RICKIE LEE JONES > Sermon on Exposition Boulevard

Back in the day, Rickie Lee Jones was Tom Waits’ boho boo. They made Los Angeles’ grimy underbelly cool when hedonists like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac were doing rails off their million-dollar mixing boards.

Waits moved on to trashcan percussion, rusty growls, and Martian marches; Jones became a solid, if somewhat standard, singer/songwriter. By the late ‘80s, she was pretty much an adult-contemporary artist with a slight nasal twang to distinguish her from all of the other storytellers with guitars.Label: NEW WEST
[Rating: 3]

Back in the day, Rickie Lee Jones was Tom Waits’ boho boo. They made Los Angeles’ grimy underbelly cool when hedonists like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac were doing rails off their million-dollar mixing boards.

Waits moved on to trashcan percussion, rusty growls, and Martian marches; Jones became a solid, if somewhat standard, singer/songwriter. By the late ‘80s, she was pretty much an adult-contemporary artist with a slight nasal twang to distinguish her from all of the other storytellers with guitars.

Since then, she’s recorded a pair of cover albums (featuring songs by Ira Gershwin and Jimi Hendrix), an unplugged CD, a trip-hop record, and a few forgettable studio sets. Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, a quietly rocking collection of 13 new tracks, is her best album since 1984’s The Magazine.

Inspired by the words and philosophies of Jesus Christ, it’s a document of faith for modern times. In “Elvis Cadillac,” the King cruises heaven in his pink and pimped ride, while “It Hurts” channels very universal, very contemporary pain. Beck and Elliott Smith producer Rob Schnapf layers Sermon with acoustic guitars, glockenspiel and sometimes busy arrangements that suit the material. And for the most part, Jones sings with a commitment she hasn’t shown since she was P.L.P.-ing with Chuck E. Plus. There are some really good tunes-especially “Nobody Knows My Name” and “Circle in the Sand.” Only “I Was There”-the eight-minute free-flowing, nerve-grating closer-lands with a thud. Even Jesus would have a hard time forgiving her for that one.


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