11 Songs, 55 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a five-year hiatus from record-making, Rickie Lee Jones soared back with her adventuresome Flying Cowboys in 1989, and its eclectic tracks were noticeably different from the beatnik stylings of her early work. With Steely Dan’s Walter Becker at the production helm, Jones dipped her toes into reggae (“Ghetto Of My Mind”), street-corner doo-wop (“Rodeo Girl”) and spacey jazz (“Atlas’ Marker”) with wide-eyed seeker’s spirit. Travel, in fact, is a reoccurring theme here: the expansive Southwestern vistas of the title tune shade over into the ominous urban landscape of “Ghost Train” and the ragged trailer-park ambiance of “Away From The Sky.” There’s a worldly-wise sort of tenderness to these lyrics, whether Jones is singing to a child (“The Horses”) or a lover (“Love Is Gonna Bring Us Back Alive”), and the summery glide of “Satellites” catches Rickie at her most beguiling. Her vocals pour out warm and easy, wrapping bruised emotions in a blanket of cooing, billowy notes, helped by sympathetic arrangements, emphasizing tropical percussion, fluid acoustic guitars and dabs of synth-strings. Flying Cowboys may not have matched the commercial success of her first two albums, but track for track, it ranks near the top of her work.

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a five-year hiatus from record-making, Rickie Lee Jones soared back with her adventuresome Flying Cowboys in 1989, and its eclectic tracks were noticeably different from the beatnik stylings of her early work. With Steely Dan’s Walter Becker at the production helm, Jones dipped her toes into reggae (“Ghetto Of My Mind”), street-corner doo-wop (“Rodeo Girl”) and spacey jazz (“Atlas’ Marker”) with wide-eyed seeker’s spirit. Travel, in fact, is a reoccurring theme here: the expansive Southwestern vistas of the title tune shade over into the ominous urban landscape of “Ghost Train” and the ragged trailer-park ambiance of “Away From The Sky.” There’s a worldly-wise sort of tenderness to these lyrics, whether Jones is singing to a child (“The Horses”) or a lover (“Love Is Gonna Bring Us Back Alive”), and the summery glide of “Satellites” catches Rickie at her most beguiling. Her vocals pour out warm and easy, wrapping bruised emotions in a blanket of cooing, billowy notes, helped by sympathetic arrangements, emphasizing tropical percussion, fluid acoustic guitars and dabs of synth-strings. Flying Cowboys may not have matched the commercial success of her first two albums, but track for track, it ranks near the top of her work.

TITLE TIME
4:49
4:45
6:11
4:52
4:55
4:16
5:03
4:17
4:51
5:31
5:57

About Rickie Lee Jones

From her 1979 debut onward, Rickie Lee Jones has proved to be an original, mixing beatnik-based poetic sensibilities with R&B, jazz, folk, and pop. Most of her commercial success came at the outset of her career, but a restless creative spirit -- combined with a stubborn refusal to fit comfortably into any one musical niche -- sealed her ultimate destiny as that of a highly regarded cult heroine.

Jones was born on November 8, 1954, in Chicago, but the volatile relationship between her mother and father resulted in an upbringing that led her everywhere from Phoenix, Arizona, to Olympia, Washington, where an expulsion ended her school career. As a teen, Jones left home and began drifting up and down the West Coast before settling in Los Angeles in the mid-'70s. There she worked a series of waitressing jobs while occasionally performing in area clubs, where she sang and honed her unique, Beat-influenced spoken word monologues. She also began a relationship with fellow boho Tom Waits.

Her first measure of success was as a songwriter; after her friend Ivan Ulz sang Jones' composition "Easy Money" over the phone to Lowell George, the ex-Little Feat frontman included it on his album Thanks I'll Eat It Here. Then in 1978 Jones' four-song demo came to the attention of Warner Bros. executive Lenny Waronker, who enlisted Russ Titleman to co-produce her self-titled 1979 debut LP. Spurred by the success of the jazz-flavored hit single "Chuck E's in Love," Rickie Lee Jones became a smash both commercially and critically, earning praise for Jones' elastic vocals, vivid wordplay, and unique fusion of folk, jazz, and R&B.

With 1981's follow-up, Pirates, she gave early notice that her music would not sit still; employing longer and more complex song structures, her lyrics tackled themes of evolution, change, and death. Two years later, she returned with Girl at Her Volcano, an EP collection of live jazz standards and studio outtakes; with 1984's The Magazine, she made another left turn, teaming with composer James Newton Howard for her slickest, most synth-driven outing to date.

After taking a few years off from recording, she resurfaced with 1989's sterling Flying Cowboys, produced by Steely Dan's Walter Becker and recorded with the aid of the wonderful Scottish trio the Blue Nile. Don Was took over the production reins for 1991's Pop Pop, on which Jones covered ballads ranging in origin from Tin Pan Alley to the Haight-Ashbury while backed by jazz players including Charlie Haden and Joe Henderson. After 1993's Traffic from Paradise, she embarked on an acoustic tour; Naked Songs, a document of those unplugged shows, followed in 1995. Ghostyhead was released in 1997 and the standards record It's Like This appeared three years later.

Jones returned to original material in 2003 with The Evening of My Best Day, an album that expressed her anger and disappointment with contemporary American politics. During the summer of 2005, Rhino released the career-spanning three-CD anthology Duchess of Coolsville. Two years later, Jones released The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, a stunning collection of songs based on friend Lee Cantelon's 1997 book The Words. Balm in Gilead, another album that found Jones exploring personal and spiritual themes, followed in 2009. In 2012, Jones returned with the Ben Harper-produced covers album Devil You Know. For her next project, Jones chose to protect her unique vision by taking full control of the process; 2015's The Other Side of Desire was financed through an online crowdfunding campaign and released by Jones through her own label, Other Side of Desire Music. ~ Jason Ankeny

  • ORIGIN
    Chicago, IL
  • GENRE
    Pop
  • BORN
    November 8, 1954

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