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Pennies In A Jar

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

One of the new faces of modern soul, Nikki Jean decided to travel the country and collaborate with her songwriting heroes. Did she succeed? Wildly! The songs she sings here were co-written with Carole King ( Rockaway ), Jimmy Webb ( China ), Carly Simon ( Sex, Lies and Sunshine ), Bob Dylan ( Steel and Feathers ), Burt Bacharach ( Pennies in a Jar ) and more!

About the Artist

Nikki Jean had an idea. More of a mission, really. She would travel across the country, stopping off in the great music cities, and collaborate on new songs with writers who, by anybody's measure, would have to rank at the very top of any list of the most accomplished men and women ever to work at the craft and art of songwriting. She'd explain this goal, and her eyes would light up, and you couldn't help but get drawn into the plan. It seemed so pure, and at the same time, wild and improbable.

Who could imagine this, that an artist whose link to the modern world of commercial pop music was appearing on records by Lupe Fiasco, who was still in her early 20s and had no solo recordings on her resume, would reach out to songwriters such as Jimmy Webb, Carole King, Lamont Dozier, Burt Bacharach, Bob Dylan, and ask them to collaborate, and that so many of them would open their doors? That she could spend weeks in Nashville writing with members of the Country Music Songwriters Hall of Fame like Bobby Braddock, go to Martha's Vineyard to write with Carly Simon, recapture the sound of Philly Soul with Thom Bell? Get Brill Building writers Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Jeff Barry, all now relocated in Los Angeles, to write with her the way they used to write in the cubicles of Aldon Music? It was hard not to get swept up in her enthusiasm, and at the same time, wondering if she'd be able to pull this off.

That was around three years ago, when Nikki and her producer Sam Hollander started talking about the project that is now called `Pennies In A Jar.' Nikki had told Sam that what she had in mind, at first, was a modern version of Carole King's `Tapestry': an album rich in melody, emotional and truthful, with all the songwriting elements that are in such short supply, even on pop radio, where songs sound assembled out of spare parts that are lying around in the studio, a beat here, a riff there, a lyric idea from somewhere else. Nikki wanted to get back. Sam thought about this, and expanded on it. Why doesn't she, if she wants to capture that essence of songwriting, work with some of the form's masters, the architects? Go to the source.

So they began this. With the help of publishers Jody Gerson and Marty Bandier, and a contract with a major label, they started to contact a wish list of people to write with. Jimmy Webb, who almost never collaborates, said he would. Burt Bacharach sent Nikki melodies for verses and chorus, and waited for a lyric before sending her the bridge: he wanted to be sure. Mann & Weil welcomed her into their home. Dylan sent her an unfinished song from the `Shot of Love' era, and invited her to complete it. She got to write with Luigi Creatore, whose roots go back to the `50s with Sam Cooke, and who wrote for Elvis.

Ultimately, maybe fifty songs were written for this album. What you hear is a compact history of pop: the girl group sound, Motown, the sophisticated melodies of Bacharach and Webb, a place where country literally meets hip-hop, the art of the singer-songwriter. All tied together by Nikki Jean's warmth, her joy in making this music, her gift to be able to change shape and still stay herself. The challenge for her, and for Sam, was to take all these influences, all this geographical and musical range, and make it flow. To point, in each individual track, to the place it sprang from, and have it fit with the songs surrounding it. To sound, always, like Nikki. They've accomplished this beautifully, and anybody who cares about real songs, and who loves discovering something new, and who is dazzled by the names on the songwriting credits alongside Nikki's, needs to listen.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 12, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: S-Curve
  • ASIN: B0052KJ5VI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,615 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luigi Facotti VINE VOICE on July 19, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This CD takes me back to buying vinyl in the 70s - sounds like Nikki Jean was having fun - and the songwriter collaborations work - especially that with Thom Bell. Nikki Jean has a strong voice and her production team does not overwhelm her. The package design is also really nice -lacquered overprinting and good photography. Good all around.
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I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, so when I heard Nikki Jean recorded an album of songs penned by the best songwriters of that era, my hopes were high. That she chose songs no one has heard and did a wonderful job keeping them contemporary is a tribute to her talent. Where else will you find new songs by Bob Dylan, Barry Mann, Carly Simon, Carole King, Lamont Dozier, Thom Bell, Burt Bacharach, Jeff Barry, Paul Williams and Jimmy Webb? If you like female singers whose voices ache as they perform, you'll love this debut.
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"Pennies in a Jar" is a collection of pleasant collaborations between singer Nikki Jean and a Who's Who of rock/pop songwriters. As you'd expect from an album where Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach, Paul Williams, Carole King and so many others have contributed, the end result covers a lot of territory and moods just like old pop albums from the early 1970s did. You'll like some songs, feel indifferent about others, and have one or two favorites.

