Picks and Pans Review: Girl at Her Volcano
Rickie Lee Jones
Lest anyone mistake it for her third "official" album, this musical hors d'oeuvre of seven songs—22 minutes' worth—is being pressed on 10-inch extended-play (EP) discs, a cross between 45s and 12-inch LPs. Nonetheless, emotions—mostly melancholy ones—burst forth from it like lava spewing down Mount St. Helens. The only original is Hey, Bub, a poignant tune that was penned originally for Jones' Pirates LP. The rest are songs she has stylized and used frequently in her concert repertoire but never previously recorded. Billy "Swee' Pea" Strayhorn, Duke Ellington's arranger and composing partner, is probably beaming in his casket at her dazzling "live" version of his cabaret classic Lush Life. She also burns the torch bright on Rodgers and Hart's My Funny Valentine, as well as on her and former flame Tom Waits' song Rainbow Sleeves. On the lighter side, you can practically feel the warm sunshine beaming down on her zesty version of Under the Boardwalk, and she flaunts the ability to make somebody else's song hers with Walk Away, Renée, which was a big hit for the Left Banke in the mid-'60s. Jones has taken their effervescent, hokey pop song and transformed it by phrasing and rearrangement into a tender and sometimes piercing tale of rejection and sorrow. Rickie Lee is clearly more than just another rock 'n' roll sweetheart. She can be a serious interpreter of pop songs, with the vocal chops and lyric sense to separate the sublime from the ridiculous, and to sing both entertainingly.
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