Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jackie DeShannon

  • To Be Free [Imperial, 1970] C
  • Jackie [Atlantic, 1972] B
  • New Arrangement [Columbia, 1975] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

To Be Free [Imperial, 1970]
This being 1970, DeShannon makes like the minor pop aristocrat she is with vague stabs at meaningfulness--in addition to a thickheaded "Bird on the Wire" and a cute peaceable-kingdom double-fold, there are lots of songs about her minor, aristocratic life. "What Was Your Day Like" is a sweet, factual, painfully ambiguous account of geographically unrequited love that would put me on the next plane--too late, probably. All I get from the rest is that she's been spending a lot of time in Europe. C

Jackie [Atlantic, 1972]
About once a year, Jerry Wexler tries to bring a fundamentally soulful white female pop singer up to the minute. Sometimes it works (Dusty in Memphis, the all-time rock-era torch record), sometimes it doesn't (Cher, Lulu). This one almost works, not because DeShannon is such a terrific singer--although she's a lot more terrific with Wexler and friends pushing her from the bottom--but because for the first time in a while she's written a few terrific songs. Nothing wrong with her up-to-the-minute country-soul covers of Van Morrison, Neil Young, and their lessers, and nothing just right either. When she launches into her own "Vanilla 'Olay" or "Anna Karina," though, she sounds like time is on her side. B

New Arrangement [Columbia, 1975]
As an American songwriter who has escaped the confessional mode, and as a woman who can sing about subjects other than men, DeShannon exemplifies several healthy trends. The main thing this well-made record reveals, however, is an intelligent professionalism that matters about as much as a surge in enrollment in creative writing classes or women's liberation for female executives. B-