and work distractions. Until recently. I bought a turntable the other week and spent serious money on purchasing new vinyl. This is one of the first five I had listed to get. And I am not disappointed. We all know the score here. Get the vinyl, hold carefully and place on TT. Lower the arm and away you go. The opening track Chuck E's in love is a cracker and the rest of the album just takes on a journey. Whilst its Ricki's journey admittedly you kind of find yourself in your own world, singing along with what you know and drifting somewhere else with the rest of the album. For those who are not familiar with Ricki Lee Jones this album is defiately worth the investment. Be warned though, you may find yourself wanting more.
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on 24 May 2013
There's some music you grow your brain and bones round. For me, this is one such. I played this until I couldn't hear it anymore, then it disappeared into the ranks and I forgot about Rickie Lee Jones (which suggest she didn't come to UK half enough nor loudly enough). A few decades later I'm washing dishes and the iPod throws up Company and.... Let's just say very manly and gruff tears blurred my vision. I got the compilation Duchess of Coolsville and realised that she seems incapable of making anything but body-and-soul-grabbing music. Now excuse me while I rope that steer.
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