Newly remastered and compiled for the first time, Duchess Of Coolsville brings together 26 year's worth of the uniquely talented Rickie Lee Jones. With over three hours of music on three inspired discs (including one full disc of rare and unreleased tracks), this collection serves as the ultimate introduction to an essential artist. Rhino. 2005.
Career overviews programmed by the artists themselves are generally inconsistent affairs, usually due to the musicians' own eccentricities. For Duchess of Coolsville
, this long-overdue Rickie Lee Jones compilation covering the years 1979-2003, she decided to sequence most of the songs in alphabetical order. It's a unique, yet rather bizarre, concept that dispenses with all sense of continuity, either chronological or musical. While this randomness behooves an artist as willfully eclectic as Jones, it also makes for a rollercoaster listening experience. Selecting tracks from 10 albums that alternately focused on folk, jazz, pop standards, and even electronica makes putting together any compilation of Jones's work a tough assignment, especially since each of her records has a distinctive flow. The 34 selections on the first two discs hit most, but not all, of the highlights from her often patchy releases. Disc 3 unearths seven demos, some live tracks, and several collaborations, few of which are revelatory.
Long in need of a sonic shining, these songs sparkle with fresh remastering, revealing production details most listeners will hear for the first time. While not the best or most coherent collection of Rickie Lee Jones's work that could have been assembled, this anthology provides a reasonably good overview of the Duchess of Coolsville's diverse, distinctive, and often dynamic career. --Hal Horowitz