Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Kat's Korner: Rickie Lee Jones provides songs of wisdom for unwise times

Kat:  We've got an out of control Court determined to destroy all of our rights, we've got frauds like Katie Halper claiming to be feminists but more willing to platform a convicted pedophile and registered sex offender than another woman, we've got one politician after another on the grift.  The 21st century's beginning to feel a lot like the 19th and it's harder to stomach with each passing day.

Along comes Rickie Lee Jones' PIECES OF TREASURE, a ten track album that reunites Rickie with producer Russ Titelman.  They last worked together on Rickie's 1979 self-titled debut and 1981's PIRATES.   This is an album of "classics from the  great American songbooks," as Rickie's website notes.  It's the third-and-a-half dip into the great American songbook for RLJ.  The first full album was 1991's POP POP POP and the second was 2000's IT'S LIKE THIS.  To get to the half?  1980's extended play GIRL AT HER VOLCANO.   They featured some surprising choices that really delivered such as Rickie's version of Jefferson Airplane's "Comin' Back To Me," her cover of the Drifters' "Under The Boardwalk" and the Beatles' "For No One."  

On PIECES OF TREASURE, she doesn't try to expand the notion of the great American songbook and instead zooms in on the bedrock of the genre with songs by the likes of Arlen, Gershwin, Stein, Mercer, etc.  

Regardless of what she's singing, Rickie sounds like jazz and the songs selected here really bring out the best of her phrasing and range.   And the emotions are conveyed in a matter of fact manner.  

Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson's "September Song" is supposed to provide maturity -- and certainly Frank Sinatra's version did. But too many since have turned the song into something maudlin and overly dramatic. "All The Way" also benefits from a sure touch and a maturity.

Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn's can easily become a hand wringing event in lesser hands.

RLJ emotes without over-emoting.  She's the Duchess of Coolsville, after all, and the results are amazing throughout.  

My only quibble?  "Just in Time" is a great recording and it was the lead single from the album.

Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green's song comes back or returns to life.  Surely, a miracle worth noting.  Yet as strong as it is, the finest track on the album is Rickie's recording of Charles G. Dawes and Carl Sigman's "It's All In The Game."

Many a tear has to fall but it's all in the game
All in the wonderful game that we know as love
You have words with him and your future's looking dim
But these things your hearts can rise above

The only thing that could have improved the recording was maybe merging it into one song with a version of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass."