It’s easy to make fun of Rickie Lee Jones, especially after George W. Bush and the Iraq War let her break free from her writer’s block — when she really shouldn’t have. Sometimes, the best gift you can give your fans is to just keep playing the old stuff. There’s also her general hippie-ness and leftwing nuttery. If hipster douchebags had been hanging out in coffee shops in the early ’80s instead of the early ’90s, you can totally picture them saying, “Yeah, I loved Rickie Lee — before she sold out.”
Her sell-out song would have been the outrageously overplayed “Chuck E.’s In Love,” about fellow singer-songwriter Chuck E. Weiss. I think he’s more famous for being the title character in RLJ’s song than he is for anything he did himself. Anyway, we’re not playing that one tonight, although I did learn to love it again after giving it a ten- or twelve-year rest.
“Chuck” was the starter track to Jones’s self-titled 1979 debut album. It’s one of my five-star desert-island albums, for the simple reason that I don’t think anyone ever put together such a solid collection of songs about wasted youth. These aren’t my memories, but they sure as hell could be, if only for how well Rickie Lee relates them. Oh, and it probably doesn’t hurt that the list of performers includes Michael McDonald on backing vocals, Tom Scott on horns and arrangement, Steve Gadd on drums, Dr. John on keys, Victor Feldman, Randy Newman, Chuck Findlay — the list goes on. The credits read like a Who’s Who of ’70s rock and pop. Rickie Lee had her own little Rock ‘n Roll Hall Of Fame playing on her very first outing. Not bad for a 24-year-old girl nobody had heard of, who’d come to L.A. just a couple years prior.
But we were speaking of wasted youth, and nobody ever wasted it any better than RLJ & Co., here on “Young Blood.”