Rickie Less Jones has made numerous albums of covers over the course of her long musical journey, from Girl At Her Volcano (1983), which arguably caught her at her bohemian peak, the jazz-inflected Pop Pop (1991), the underrated It’s Like This (2000), more recently, The Devil You Know (2012).
Kicks sees her working, as ever, with a fine group of musicians, spearheaded by percussionist, arranger and co-producer Mike Dillon.
Some of the choices seem well-suited to Jones’s jazzy vocal, including You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You (made famous by Dean Martin, amongst others), Mack The Knife and The End Of The World, the last of which is gorgeous. The swinging standard, Nagasaki, is great fun, too, and could easily have appeared on the earlier Pop Pop.
As always, there are a few surprise choices. Bad Company, the title track of the debut album of the band by the same name, sounds more travel-weary than the swaggering original, and works well. There’s a lovely version of My Father’s Gun from Elton John’s Americana album, Tumbleweed Connection, which has a more authentic, southern feel than the original. America’s Lonely People is another highlight. Watch the video, and it’s clear that Miss Jones is really revelling in the arrangement, which is always good to see.
Not everything works. The country twang of Lee Hazelwood’s Houston has a slight swing to it, but felt somewhat out of place here, while Steve Miller’s Quicksilver Girl is given a sparse arrangement, which doesn’t really add much.
Rickie Lee Jones’s voice has thickened with time, and may not swoop and soar around the melody like it used too. But age also brings experience, and she still uses her voice to good effect, with her unique phrasing, equally capable of sounding playful, weary, cool or child-like, all of which are on display here.
Kicks is not her best covers album – that would be Girl At Her Volcano, closely followed by It’s Like This. And it’s not the best place to start your collection – everyone should own a copy of her self-titled debut (1979) and Pirates (1981). But if you’re already a fan, there’s plenty to enjoy here.