It takes a few spins to understand, and it is one of this prolific singer's many, many recordings, but when you spend some quality time with You Know Me, it starts unraveling its secrets in ways that only a truly great recording can. "Any Heart" is pure power, with the band weaving textures around Jackie DeShannon's distinctive vocal, the guitar relentless as it sustains the wall of sound. A true labor of love, few artists can produce a song this strong, and the fact that it follows three equally powerful compositions is evidence of the majesty that sweeps across all 14 tracks. "Steal the Thunder" opens the album with authority -- the resonating grandeur Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes" contained, with a better hook. DeShannon places everything in perfect order, the vocal gliding over a groove that is rock-solid. "Wing Ryder" changes the pace, and you get the idea that this major songwriter is building an album more complex than Carole King's Tapestry -- sheer art for art's sake. It ebbs and flows with an elegance younger musicians are too impetuous to seek out. The keyboards and guitars in "Wing Ryder" fuse styles that Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles were employing. And that's the secret here: DeShannon hasn't made another singer/songwriter album, she has shouldered a project akin to filming a major motion picture. "Somewhere in America" has a smart guitar riff and a wailing sax in the distance for one of the few ecology songs that isn't hampered by bulky words. "Song for Sandra Jeanne (Rites of Passage)" is for the singer's poet mom. It's just beautiful, the album changing moods like a photo album with pages turning before you on the silver screen. Each song is an episode, with the title track a defiant affirmation of someone who has been with listeners through the years, from "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" to "Bette Davis Eyes." While Lou Adler's sparse production on Tapestry allowed Carole King to bare her soul, DeShannon gives us a dense production, thick and rich, a wide range of sounds that could reinvent AAA radio if given the chance to be heard with the same presence as her best-known tunes. "Just How Right You Are" and "Red Montana Sky" are both driving and two of the more commercial tracks, with subtle hints of past work slipping into the lyrics. At close to 60 minutes, the 14 tracks are very much like a double LP. "There Goes the One" is a pensive recommitment, as graceful saxophone blends with the keyboards and the charming line, "I love the books that he reads." "Vanished in Time" is clear and measured, a youthful exuberance embracing the wisdom of years. This is a transformation for the veteran songwriter, and she seems to be driven more by her incredible instincts than by record company mandate. Where You're the Only Dancer, To Be Free, and earlier albums had an agenda most artists have to deal with, "Raze" is sound and performance, which shows real control. The drums drive the vocals and guitar backs DeShannon up with more dominance than maybe any album she's ever made. "Red Montana Sky" keeps surfacing as the tune that should be embraced by radio. "Here On" seems out of place, the reggae too dramatic a departure for all the elements that came before. It throws the listener for a loop and has a different character than all the other tracks on You Know Me, but that's either the luxury or the downside of artistic freedom, take your pick. Covering the Beach Boys' "Trader," however, is a perfect conclusion, and a perfect vehicle for Jackie DeShannon's timeless voice on an album that may take years before it is fully appreciated.
You Know Me Review
by Joe Viglione