‘SOUVENIRS – THE BEST OF JANIS IAN 1972-1981’
- Out Now on Cooking Vinyl Records
~ A Rare Opportunity to see a Music Legend in an Intimate Setting
Janis Ian, one of the most enduring, consistently thought-provoking and outspoken of American singer-songwriters, has recently released the album ‘Souvenirs’, an eighteen-track collection ‘Souvenirs’ presages a tour of Ireland and follows on the heels of ‘Billie’s Bones’, her critically acclaimed album released earlier this year.
‘Souvenirs’ is a superb introduction to the supremely gifted Janis Ian, which ranges from the confessional intimacy of the ground-breaking smash hit ‘At Seventeen’, to the richly-orchestrated ‘Jesse’, and the stark, unadorned ‘Stars’ – all impressive examples of Ian’s unique compositional style. Featured on the recordings are fine instrumental performances from musicians such as Chick Corea, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, but it is Ian’s way with words – whether it’s the brilliant detailing of excess and indulgence that is ‘Party Lights’, or the thoughtful, but vivid imagery of ‘Miracle Row’ – that shines through.
‘Souvenirs’ also features ‘Fly Too High’, written with German producer Giorgio Moroder, from the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘Foxes’, and the dramatic ‘Belle Of The Blues’, arranged by Jerry Ragavoy, a veteran of countless classic Uptown Soul and R&B recordings. ‘Souvenirs’ is a consistently surprising and rewarding entrée to Janis Ian’s career, a body of work that has survived transient musical trends, and, with the most recent album, ‘Billie’s Bones’, shows no sign of complacency or ‘blanding out’.
Janis Ian will be touring Ireland:
The release of her 18th studio album, Billie's Bones, is the latest achievement in Ian's remarkable career. Billie's Bones beautifully showcases Ian's superb songwriting and sultry vocals.
"Billie's Bones is a folk album," Ian says. "I've spent this past year at home, so it wasn't the typical 'go on tour for 8 months, slam out an album and go back on tour' recording process. Because of that, there's a calmness to it I haven't had since Stars and Between The Lines. Almost all the songs were written in January, February, and April of 2003. Usually I don't manage to complete that many songs that I like in a short period of time."
The result is a resplendent mix of unadulterated folk, jazz and blues performed in Ian's unpretentious styling. The album stretches from the subtle imagery of "Billie's Bones", a homage to Ian's hero Billie Holiday, to the suffering in "Matthew", a "co-write" with Woody Guthrie titled "I Hear You Sing Again", and Ian's first guitar instrumental, "Marching On Glasgow". Throughout the album, Ian wraps her aching voice around masterfully crafted songs that flesh out and give meaning to the core of our life experiences.
The album also includes a duet with one of Ian's heroes, Dolly Parton. Parton joins Ian on the beautiful "My Tennessee Hills." "I have always thought that Janis Ian was one of the greatest writers and singers in the whole wide world. She sent me the song and I just absolutely loved it," Parton says. "It sounded like something I had written and I thought I might be able to complement it with my harmony, so I jumped at the opportunity. Janis is such a sweet person and I had a fun time in the studio with her."
Of Dolly, Janis says "Nashville is a small town; you hear gossip and bad news about everyone. Everyone, that is, except Dolly. No one's ever got a bad word to say there!"
Rolling Stone once stated, "Before there was Jewel, there was Janis Ian." It is an apt portrayal of an artist known for her ethereal vocals, poetic wordplay, and sublime melodies. Through more than three decades, Ian has managed to keep her music fresh and inspiring, always winning praise for her remarkable songwriting and tender voice.
Raised on a farm in southern New Jersey, Ian's father and mother steeped her in classical and folk music, with a healthy dollop of jazz. She began playing the piano at age 2 ½, moving on to the guitar at 10, and writing her first song ("Hair of Spun Gold") at twelve. In 1966, at the age of 15, Ian's career exploded with the release of her controversial tale of teenage interracial love, "Society's Child." The self-penned song topped the charts and created a storm of controversy that featured Ian on The Tonight Show and in Life, Time and Newsweek. Her debut album, 1967's Janis Ian, earned Ian the first of nine Grammy nominations.
