(Written long time ago for the old site). The story of Rickie Lee Jones starts in the late seventies, when she appeared on the cover of Tom Waits’ Blue Valentine. At the time, she, Tom and saxophonist Chuck E Weiss were unseparable friends sharing everything – talks, music, poetry, booze… One day Waits phoned Rickie saying, “Hey, babe, Chuck E’s in love…”. That was the end of trio’s close friendship, but the start of Rickie’s fruitful career. After Waits hung up, she sat down and wrote Chuck E’s In Love one of the most beautiful anthems of the seventies singer-songwriting scene in Los Angeles. One other Rickie’s song, Easy Money caught attention of the famous slide guitar player Lowell George (ex Little Feat, huge influence on Dixie Chicks). George’s reccomendation assured Rickie a contract with Warner Brothers and her first phenomenal album called simply Rickie Lee Jones was out. It included both Chuck E’s In Love and Easy Money and other 10 excellent songs, each better than the other. Rickie charmes everybody with her songs and her very sensual voice. Her singing includes a unique type of miaowing, wich makes her sound in moments like a little girl, and like a sexy diva at the same time. Rickie Lee Jones had an open road to have career as a popular singer, but she took some other roads
Her second album, Pirates surprised evrybody, as her songwriting technique achieved full maturity. Album included lengthy odes to the bohemian street life, full of wonderful images and great instrumentation by the old wolves of the Los Angeles scene, Nick De Caro, Russ Titelman, Lenny Waronker and Donald Fagen. The result was one of the artiest and most rounded records of Laurel Canyon scene.
After that point, Jones established herself as an respectable artist, and she stopped publishing records regularily. Two years after the Pirates, Rickie published a 10″ record Girl At Her Volcano, mostly filled out with covers, and audience waited one more year for a regular album Magazine. Critics never accepted the album, but I think that they were too harsh. The “A” side of the album contained Rickie in a little more easy listening manner, and “B” side was most complex Rickie’s work up to that time, and those two sides made a nice little contrast on the aestetical canvas of this album.
One of the interesting characters with whom Jones colaborated closely throughout the career was Sal Bernardi, who contributed in some of the structurally most interesting Rickie’s songs Western Slopes from Pirates and song triology Rorschachs out of the Magazine. Strangely, I’m not familiar if Sal worked with anyone else or if he had some solo projetcs, but I’m curious about his work
Five years after Magazine Jones made another master piece Flying Cowboys which reminded many of us on Laura Nyro’s work. This was a great way for Rickie to pay a tribute to one her obvious influences. This time, Jones worked with Walter Becker behind boards, so the goregous sound was guaranteed.
Rickie Lee Jones likes to play other people’s songs, but she pretty much keeps a straight line between her own songs and covers. After the Girl At Her Volcano, she made two more cover only albums Pop pop and the most recent one It’s Like This. It is always a big pleasure hearing her strange performances and unusual sellections.
Jones’ moves are hard to predict. In 1997 she published her last album consisted of her own songs, Ghostyhead, which was a strangest little thing that came out in 1997. Rickie likes exploring music, so after listening to a lot of Bristol based trip hop bands, she made a trip hop album full of great poetic pastiches. I heard people calling her a trip pop beatnick, which was a great characterisation. Rickie also colaborated with Mike Watt on several of her live shows, and I’m very unpatient to hear more from two of them…