Saturday, September 18, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Rickie Lee Jones
Warner Brothers/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-328 180g LPs
Produced by: Russ Titelman and Lenny Waronker
Engineered by: Lee Herschberg, Loyd Clifft and Mark Linett
Mixed by: Lee Herschberg
Mastered by: Rob LoVerde at MFSL, Sebastopol, CA



Early Rickie Lee Gets Deluxe Mo-Fi Treatment
by Michael Fremer
September 01, 2010

The opener to this heavily produced album “We Belong Together” owes its existence to Bruce Springsteen, but most of the rest channels Laura Nyro.

Old school talent packaging held sway in the early 1980s and the record labels had the money to invest in their choices. This follow up to Ricki Lee Jones’s debut is a production spectacular the likes of which no longer exist unless the artist has deep personal pockets.

Every note, every gesture, every drum hit and keyboard strike has been choreographed and perfectly shaped behind Jones’s vulnerable nasal whine or delicate wisp of a reminiscence.

She’s sold in the photos as a sex object not as a cool bohemian, which would be more honest and appropriate. The airbrushed album photos look as if Jones’s handlers saw her as a Stevie Nicks type. Her future albums would exude a basic honesty that eludes this overproduced extravaganza but it was a product of the times and of two producers, one of whom came from a father wedded to the “old school.”

So the overproduced aspects—the strings, the opulent backdrops and luxurious reverb and the preciousness of “Skeletons” are to be forgiven.

Mostly, Pirates is a superb sounding jazzy, folky time capsule back to a time when an artist was overwhelmed, probably against her own better instincts by well-meaning packagers. They gave Ricki Lee a fantastic send off on her way to albums that were more intimate, personal and superior communicators of what lurked inside.

No expense was spared here. Just look at who plays! Chuck Rainey, Steve Gadd, Steve Lukather, Donald Fagen, Dean Parks, Buzzy Feiten, Lenny Castro, Victor Feldman, Randy Brecker, David Sanborn and Tom Scott among others. It’s a veritable '80s “We Are the World” assemblage of musicians!

So yes, it’s not rock and roll and it’s not jazz. It’s not pop either. It’s really a producer’s extravaganza in which Ricki Lee Jones takes a backseat to the whims of the executives in charge. It’s a fascinating time capsule to an out of joint time but one where everyone involved was sure they were doing the right thing.

Through it all Ricki Lee Jones maintains her dignity as she pushes against the production onslaught. Just listen to “ A Lucky Guy” on side two. Like much of the rest, it’s a simple, breezy tune but it’s been produced to the extreme. Every note, every cymbal hit and background “ooh, ooh” has been considered and orchestrated. The engineers have recorded every sound as if the life of the whole production depended upon its being perfect and perfectly heard by the listeners.

Mobile Fidelity’s ultra-pure playback chain is the ideal conduit for this precise production and the resulting LP and SACD are both opulent and lush sounding without sacrificing transient speed and inner detail. Rickie Lee almost gets swamped here, but Mo-Fi’s mastering in both digital and analog formats keeps her breathing.

Laura Nyro’s legacy looms large here and if you missed her you owe it to yourself to go back and give her a listen after enjoying this.

Thanks to Michael over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

This Date In Music History - September 18


Jimmie Rodgers (1933)

Frankie Avalon (1939)

Alan King - Ace (1946)

Kerry Livgren - Kansas (1949)

Mike Hossack - Doobie Brothers (1950)

Martin Beedle - Cutting Crew (1961)

Joanne Catherall - Human League (1962)

Richard Walmsley - Beatmasters (1962)

Mike Heaton - Embrace (1966)

Ricky Bell - New Edition (1967)

They Are Missed:

Jessie Hill ("Ooh Poo Pah Doo") died of heart failure in 1996.

Al Casey ("Surfin' Hootnenanny") died after a respiratory illness in 2006.

Born on this day in 1952, Dee Dee Ramone, (Douglas Colvin), bass, The Ramones. He died of a drug overdose June 6, 2002.


Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City, NY in 1947. It was the first country show at the venue.

Elvis Presley appeared at The Eagles Nest, Memphis Tennessee in 1954.

Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded the immortal cut "16 Tons" in 1955.

A Fats Domino concert at a naval station in Rhode Island in 1956 ended in a riot. As a result, the base commander banned Rock n’ Roll shows saying the damage was caused by the "excitement accompanying the fever-pitched Rock n’ Roll."

On his twenty-first birthday in 1960, Frankie Avalon was given $600,000 that he earned as a minor from such hits as his 1959 US #1 single 'Venus'.

Bobby Vee started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1961 with "Take Good Care Of My Baby."

The Beatles, on tour in the USA in 1964, performed at Dallas Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, Texas.

The Doors appeared at Bido Lito's, Hollywood, California in 1966. Also on the bill The Seeds.

