The Devil You Know
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2012
If you're a long-time fan, you know that many of Rickie Lee's best records (1983's 'Girl At Her Volcano' and 1991's 'Pop Pop') can sound a little jarring and polarizing at first, but over time they grow on you in ways only few records can. In many respects, the gothic and stark 'The Devil You Know' follows the tradition, even dropping a telling clue ("puzzling you/is the nature of my game"). The record is a unified and uncompromising collection of tunes written by others songwriters as masterful as Jones herself (Jagger/Richards, Van Morrison, Donovan, Neil Young). You'll like that her voice is kept up front and center and how the breadth of it creates tension by hinting at the music's depth while obscuring it at the same time. This record is also how I listen to Jones as an artist--when she's uses a sense a theatre to render her music. Her most vivid roles are haunted and grotesque characters ("Playing With Fire", "Sympathy For The Devil", "St. James Infirmary"), but provide amazing contrast to the bulk of songs, which are full of heart-rending solicitude and compassion {"The Weight", "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"). You may like Jones' neat trick of weathering already old songs with world-weariness in her voice and sparse sonic flourishes (her own inimitable invention: Western impressionism schooled in jazz). If I'm correct, the "devil" Jones' has sold her soul for is not so much breathing new life into already beloved songs, but her willingness to upend enshrined performances perhaps once mistaken as definitive readings.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2012
'The Devil You Know', as all RLJ albums, arrives just at the right time. Here, in an election Autumn full of surface platitudes and empty promises, comes an album that goes right to the heart. This is a daring, fun, surprising, and thoroughly intimate exploration of songs we thought we knew. All ten tracks here, from 'Sympathy for the Devil' to 'Catch the Wind' offer fresh perspectives on their lyrics and meanings and sounds. The musical arrangements are spare, subtle, haunting and beautiful. I keep hearing new little things each time I listen and so the record just keeps opening and opening, an ever-expanding atmosphere to bathe in. 'Seems Like a Long Time' could not be more relevant to the Times we are in, and the little whoop of 'yeah' in the midst of 'The Weight' gives me a thrill each time. RLJ has written many original 'spiritual' tunes thru the years ("Running From Mercy' from Traffic from Paradise has always been a favorite of mine) and the tunes here are all part of that thread. I read in an interview that Laura Nyro's 'Been on a Train' was considered for this record but didn't quite fit, and I only hope it does make sense on a future record because...well, I just want to hear her sing it! And by the way, I highly recommend checking out her website for tour information because the only thing better than having this record is catching Rickie Lee Jones live in concert where she goes to the wall night after night, a true artist living and singing in the moment and sharing it all with us, her grateful fans. I have said it before and I'll say it again: we are lucky to be living in these Rickie Lee Jones times.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2012
Rickie Lee Jones is one of the most gifted songwriters in my lifetime - a performer who can paint a picture with words and music like few others can. Here, like she did on her "Girl At Her Volcano," "Pop Pop" and "It's Like This" albums, she takes on other writers' words, but makes the songs very much her own.

There's a fragility and rawness in her interpretations here, especially on Van Morrison's "Comfort You" and Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart."

I thought I'd never need to hear another version of The Band's "The Weight" after Mavis Staples took it to new heights, but Rickie Lee slows it down, focuses on the words, and presents it like a bonus track from her classic "Pirates" album.

Producer Ben Harper is clearly a Rickie Lee Jones fan. The production and instrumentation is spare, putting the focus squarely on Rickie's voice.

All this to say - I love it. I hope you do too.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2012
OK, this is probably a different kind of review than most...and I hope I don't get a lot of 'not helpfuls' just due to this opening statement...but I am in my mid 40s, and to my knowledge have never heard Rickie Lee Jones before this CD. I recognize the name of course, but do not associate it immediately with any of the music I've listened to. I like all kinds of music, but listen to mostly jazz and swing lately. Yet this CD is nothing like those styles.

I heard a couple tunes sampled from "The Devil You Know" on NPR last week and immediately pre-ordered the CD. It arrived today and OMG...I am hooked! To say this recording is spare, yet hauntingly beautiful, is an understatement. This is one of those very rare CD's that, playing it for the first time, I know I will love listening to it for the rest of my life. The familliar songs are just beautifully rendered (often in unfamilliar ways) in a sound I would classify as Mississippi Delta Blues.

This CD is probably not to all tastes, but it sure does speak to me. Bravo!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
When I put this CD on, I cringed. Why they sequenced "Sympathy for the Devil" first, I have no idea. I think I'd rather hear Susan Boyle record it. At least she'd have perfect pitch as on her "Wild Horses." Jones unfortunately also tackles the Stones' "Play With Fire." But Rickie Lee does have some redeeming points. Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" is gentle and tender; it gives me a buzz. Ben Harper who produced the set has his "Masterpiece" crucified with a snoozer. I think my favorite track is The Band's "The Weight," it's such a great melody that when Rickie sings, "Take a load off Fanny," sounding tired and beat, it has an ironic poignancy. Hugh Laurie from TV's "House" fame did an amazing version of the traditional "St. James Infirmary." Rickie sounds exhausted and then drunk when she warbles, "Let her go, let her go, God bless her." Van Morrison's "Comfort You" is another low moment on the disc as is her energy-less reading of Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe." I think Rickie was trying to find the hidden fragility within these songs such as her reading of Donovan's "Catch the Wind" that works marginally well. But when the CD is bad, it's dreadful. This is not Jones' greatest hit. Taxi!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2012
If you're my age... or Rickie Lee's for that matter, virtually all the songs on her new album are engraved in your unconscious. You can sing the words. In a pinch you might have made the record, yourself. Hence the title, The Devil You Know. But that is where the adventure begins.

Rickie Lee Jones puts so much of herself into each of these songs, she makes them her own. Initially the arrangements sound very minimal, but as you listen closer and more frequently, these arrangements are full of subtle instrumentation, understated bongo drums, sparse fiddle leads, a wicked Dobro slide with Rickie Lee's Robert Johnson-like phrasing way up front. This is Sympathy for the Devil like I've never heard it before. It's subdued, eerie, maleficent. Neil Young's Only Love Can Break Your Heart in Rickie's mouth seems to be some special code, as though she's singing more than a song for public consumption. Ben Harper's Masterpiece feels like the centerpiece of the record. I don't think I've ever heard Rickie Lee sound so beautiful as she does on that number. But then her rendition of Robbie Robertson's The Weight, wow, what she brings to that. The Weight is a sardonic, cynical, ironic song. Rickie replaces the cynicism with genuine disappointment. I mean this in the best way, her performance here sounds like a prostitute who has been gypped of her fee but she's too exhausted and depressed to fight for it. It is one of the great theater performances on record.

I wish she had sung St. James Infirmary in it's entirety. The snippet of it here underlines the point that there is more to this record than public consumption. What we have is one of the great renditions of this familiar standard. It brings me to tears, and transitions to Van Morrison's brilliant Comfort You from his spectacular 1974 album Veedon Fleece. Rickie Lee can sing the blues like very few white people. When she sings this, I want to comfort her. What's wrong, woman? This record does break my heart.

Tim Hardin's Reason to Believe adds to the Jones Code. Both Hardin and Rod Stewart did magnificent recordings of this sad and powerful aire. From Rickie it becomes a new song with new and secret meaning. Jagger and Richards' 1965 Play With Fire, one of my all-time favorite Stones'songs, is beautifully performed under a steady rhythm guitar, over a scratchy slide guitar and a persistent tambourine. Here Rickie sounds stoned, offering empty threats she knows will be ignored.

