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Flying Cowboys

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Album Review

Five years after the disappointing The Magazine, Rickie Lee Jones returned to form with Flying Cowboys, which shared much of the playful, childlike charm of her debut, Rickie Lee Jones, and some of the musically diffuse, lyrically ambitious form of its follow-up, Pirates. From the opening track, "The Horses," which suggested a mother's delight with her child as much as a lover's devotion, Jones reintroduced the joyous tone of her early work as well as establishing the Western theme that would run through the album — cowboys, rodeos, horses, deserts — without adding up to an actual storyline. The easy rhythms and lazy, flexible singing on the first few songs were reminiscent of Laura Nyro's work with Labelle on their Gonna Take a Miracle album, after which Jones branched out into reggae and folk-blues, coming up with an affectionate bluesman voice on "Ghost Train." "Satellites," the college radio hit, used the sprung rhythms and surprising choral parts familiar from her popular early songs. If Jones could be obscure and unfocused as a writer, that weakness was also her strength, since it was an expression of the imagination that also produced her most striking musical effects. Producer Walter Becker may have helped keep things from getting as grandiose as they had on The Magazine, but it was really the artist herself who managed to rein in from that album's self-importance. If what resulted was not as accomplished as Pirates, it was the most accessible and enjoyable music Jones had made since her debut.

Biography

Born: 08 November 1954 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Once touted as the natural successor to Joni Mitchell, singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones proved no less idiosyncratic or mercurial; like Mitchell, Jones experienced significant commercial success at the outset of her career, but a restless creative spirit — combined with a stubborn refusal to fit comfortably into...
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