Though I consider myself someone who gives most music I hear at least a chance before passing my own personal judgments on it, there was one recent occasion where I actually had to change my tune. On September 18th of this year, I was in the local record store and came across the latest release for Rickie Lee Jones,the cover for which you’ll see above.. Always enjoyed her unique take on folksy soul/jazz since the first time I heard “Chuck E’s In Love”. And having some familiarity with her recorded catalog I decided to pick the CD and listen to it that night while I painted. After listening to her painfully horse and off key “singing” on these gloomy interpretations of other people’s songs I decided to do something I’d never done before: take a record back to the store because it was flat out aurally hurtful.
The store at which I bought it has a very specific return policy. So because I’m an honest person I decided to tell them, on the advice of my father them the truth: that there was a terrible audio defect on the CD and I wanted a full refund. Fact is that was not a lie. It was shocking to hear someone of Jones’ musical caliber,not to mention producer Ben Harper come up with music that celebrated such flagrant non-singing. And I simply couldn’t support that. However I did feel some relief in the matter. In 1994 the Brit Pop band Oasis released an album called Definitely Maybe. My father has,and continues to be,an admirer of Oasis’s music and along with myself often touts their second release What’s The Story,Morning Glory? as one of the finest pop/rock albums of the era. It has since been referred to as a classic. But upon hearing it,the overall musical quality of the album my own father (who by the way loves listening to the most eccentric of novelty artists such as Mrs. Miller and Wild Man Fischer) also returned this album to the store with no hesitation.
So I’ll be the first one to admit it: musical taste is one of the most subjective things out there. But in both my and my fathers cases,a valuable lesson was learned. In my case it was that it’s not necessary to fain interest in music you may find personally offensive just because your trying to be open minded. While I don’t think my father ever had that problem,I think I did. People such as Rickie Lee Jones have been in the recording business for decades now. And it’s perfectly appropriate to be uneven in quality as well. Art by definition cannot be perfect. Yet when someone is pandering to a certain cultural low streak in vocal and/or musical technique and it shows,it’s up to the listener to send a message that some of us don’t find it acceptable. And I am proud to have sent that message more then ever now.