Janis Ian

Who Really Cares

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Recorded at the end of her troubled teenage tenure with MGM, Janis Ian's Who Really Cares limped out of the gate in 1969 to immediate obscurity. It's actually the strongest of her childhood efforts. Charlie Calello (responsible for Laura Nyro's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession) provides characteristically lush, ornamental production, while avoiding the gimmicks (police sirens, etc.) that Shadow Morton foisted on Ian's previous sets. But it is Ian's growth as a performer and songwriter that elevates Who Really Cares head and shoulders above the rest of her Verve recordings. The tracks might not have the political clout of her earliest work, but they more than compensate by way of gorgeous, sophisticated, fully realized music and dreamy, wistful lyrics. Ian displays remarkable musical scope; gone is the earnest folk, and in its place a stately jazz-pop-funk fusion, colored by crafty, energetic string, woodwind and horn arrangements. In particular, "Love You More Than Yesterday," "Sea and Sand," and "Do You Remember" stand up to repeated listens, while "Calling Your Name" -- an unexpected stab at French chanson -- really gets under the skin. Also conspicuous is Ian's vocal growth as the shrill, reedy, adolescent qualities of her voice give way to a warmer adult sound. The bulk of Who Really Cares appears on the two-CD compilation Society's Child.