In 1967, the Doors appeared on CBS-TV's 'Ed Sullivan Show' and infuriate Mr. Sullivan when they sang "Light My Fire," which had been banned over the line "Girl, we couldn't get much higher.

In 1968, working at Abbey Road studios on new songs for their forthcoming ‘White Album,' the Beatles recorded 20 takes of "Birthday." Roadie Mal Evans added handclaps, and Yoko Ono and Pattie Harrison contributed backing vocals on the track.

Diana Ross recorded "Love Child" without the other Supremes in 1968.

In 1969, Tiny Tim announced on "The Tonight Show" to Johnny Carson his engagement to Miss Vicki Budinger. Carson asked the two to be married on the show. They made TV history with the wedding on December 17, 1969.

In 1970, Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Mary Abbot's Hospital in London at the age of 27 after choking on his own vomit. Hendrix left the message 'I need help bad man', on his managers answer phone earlier that night.

Pink Floyd performed "Atom Heart Mother" at the Classical Music Festival in Montreaux, Switzerland in 1971.

The Who, Mott The Hoople, The Faces and Atomic Rooster all appeared at The Oval, London in 1972. Cool bill....

Billy Joel began recording the overplayed cut "Piano Man" in 1973.

One hit wonders Wild Cherry started a three week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1976 with the silly cut "Play That Funky Music." The song started life as a B-side.

The second annual Rock Music Awards ran on CBS in 1976.

"More Than A Feeling" by Boston was released in 1976.

The members of KISS all released solo albums in 1978. The members at the time were Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Peter Criss.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse kicked off a 23 date US tour at The Cobo in Detroit in 1978 promoting the album "Comes A Time.' (and in my humble opinion, one of his best efforts)

The Doors are hot. Their “Greatest Hits” goes platinum in 1981. What’s interesting is The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison has been dead for a decade and the rest of the group ceased recording shortly thereafter.

In 1983, Kiss appeared without their 'make-up' for the first time during an interview on MTV.

The album "Lick It Up" was released by KISS in 1983.

David Bowie won Video of the year for 'China Girl' at the first MTV Video awards in 1984.

KISS released the album "Crazy Nights" in 1987.

Garth Brooks went to #1 on the US album chart in 1993 with 'In Pieces.' The album spent 25 weeks on the chart and sold over 6m copies.

In 1996, At Sotheby's in London, Julian Lennon successfully bid just over $39,000, for the recording notes for the song Paul McCartney wrote for him, "Hey Jude." At the same event, John Lennon's scribbled lyrics to "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite" sold for $103,500.

In 1999, it was reported that Smashing Pumpkins bassist D'Arcy Wretzky had quit the band.

Bon Jovi performed at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London in 2002. More than 375,000 people viewed the live Web cast of the show.

In 2006, 73 year old country singer Willie Nelson and four members from his band were charged with drug possession after marijuana and magic mushrooms were found by police on his tour bus. Police had stopped the tour bus near Lafayette, Louisiana.

Foo Fighters, The Eagles and Bob Dylan performed at a private party in San Francisco in 2006 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the biotechnology firm Genentech. Nice perk.

In 2006, Sir Cliff Richard unveiled a plaque to mark a tiny basement said to be the birthplace of British rock and roll, fifty years after the "2 i's" coffee bar opened in London's Old Compton Street. The Tornados, Tommy Steele, The Shadows and Adam Faith were among stars who started out at the club.

Carlos Santana and wife Deborah co-chair the U.S. edition of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 75th birthday festivities in Beverly Hills, Calif. in 2006. The event benefits the Artists for a New South Africa organization, which seeks to fight the African AIDS crisis and supports human rights and democracy in South Africa. 2006

One year later, Santana performed at the Dream Concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall. The event raises money for construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, pop singer Gloria Estefan issues "90 Millas" with the single "No Llores," featuring Santana.

Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx's biography, The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star, is in bookstores in 2007. " It's given me some closure on a lot of different issues, to be able to discover, through the book, what was driving me," says Sixx. He makes a book store tour in L.A. to promote the tome’s publication.

The US House Of Representatives passed a resolution in 2008 honoring the late Isaac Hayes as "a passionate humanitarian."

In 2008, the Martin Guitar Company partners with John Mellencamp to create a special John Mellencamp Signature Edition Martin Guitar - inspired by Mellencamp’s acoustic 12-fret parlor guitar he calls Maybell, believed to be one of the May Bell (or May-Bell) guitars built in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Martin donates a portion of the proceeds from sales to Farm Aid, a cause very close to Mellencamp.

In 2009, Leonard Cohen collapsed on stage during a concert in Valencia in Spain and was taken to hospital. He was later discharged after doctors told him he had food poisoning. Cohen was in the middle of singing his song Bird On The Wire when he fainted, prompting the band to stop playing and rush to help him.

John Fogerty was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting by the Americana Music Association in 2009.