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Rickie Lee Jones
Warner Bros. 3296
Released: March 1979
Chart Peak: #3
Weeks Charted: 36
Certified Platinum: 8/7/79

Rickie Lee JonesHaving her album and seen her rather strange performance on television, I can only conclude that Rickie Lee Jones is one of those folks who make public a private career of going off into corners, telling themselves jokes, and giggling appreciatively.

She has a limited vocal range which she dangerously -- nay, calamitously -- extends on some selections, such as Melanie used to do on her early albums. Jones' shrillness may be excused (and even praised) on the grounds that she is being sincere. I don't doubt her sincerity, but mere candor is not an excuse for public amateurism.

As a writer, she's not much on melody, but she is an excellent lyricist. Like Tom Waits, she is fascinated by losers, bums, and the other flotsam of society, and she seems to take a special delight in the futility of human endeavor. The promotional push on the album -- and its reception by the audience -- indicates that both label and listeners aren't welcoming a new talent so much as they are a merchandisable cult figure -- that is, this year's merchandisable cult figure.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 8/79.

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Bonus Reviews!

It isn't just the skeptic in me who suspects that, despite the critical brouhaha, this young singer-songwriter's attractions are more sexual than musical or literary. It's also the male -- "Stick It into Coolsville," eh? But the critic knows that there are only three or four of her other songs -- including "Coolsville" -- that I'd enjoy hearing again. B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Rickie Lee Jones' debut album immediately became a hi-fi demonstration classic on account of its vivid recording, catchy melodies and distinctive vocal style. The shuffling percussion, acoustic bass and guitar in the narrated street-wise song "Easy Money" must have kicked off a thousand equipment demonstrations.

While this album has appeared in various high-quality audiophile re-pressings the CD mastering has rejuvenated the sound, revealing intricacies and releasing soaring dynamics and a palette of vivid musical colours. Songs like "Last Chance Texaco" never sounded more spacious; the distinctive Fender bass sound and sizzling percussion never before exploited the frequency extremes quite so confidently. Only at its densest does the recording begin to show its age a little though the backing vocals have never sounded quite so clean from vinyl as they do now from CD.

Two of the tracks, the piano and orchestra arrangements "On Saturday Afternoon" and "After Hours," are live recordings. CD mastering however lets through distracting shuffles and microphone noise in this last track of an otherwise most satisfying and beautifully recorded album.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

Further reading on
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Rickie Lee Jones Lyrics

Rickie Lee Jones Videos

One of the seventies' better debut releases, featuring the hit "Chuck E.'s in Love" and including a number of Rickie's quirky, jazz-tinged sagas of losers on the loose: "Easy Money," "Last Chance Texaco," and "Coolsville" among them. It all sounds a bit like John Steinbeck writing for a hip Breadway fifties musical. The arrangements are spare and tasty, focusing on Ms. Jones's throaty, expressive interpretations of her offbeat but compelling material. The sound has an intensely intimate quality about it, with effective enhancement of the subtle vocal shadings augmented by nice instrumental spacing and clarity. It's not quite as sonically clean as it might be and at times feels a little compressed, while at others a little vocally harsh, but, these are minor complaints. A

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

One of the most impressive debuts for a singer/songwriter ever, this infectious mixture of styles not only features a strong collection of original songs (the hits are "Chuck E's in Love" and "Young Blood," but "Danny's All-Star Joint" and "Coolsville" are just as good) but also a singer with a savvy, distinctive voice that can be streetwise, childlike, and sophisticated, sometimes all in the same song. * * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Certainly, her debut, Rickie Lee Jones, provides the perfect distillation of Jones' unique approach, fusing her vivid portraits of street characters with supple vocals that can be innocent and knowing, soulful and awkward, breathless and powerful, all in the same moment. * * * * 1/2

- Eric Deggans, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The beret-wearing jazzy-Beat boho singer comes out of the gate smoking on her bluesy, laid-back debut that radiates cool. Peppered with late-night themes about loving and losing in the city and interesting characters, her beguiling songs come off like poetic storytelling, offering seedy, sad little glimpses of life, much like Tom Waits, while her incredible voice (quirks and all) reminds some Jones-ians of a modern Billie Holiday, albeit with some funk. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

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