Seems Like a Long Time I know from Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells a Story, Rickie brings a pathos to this thoughtful song way beyond the mere words. She concludes the collection with Donovan's To Catch the Wind. Here the tempo rises slightly. Clouds are parting and the sun is pushing through. She may not catch the wind but she is going to be all right. She has woven her sorrow into her art and the tapestry is a masterpiece. This is NOT an ordinary collection of covers from a singer songwriter too busy to write songs. In many ways Rickie Lee Jones has never exposed so much of herself as she does on this record. And that from an artist famous for truth in composition. This is another of my selections for Record of the Year. I can't stop playing it. I keep hearing more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2013
Okay, it came as a shock when listening to the first cut. The harmonic, polished, and refreshed voice of Rickie Lee Jones did not appear like I thought it should have. This whole set of songs are done with a rather stark sound. A rough voice belted out beats from the hard rock era of the 60's and 70's. To be truthful, I had to listen for at least five times, until I felt comfortable with Rickie's vocal style addressing the Big Rock Super Standards. I am really getting use to this new direction that Rickie has ventured in. I am a very strong hard core Rickie Lee fan, so I was willing to go which ever road she goes down. I think only the bravest and strongest fans will add this one to their RLJ collection. I wish RLJ the best and hopes she gets this period out of her system and returns to the pure sounds she has produced over the past thirty plus years.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
Rickie Lee Jones' output has become slightly uneven over the last few years, so I was unsure about this CD. But the musicianship, on her part and her back-up people, was just stellar. This is an album of "covers," and it is unquestionably the best "cover album" I have ever listened to. It deserves the highest recommendation, and Rickie Lee Jones remains an impressive and innovative musician!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2012
I didn't immediately enjoy it, yet I was drawn back. Call it an acquired taste. Better still, call it an appreciation for something I at first did not understand. I do now and it's one I'll play again and again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2015
I read some questionable reviews of this record, some seemed rather personal - Drug addled? I cannot imagine this kind of disrespect offered to males of the genre who have discussed drug use. how is it possible drugs can still be used to insult someone? I was offended by the reference to drugs - and booze, a long sober mother and musician, who boldly has been forthright about all of her lives and experiences - and look who gets to throw stones. You don't like the record say why. You insult the artist, you maybe don't deserve to have the right to post here. I believe great artists, no matter how interesting their work, deserve people capable of great onsite. To have Rickie Lee Jones described as drug addled in a review of her most recent release is simply embarrassing.

The Devil You Know continuing I suppose with her recent themes - the Sermon on Exposition Blvd, Balm in Gilead and now the Devil You know.
Here are songs written by Neil Young, the Band, the Rolling Stones, Ben Harper, and some Rod Stewart Hits and an old Irish tune called St James Infirmary. ...
Sympathy for the Devil - she reinvents this song, again, makes it.. personal. A feat for such a known song, an anthem. She removes it from the whoa whoas, the bongos, the echo. She asks the question, in a way, does this song have relevance outside of the generation Rock? She makes this song scary. Its a howl, a warning. I am the devil, and I've come for your soul.
The Weight, a piano solo version, simple. A terrible longing and relinquishing of hope takes place during the singing of this song. Its not as much an regret of a generation as one single woman's loss.
She transforms.
Jones has taken on rock standards before and made them new, the acoustic version of - Rebel Rebel in 1996. boys don't cry used it for the ads for the film.
The recorded version is a bit tamer than the live. Only Love can Break your Heart is some peoples favorite probably because its the most accessible song. .

Funny, this artist was probably the reason pop and rock musicians today can record covers with credibility. She was the number one female pop, rock singer for a few years in the 80s, what she did in her apex really did affect what others were able to do. Singer songwriters did NOT do covers before Rickie Lee Jones made it part of how She did what she did. She sang jazz standards like Lush Life and My Funny Valentine AND Under the Boardwalk with songs from her first two records. She mixed it up man. It's unfortunate that her story was not told when she was popular. everything is so easily rewritten by people who do not know and believe whatever PR someones publicist dreams up.

This is a collection of rock standards. this one is the least interesting, in my opinion. But this artist never deserves a poor rating. However-- She is covering her face. If I didn't know better,
I'd think there was something about the work she did not relate to.

Like Nina Simone, or Laura Nyro, she comes from a genius that is totally Self reflective.
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