This one was a good earner for Jackie.
Well, not immediately but in 1981.
Kim Carnes recorded Jackie's "Bette Davis Eyes" and took it to #1 across the world. So the co-writers royalties would have been nice.
Jackie had gone from Liberty Records in the 1960s with such era-defining hits as "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" and "When You Walk in the Room" to Capitol records for a one off, then to Atlantic Records in 1972 with famed producer and DeShannon fan Jerry Wexler.
The trouble was she hadn't hit it big since the 60s, the last hit was 1969 thought they had tried everything and Jackie had shown she could do everything but luck wasn't on her side, or more likely, the radio stations were to busy fawning over other "new" stars rather than former pop stars who had "reinvented" themselves.
Pop music programmers likes boxes and doesn't want to be challenged.
Jackie had put out some fine albums and some stellar singles and some even better album tracks but nothing was clicking.
Columbia (CBS) picked her up and decided to update her sound and make her the more mature 70s female vocalist. Less pop, less earthy, more slick, more commercial. They teamed her with ex "We Five" guitarist, producer Michael Stewart (who had produced Billy Joel's "Piano Man" (1973)) album and surrounded her with legendary sessionmen Waddy Wachtel, Jesse Ed Davis, Larry Knechtel, Ron Tutt, Mike Deasy, and Leland Sklar.
This is mid 70s MOR slick singer songwriter pop rock … there is keyboard, synth and strings. But, for 1975 and this record could have been a lot slicker and glossier so I can assume it could have been a lot worse. There are enough "earthy" elements and individual sounds to each of the songs that gives it an cross genre edge over its glossy competition.
Jackie can do anything well.
She could do up-tempo pop and she could do country soul and singer songwriter.
But I can't help feeling with some more thumping arrangements this could have sounded a lot better.
The songs themselves are strong. Jackie largely eschews confessional or introspection in favour of witty observation. Her voice, as it matured, became increasingly smoky and attractive in that older woman way (she was only 34) and her melodies were as catchy as ever but they had become vehicles for the lyrics … and the lyrics were (gently) sharp.
There is a lot going on here. More than meets the eye.
But who will listen to it today unless 70s MOR production makes a comeback …
Perhaps I'm being a bit too hard. Some of the songs do break free and transcend the production and some fit in well with the production I just wish that they had the benefit of hindsight.
But then again … if every musician had that the world would be full of hits …
For biographical details on Jackie see my other comments.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Let the Sailors Dance – (Randy Edelman – Jackie DeShannon) – slick but no worse than anything similar coming out in 1975 and probably a little better especially with those lyrics
- Boat to Sail – (Jackie DeShannon) – Brian Wilson with his then-wife Marilyn provide backing vocals … and the in joke is that Brian is name checked on this song (and it even sounds a little like a Brian Wilson song). The song itself is great, a nice piece of dreamy, drifting along in a Caribbean boat, island pop. The song was covered by The Carpenters for their 1976 album "A Kind of Hush".
- Sweet Baby Gene – (Jackie DeShannon – Donna Terry Weiss) – a nie jazzy number
- A New Arrangement – (Glen Ballentyne – Jackie DeShannon) – The song needs a new "arrangement" (sic). The arrangements are too slick … strings and tinkly keyboards really date it. A pity because the lyrics are interesting – refering to a sexually ambivalent artist.
- Over My Head Again – (John Bettis – Jackie DeShannon) – James Brown is name checked in this horn driven pop rocker.
- Bette Davis Eyes – (Donna Terry Weiss – Jackie DeShannon) – This is a great song. But you won't recognise it here. DeShannon's original is an old school funky dance hall song as opposed to Kim Carnes toal revamping of it as a torture faux new wave melodrama. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bette_Davis_Eyes
- Queen of the Rodeo – (Donna Terry Weiss – Jackie DeShannon) – Jackie goes country and this is convincing and quite beautiful
- I Wanted It All – (John Bettis – Jackie DeShannon) – Another country-ih song. Covered by Rita Coolidge on her "It's Only Love" (1975) album.
- Murphy – (Glen Ballentyne – Jackie DeShannon) – A strange song. Like a tune from a Broadway show.
- Barefoot Boys and Barefoot Girls – (Jackie DeShannon – Donna Terry Weiss) – so so pop song.
- Dreamin' as One – (David Palmer – William Smith) – I'm not sure if this is a cover or not. I can't find any early recordings of it though it was recorded by Jorge Calderón on his "City Music" (1976) album, Blood, Sweat, & Tears on their "Brand New Day" (1977) album and by the co-author and sometimes BS&T sideman, William. D. Smith himself, on his solo album, "Smitty" (1978). A tender ballad with the emphasis on "tender".
There is some gold here and I do love Jackie … I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where
Boat to Sail
Sweet Baby Gene
A New Arrangement
Bette Davis Eyes
RIP – PF Sloan September 18, 1945 – November 15, 2015