Janis Ian

Through the Years: A Retrospective

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Although initially put together for promotional purposes, multi-Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Janis Ian issued this limited-edition DVD compilation as an incentive for enthusiasts to contribute to her 100-percent for charity Pearl Foundation -- named after Ian's mother. (Note: more information can be found by pointing your internet browser to www.pearlfoundation.com. The proceeds fund college scholarships at Goddard College, Pearl's alma mater. The contents of Through the Years: A Retrospective (2007) gather nearly two-dozen offerings off of a number of disparate video sources. These range from three selections circa a 1968 solo appearance -- in what could best be described as a local/regional television station -- through to a mini five-song set from 1995 that likewise features Ian accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. For those who have followed the artist's career since its inception, the opening segment will arguably be filled with the most revelations. It consists of rare performances of the seminal "Janey's Blues" from her 1967 self-titled debut, which is tucked between "Look to the Rain" and "Friends Again" off of her concurrent long-player, The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink (1968). Fast-forwarding through time nearly a decade later are the achingly poignant "Jesse" and the title track off of Miracle Row (1977) from a Japanese broadcast. The great Taj Mahal can be seen introducing Ian prior to "When the Party's Over." A stunning reading of "Hotels & One-Night Stands" -- from her oft overlooked eponymously titled 1978 effort precedes an equally stirring rendition of Ian's biggest hit "At Seventeen." "The Bridge" is another cut from that LP and it is odd to see her singing to what is presumably a backing tape, as no other musicians are shown on-stage. Always willing to poke fun at herself, just prior to "Love Is Blind" the artist inserted a chyron-generated text graphic stating "Why Japanese TV shows are hard to do." This is followed by evidence of the language barrier -- despite Ian's obvious proficiency in Japanese. Back to Janis Ian (1978) for the soulful and jazzy "Silly Habits," "Fly Too High" taken from the Night Rains (1979) project, and her classic "In the Winter"." The last half of the 90-plus minute DVD is dedicated to her '90s output and appearances. "Stolen Fire" -- from Revenge (1994) -- "Cosmopolitan Girl," "Days Like These," and "From Me to You" are all from the same concert with Ian supported by three fellow (and unnamed/uncredited) "unplugged" performers. An MTV-style concept video for the Revenge selection "Tenderness" leads into the final five numbers that return Ian into the intimacy she so aptly weaves when it is just her and her axe. "This Train Still Runs" and "Ride Me Like a Wave" hail from Breaking Silence (1993) and "When the Silence Falls" joins "Take No Prisoners" as live representatives of the Revenge platter. The concluding "Society's Child" brings it all back home, as the last mid-'90s presentation is Ian's first composition to gain international acclaim. Once again, parties interested in Through the Years: A Retrospective should direct their respective attentions to www.janisian.com for information on how to obtain what is nothing short of essential viewing for all manner of Janis Ian fans.

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