Picks and Pans Review: Flying Cowboys

updated 10/30/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/30/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Rickie Lee Jones

Pop music 1989 has been a revival meeting. Long-dormant groups like Poco, the Doobie Brothers, the Jefferson Airplane and a host of others have been crawling from the remainder bins back into the phonographic fray. No one has staged a return as splendid as Flying Cowboys, Rickie Lee's first album in five years. Take "Just My Baby." The pixieish melody floats along on the harmonica of Chris Smith and the vibes of Gary Coleman while Jones delivers one of the most emotionally charged and touching vocals since the prime of Laura Nyro. The idiosyncratic singer is in peak form throughout, her voice at once languid and kittenish. The accompaniment, intelligently produced by ex-Steely Dan co-leader Walter Becker, is a treat too. A couple of songs, "Ghetto of My Mind" and "Love Is Gonna Bring Us Back Alive," are driven by the type of exotic tropical rhythms that distinguished Toni Childs's excellent, Grammy-nominated debut last year. Others, such as "Rodeo Girl" and the title track, have all the intoxicating, folkish ardor of Van Morrison's best work. (Sal Bernardi's guitar on the latter song, in fact, quotes from Morrison's "Here Comes the Knight.") "Ghost Train" contains the album's one dubious gambit: Jones elects to sing in character as a doddering old black woman. Or maybe she's supposed to be a washed-out junkie. Either way, it's the only moment that doesn't ring resoundingly true on a moving and consistently rewarding collection. (Geffen)

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