Way back in 1979, Rickie Lee Jones burst on the scene with her self titled debut record. Not that I cared, I was 19, worked in the shipyard and was very content listening to Rush, Pink Floyd and all things electric. Besides, I hated that damn song Rick E.’s In Love. It was as if the world had conspired against me to line up that song alternately on each radio station I listened to. I could not get away from that beret-wearing, cigar smoking hippie. In my mind, this was a record to avoid at all costs.
As luck would have it, I was reintroduced to it at a party in college. Maybe it was the beer, the girls or me falling out of love with head-banger music, but I didn’t run when the record started. Instead, I found myself drawn to it, eventually finding the stereo and taking a seat close by. By the time Easy Money began I was focused on the poetry Rickie was weaving. From that day forward I paid attention to everything Rickie Lee Jones wrote and I also learned to not judge a record by one song. Even if that song is Rick E.’s In Love.
A while back, Mobile Fidelity announced it was giving Rickie Lee Jones Debut record the full audiophile treatment and releasing it both a 33RPM and deluxe two record 45RPM box set. Rhino Records, the boutique label for WEA, did a bang up 33RPM reissue back in 2008 including mastering services from Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey. So why reissue it again? Maybe it’s because the Rhino reissue is now out-of-print or perhaps Mofi felt they could take the record even further. Whatever the reason, it was good to see the royal treatment for the queen of cool.
I felt obligated to order the new Mofi release. If there was any chance to improve on this record, I needed to own it. Already owning the original and the Rhino reissue, it was pretty clear that the 45RPM box set was the way to go. The packaging is typical Mobile Fidelity quality and top shelf artwork. The box includes the two records with large booklet containing liner notes, lyrics etc. Sleeves, of course are Mobile Fidelity premiums and foam inserts makes sure nothing shifts around in shipping. The vinyl was, as expected, perfectly flat with no signs of scuffs or manufacturing marks.
Dropping the needle (on you know which song) I was taken by a couple of things. First, the music had much more contrast as compared to the Rhino reissue and secondly, the percussion was superb. The background was pitch black and the music leapt from the darkness perfectly fitting Rickie’s stacatto style. Finely placed instruments seemed to arise and disappear without a trace. Percussion from finger snaps to drum kits punctuated the music driving it forward. Every beat was tightly packaged and hitting home when called upon and then vanishing into the night.
This record has always had a big soundstage, but this version seems to add a substantial amount of air to it. Within that large stage, Rickie tells a story with lyrics, music and textured presentation that is unique to her music. The pops, stabby guitar chords and even Rickie’s slurring lyrics allow the music to paint a picture that is much more than simple notes on a page. This latest release gives her a bigger canvas to work on making the presentation that much more enjoyable.
My favorite track on the record is Last Chance Texaco. The slow mornful acoustic guitar always gives me goosebumps and the cryptic lyrics always make me wonder what in the hell is she trying to tell me. With this reissue, the opening guitar chords are almost cloud-like floating in the soundstage and Rickie’s voice cuts through the fog to begin her strange tale. I was captivated with the presentation and goosebumps stuck around for most of the song.
I have come a long way since I ignored Rickie Lee Jones in 1979. I still have flashbacks when Chuck E is mentioned, but I have learned that the artist is a whole lot more than one song. She is now one of my favorite artists and I am very happy that Mobile Fidelity has done such a bang up job with the 45RPM box set. For me, I have found a new reference record and look forward to years of goosebumps from Texaco.