Me About You/To Be Free

by: Jackie DeShannon

Two of Jackie DeShannon's better albums from the late 1960s and early '70s have been paired up for this two-fer release from Collectors' Choice Music. Me About You was released in 1968, as DeShannon's music was developing a more mature and sophisticated tone but before the public rediscovered her with the singles "What the World Needs Now" and "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." While the album is dominated by the work of outside songwriters, DeShannon chose wisely from the work of her contemporaries (Jimmy Webb, Tim Hardin, and Van Dyke Parks all contributed tunes for this album), and she proved once again she was as gifted an interpretive singer as she was with her own material. Though the production is sometimes more glossy than necessary, the highlights are a glorious reminder of the golden age of West Coast record making, with producers Joseph Wissert and Jack Nitzsche urging some wonderful performances from the studio band. 1970's To Be Free came after DeShannon's renewed chart success and as other female singer/songwriters were beginning to make themselves known; the songs, most written or co-written by DeShannon, reflect a more personal and introspective approach which doesn't always work for her, especially when she's engaging in bucolic flights of fancy ("Livin' on the Easy Side") or celebrating post-Woodstock hipsters ("Child of the Street"). But when she hits her marks, which happens most of the time, DeShannon is in good to excellent form as a writer here, and she rarely sounded better as a singer, bringing a soulful edge to her vocals that brings the material to vivid life. And the closing cover (called a bonus track here) of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" is an inspired gesture. For this release, Collectors' Choice has included a bonus track (a strong reading of "Reason to Believe" that was recorded during the sessions for Me About You) and new essays about both albums; the liner notes sometimes sound like the gush of loyal fans, but given how good most of this music is, the enthusiasm is both understandable and appropriate. ~ Mark Deming

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