My personal favorite on this album is "Sex, Lies and Sunshine," co-written with Carly Simon. The music is buoyant, feel-good and summery, with a refrain that owes a lot to Spandau Ballet of all people. Yet the lyrics are considerably more bittersweet, in the "can't live with them/can't live without them" vein and I lost track of how many times I hit the 'repeat' button to listen to this song again.

I had the pleasure of seeing Nikki Jean live in 2011 and bought this album soon after. It's exceptionally tuneful and high-quality pop, and its a shame it's been all but ignored since it was released. I really hope some TV producer uses a track here for a TV series or a commercial and gives this gem of an album the boost it needs to reach a wider audience.

If nothing else, Nikki Jean's given us an antidote for the deadly monotony of much of this week's Top 40 Singles.
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I found an interview with Nikki Jean on You tube and was intrigued by her description of this album. I'm a fan of young artists reaching back to create a retro soul/pop sound and Nikki Jean took it a step further by actually collaborating with songwriters who are considered heavyweights in the music industry: Burt Bacharach, Lamont Dozier, Thom Bell, Bob Dylan, Carol King & Carly Simon to name a few.

This is the type of album that I'd listen to on a warm summer day - it's sunny, breezy light soulful pop music matched well with Nikki Jean's delicate vocals. I think this is an ambitious idea to debut an artist and mostly they got it right but my hope for her is that if she gets a chance at subsequent albums that she not lean so heavily on this format because it can prove disastrous (see Duffy).

My favorite tracks are:

HOW TO UNRING A BELL - written with Thom Bell
LADIDADIDA - written with Luigi Creatore
PENNIES IN A JAR - written with Burt Bacharach
CHINA - written with Jimmy Webb
SEX, LIES & SUNSHINE - written with Carly Simon
MILLION STAR MOTEL - written with Bobby Braddock and featuring MC's Lupe Fiasco & Black Thought; although out of place sonically this is a very interesting track to hear (think country meets rap)

Other tracks that I like just not as much as the above are:

MY LOVE (written with Lamont Dozier) - the production shines over her vocals but the arrangement is reminiscent of a Supremes song and ROCKAWAY (written with Carol King) - a toe-tapper

Well done, Nikki Jean!
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Format: Audio CD
Simply a great CD and a great voice, not trying to be like someone else. This is what music is suppose to sound like, enjoy.
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Nikki Jean is obviously talented singer and composer. This is a unique showcase for her talents because she worked with famous writers, most of whom had hits in the 60s and 70s. Very much a retro feel with a contemporary edge. Her voice reminds me of a young Sheila E. on "Noon Rendezvous". A truly unique treat.
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Format: MP3 Music
This album is really good from Nikki Jean. She is very talented and it shows well on this album. She is the first young artist i ever known to have been able to collaborate with so many talented legend artists like: Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Carol King, Thom bell, and many more. Which also gives me a reason to become more of a fan to her music. She did the right thing with learning from top talented people like that, who have been around for a long time and know the music business really well. I hope she get more notice with this album soon. I love how the album has a great old school feel from the 50's & 60's era with a new updated twist to it. Her voice fits really well with this type of music. Nikki Jean is amazing!

My favorite songs are: (top fave 3 are with *)

1. Pennies in the jar*****
2. How to Unring a bell****
3. Steel & feathers*****
4. Sex lies & sunshine
5. My love
6. China
7. Rockaway
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