Ian soared to new heights in the 1970s with her trio of masterpiece albums: Stars, Between the Lines, and Aftertones. Stars included the hit song "Jesse," which Roberta Flack made a pop standard. Between The Lines propelled Ian to superstardom with "At Seventeen." The single sold more than a million copies, and Ian was nominated for a then-unprecedented five Grammy awards, winning two. Aftertones proved to be one of the most critically acclaimed albums of its day, garnering Ian her first Japanese hit, "Love Is Blind", which stayed at #1 for an astonishing six months.
Ian entered the '80s with the international disco hit "Fly Too High," a song featured on the soundtrack of the Jodie Foster movie Foxes. It began a successful string of projects for films (beginning with Four Rode Out in 1969, and The Bell Jar) and television (ABC Movie-of- the-Week Freedom, Murder She Wrote, The Simpsons, General Hospital, and Oz. Night Rains, the album containing "Fly Too High", also gave Ian #1 gold and platinum records in Australia, Holland, Africa, England, and a multitude of other countries.
Ian was honored again by the Recording Academy in 1981 with a Best Vocal Duet nomination for her recording with Mel Torme of Ian's composition, "Silly Habits."
In the early 80's, Ian took time off to study acting with Stella Adler, also studying ballet with Dora Krannig of the Royal Ballet. "They were both things that kept me involved in the arts, but gave me a break from my own work", she says now.
Ian re-emerged in 1993 with Breaking Silence, which was nominated for a Grammy as Best Folk Album. Fearing the growing loss of artistic control by the major labels, she financed the album by taking a second mortgage on her home. Returning to recording with a vengeance, she released Revenge in 1995, Hunger in 1997, and God And The FBI in 2000.
In 2003, Ian added author to her long list of accomplishments with the publication of her first book project, an anthology titled, Stars: Stories Based on the Lyrics of Janis Ian. "I've always been an avid reader," Ian says. "If I don't have a book in the car, I' ll stop and pick one up just to have something to read. My dad was a big science fiction reader, so I started pretty young. I was corresponding with writers Mike Resnick and Anne McCaffrey and found myself attending the 2001 World Science Fiction Convention. Somewhere during it, Mike said he wanted to do an anthology based on my lyrics. I said no one would be interested. He said he had five of my favorite writers lined up!" Ian also contributed her own story to the anthology; four of her short stories in the field will be published during 2003/2004.
The summer of 2003
also saw Ian marry her partner of 14 years, criminal defense attorney
Patricia Snyder. "We got married because we could," Ian says.
"If we could have gotten married in the United States, we would
have. When the opportunity to get married in Canada presented itself,
we grabbed it. As a couple, we wanted the same rights and the same social
recognition our heterosexual friends have. We also got married because,
just like coming out, public figures need to do that to make the rest
of the world aware.
Quickly following her marriage, Ian released the double live CD Working Without A Net, a collection of performances she has been recording since 1990. "We started taping the shows just for archives," Ian says. "But, the fans have been asking for a live record for decades. For fans that live in Poland, Korea, and other places we don't tour, this is a chance to hear a live show. For fans that have seen the show, it's a chance to take back something that's pretty close to a memory of that show and recreate the feeling." The album went on to receive a four-star rating in Q Magazine.
Eleven classic Janis
Ian albums reissued – 27th October
Monday 13th October sees release of ‘Working Without A Net’, a double live CD by Janis Ian. Recorded between 1990 and April 2003 in London, Glasgow, Holland, Japan and the US, the album features Ian’s hit singles “Society’s Child’, ‘At Seventeen’, and ‘Fly Too High’ (which was co-written with Giorgio Moroder). On the same day, Cooking Vinyl will be reissuing eleven classic Janis Ian albums, each of which will feature a bonus live track. Available on CD only, these re-issues have a suggested retail price of £9.99.