Janis Ian


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Revenge Review

by William Ruhlmann

The second album of Janis Ian's third career as a recording artist found her singing love songs full of violent imagery and story songs about desperate characters. Opening with "Ready For War," and Ian used metaphors of armed struggle to describe romantic interaction, following with "Take No Prisoners" and later, in "Stolen Fire," depicting infidelity in Promethean terms. And even when she employed more conventional imagery, as in "Take Me Walking in the Rain," the album's catchiest song with its familiar rock & roll chord progression (think "Every Breath You Take," "Billie Jean," and countless others), Ian gave the song a demanding, erotic edge that made love seem less appealing than urgent. "Love," she noted in the album-closing "When Angels Cry," "is a four letter word" (a statement no less powerful for having been made 30 years earlier by Bob Dylan). And so, she added, was hope: In songs like "Davy," "Ruby," and "The Mission," she painted sympathetic portraits of homelessness and prostitution. The effect, when set to her typically restrained, melodic tunes and sung in her precise, sometimes clipped voice, was of a tough, adult worldview. Of course, that was not so far removed from the view Ian had held in the songs she wrote back when she was a teenager.

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