Friday, June 14, 2013

Rickie Lee Jones - Girl At Her Volcano

This week (June 13th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Girl At Her Volcano, a seven song extended-play from Rickie Lee Jones. It is a collection of live and studio recordings. This 1983 release went to number 51 in the UK, number 39 on the US Billboard Hot 200 and number 36 on the US Billboard Jazz charts.

Side one opens with “Lush Life”, a live recording from Pasadena in April of 1982. This jazz standard was written by Billy Strayhorn in the 1930’s and tells of the weariness of lonely nightlife exploits. Jones really conveys that wrung-out emotion very concisely, so the listener feels exactly what the song’s protagonist feels.

“Letters From the 9th Ward/Walk Away Renee” is a mash up of an instrumental by Jones and Michael Brown and the classic by Tony Sansone and Bob Calilli of the Left Banke (who had a hit with it in 1966).

“Hey, Bub” was recorded in 1979 and was originally slated for her 1981 album Pirates. The song has a stripped down, intimate quality to it being as it is just Jones at her piano.

“My Funny Valentine” was recorded live in Los Angeles in April of 1982. It comes from the 1937 musical Babes in Arms, written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Although I have heard this one many times by many singers, Jones manages to put her own spin on it that makes it unique and refreshing.

Side two starts with “Under the Boardwalk”, a song first made a hit by the Drifters in 1964. Jones’ cover goes for a more Calypso feel with congas and marimbas. I enjoy the vocal harmonies she gets going with Sal Bernardi, Arno Lucas, Michael Ruff and Leslie Smith.

“Rainbow Sleeves”, a tune by her former boyfriend Tom Waits, was an out-take from a 1978 recording session. This ballad features a string arrangement by Johnny Mandel.

“So Long”, a tender farewell punctuated by Earle Dumler on the oboe, closes out the vinyl.

The cassette release included an eighth track, the live recording of “Something Cool” from Amsterdam in 1979. The original, written by Billy Barnes, was made famous by jazz singer June Christy in 1954.

Diehard fans of Rickie Lee Jones will certainly know Girl At Her Volcano. For the rest of us, this is a nice little musical gem that mixes the old with the new. I definitely enjoyed hearing this one for the first time, even thirty years after its release. Sadly, it has not been released on CD so you will have to find the original vinyl or go the digital download route.

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