by: Jackie DeShannon

The major product of Jackie DeShannon's brief early-'70s stay on Capitol Records, Songs is also one of her finest and least known albums. Recorded principally in collaboration with producer Eric Malamud, who had previously produced the Persuasions' We Came to Play LP, the album has a curiously lean, stripped down feel -- done with a minimum of players backing her, DeShannon sounds up close and personal here, almost like these are private demos rather than full-blown, finished pop productions. And that was the point -- to get her away from the highly produced sound of her later Liberty recordings. In a sense, this was DeShannon's "get back" album, bringing her back to her musical roots in country and gospel, and it works artistically -- one gets a sense of gritty urgency in most of the songs here, with "Keep Me Warm," Dylan's "Lay Lady, Lay" (done as "Lay Baby, Lay"), and "West Virginia Mine" worth the price of admission by themselves; "Salinas," on which she's not accompanied by much more than a pair of acoustic guitars, is a glorious showcase for her unfettered voice, while "Bad Water" was as fine a rock & roll track as she ever recorded. Even on the handful of numbers that have some string accompaniment, the raw, basic textures aren't lost -- "International" is a great example of how to incorporate strings, reeds and more on an intimate gospel-styled number without destroying the mood. Strangely enough, the one track that shouldn't fit here, "Show Me," a highly "produced" track here that was a product of a series of earlier sessions helmed by Chips Moman that were otherwise abandoned, manages to enhance the value of the album, providing a healthy moment of contrast that demonstrates what DeShannon was doing with her sound without wrecking the effect of what's around it. ~ Bruce Eder

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