Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Rickie Lee Jones

  • Rickie Lee Jones [Warner Bros., 1979] B-
  • Pirates [Warner Bros., 1981] C+
  • The Magazine [Warner Bros., 1984] B-
  • Flying Cowboys [Geffen, 1989] B
  • Traffic from Paradise [Geffen, 1993] Choice Cuts
  • Ghostyhead [Warner Bros., 1997] Dud
  • It's Like This [Artemis, 2000] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Rickie Lee Jones [Warner Bros., 1979]
It isn't just the skeptic in me who suspects that, despite the critical brouhaha, this young singer-songwriter's attractions are more sexual than musical or literary. It's also the male--"Stick It Into Coolsville," eh? But the critic knows that there are only three or four of her songs--including "Coolsville"--that I'd enjoy hearing again. B-

Pirates [Warner Bros., 1981]
Crossing Springsteen and Waits from a male-identified female point of view, Jones doesn't let on whether she's narrating or evoking. She slurs like a convinced lush. Her impressionistically structured, jazz-tinged studio arrangements are the El Lay equivalent of art-rock. In short, she writes and sings and composes as if she has something to hide. From herself, most likely. C+

The Magazine [Warner Bros., 1984]
I'm glad for her sake that she's taken the beatnik indulgences out of her life, but they're not gone from her work. A mediocre poet is one whose imagery doesn't tempt you to figure out what he or she is saying. Even when he or she is backed up by studio musicians who hang upon his or her every word. Real song: "The Real Thing." B-

Flying Cowboys [Geffen, 1989]
She's got her feet on the ground, with a warm simple song about motherhood and a cracked blues about addiction the signposts, but everywhere there are images of flight--as something heroes do, as something she used to do, as something she still can do in her mind. For anyone who never bought her effusions, the music is an advance--grounded as well, from studio-rock four to white-reggae depth charge to the guitars and synths of that blues. Problem is, it rarely flies--which with her more effusive lyrics leaves her not adrift, just nowhere. B

Traffic from Paradise [Geffen, 1993]
"Rebel Rebel" Choice Cuts

Ghostyhead [Warner Bros., 1997] Dud

It's Like This [Artemis, 2000]
Proof a girl can sing standards and chew gum at the same time ("Show Biz Kids," "On the Street Where You Live"). *