Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Kick it into Coolsville
My list of desert-island discs changes daily - or so it sometimes seems. There are a few that remain on the list permanently, and an ever rotating collection of things I think I can't live without.
The thing I can't live without this week is Rickie Lee Jones. I even have tickets to see her at the Pabst at the end of the month. To prepare for it, I've been listening to her incomparable eponymous debut and the recent three-disc collection Duchess of Coolsville. The debut is a definite desert-island disc. 11 tracks and every single one of them great. From the radio-friendly hit single "Chuck E's in Love" (written about fellow musician and then-paramour Chuck E. Weiss) to the peppy "Young Blood" to the melancholy "Coolsville" - I literally cannot pick a favorite or even a group of them. The All Music Guide calls it "one of the most impressive debuts of a singer/songwriter ever" - and I couldn't agree more.
Once you've developed a deep appreciation of all things Rickie Lee, dive into the three-disc compilation Duchess of Coolsville. The compilation spans her career to this point, and includes most of her studio recordings as well as several live and demo versions. The AMG says, "It's everything a career retrospective should be and then some, and it places the artist in her proper context: as an adventurer with a fiery yet tender heart that expresses itself in song without reservation, artifice, or guile."
Along with Weiss and former boyfriend Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones really captures a certain west-coast-on-a-road-trip-to-New-Orleans vibe that brings to life the feeling of creative possibility that was the byproduct of 1970s isolationism.
Highlights of Duchess of Coolsville for me were the happy duet "Beat Angels," the Paris-in-the-1950s-influenced "Bitchenostrophy," the jazz-tinged "Satellites" and the positively ear-gasmic jam "Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking." And that's not even including the demos, every one of which is great.