Rickie Lee Jones

The Duchess of Coolsville: An Anthology

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Duchess of Coolsville is Rhino's three-CD career retrospective of the work of singer and songwriter Rickie Lee Jones, an artist who changed the face of pop in the 1970s in her own way beginning with her surprise hit "Chuck E's in Love." Since that time she has continued on a highly personal, often idiosyncratic path; one that does not always give the marketplace its due. Critics have celebrated and vilified her. Her hardcore legion of fans has scratched their collective head more than once in the last 26 years, over her changes in direction, her sporadic activity, and even at some of her live performances. But Jones has always been stubbornly true to the restless, sometimes tempestuous heart of the artist she is. Thank goodness. This collection, co-produced by Jones and Karen Ahmed, is an example of what every career retrospective should be. The three discs contained here feature generous helpings from all of her studio recordings, as well as live material. Discs one and two present her catalog from Rickie Lee Jones to The Evening of My Best Day. In addition, there are some real rarities, such as "Easter Parade," performed with the Blue Nile, and the live version of "Something Cool," released only on the cassette version of Girl at Her Volcano. Jones' cover of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" is here from the Party of Five soundtrack, as is "Atlas' Marker (Aviator's Song)," her contribution to Century of Song with Bill Frisell. But there's much more. For starters, the set includes a whopping total of eight unissued demos, including one of "Young Blood" and another of "Satellites." The sequencing is another plus. While it may be irritating for those who like the "same old same old" of chronological style, or those who wish all album's tracks were kept together, this method, as free-ranging as the artist herself, makes for a much more engaging , poetic, and surprising listen. It's a complete yet utterly wonderful jolt to hear "Vessels of Light" from Ghostyhead followed by "We Belong Together" from Pirates, or "Bitchenostrophy" from The Evening of My Best Day preceding her read of "Bye Bye Blackbird" from Pop Pop. The package itself is elegant. It's not only full of photographs, but has essays by Hilton Als and Lee Cantelon, and Walter Becker; there's a long introductory poem by Jones, and testimonies from peers such as Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris, Chuck E. Weiss, Quincy Jones, and others, as well as people Jones has influenced such as Stina Nordenstam and Tori Amos. 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.

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