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Pennies In A Jar
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About the Artist
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!
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
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was a fan of her songs she had on myspace they are not on here for whAT EVER REASON THESE SONGS WERE OTHER artist songs i understand that i love her voice and like her orginal... Read morePublished on June 12, 2013 by Donovan Baine
This CD has three songs that I found fair but not ideal for extended listening. She has fine voice but the music was a huge let down for me. It did not do her talent justice.Published on December 5, 2011 by Ed
This type of collaboration has been done before, but never to the extent Nikki Jean has achieved.
A young vocalist( in her twenties ! Read more
I am listening to this album right now!
I love Bacharach,Webb,King and good songs.
Maybe Bacharach/Costello Painted from memory was stronger,but Nikki sings much better... Read more
I love the way Nikki Jean's songs paint pictures, much like a good novel, and carries such a positive message. Read morePublished on August 6, 2011 by Jean M Thompson