Jennifer Warnes

Jennifer

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With a plethora of producers over the years -- including Martin Cooper, Al Capps, Stewart Levine, Rob Fraboni, Jim Ed Norman, Val Garay, and Jim Price -- it is this obscure album produced by the Velvet Underground's John Cale that captures a very special moment for Jennifer Warnes. A beautiful faded cover photo with the word "Jennifer" floating across the top, this album stands as landmark interpretation by the artist, and a production for Cale as important as his first album for the Modern Lovers. Don't expect the sound to be anything like the quagmire of Velvetsonics that Cale allowed the legendary members of Jonathan Richman's band to create. This is a pure pop album. "Needle and Thread" is a replica of what Motown producer Frank Wilson was doing exactly at this moment in time with the new Supremes, and "Be My Friend" is Diana Ross from this same period, by way of songwriter Paul Rodgers from Free. As A&R for Warner Bros., Cale explores avenues here unavailable to him when putting together A&M's David Kubinec album in 1979. Cale doing Motown is quite a revelation, and is equally impressive. Of the many recorded covers of Jimmy Webb's underground classic "P.F. Sloan," the one on Jennifer is arguably the best, but she goes a step further on the second "Webb" title included here -- "All My Love's Laughter" is outstanding. Jackson Browne's "These Days" has instrumentation that could have been culled off an early Marianne Faithfull album -- remember Browne contributed material to Nico's first solo outing, with heavy contributions from Cale as well. With only one original composition by Cale, a song titled "Empty Bottles," this recording is as much his showcase as it is Warnes', rich in both sincerity and performance, and not as avant garde as his later Nico recordings. As with her first album on Parrot where she covered the Bee Gees, Jennifer opens with Barry Gibb's "In the Morning," then closes by taking the grand sounds of Procol Harum and subduing them, giving the world a different "Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone." This would have to rate with Famous Blue Raincoat as Warnes' most substantial album -- but having had less attention, it is one of the hidden treasures of rock and should be sought out by fans of Cale as well as those of this enigmatic artist. These recordings of songs by Donovan Leitch, Webb, Free, Procol Harum, Cale, Gibb, Jackson Browne, and Warnes' own title, "Last Song," provide an insight -- not only to the talent of this gifted artist, but in flavoring those melodies in a way you have not heard them before.

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