Reviewed on this page:
Janis Ian (1967) - ...For
All The Seasons Of Your Mind - The Secret Life
Of J. Eddy Fink - Who Really Cares - Present Company -
Stars - Between The
Lines - Aftertones - Miracle Row - Janis
Ian (1978) - Night Rains - The Bottom Line Encore Collection - Restless Eyes - Uncle Wonderful -
Breaking Silence - Revenge -
Hunger - Unreleased 1: Mary's Eyes - God & The FBI - Unreleased 2: Take No Prisoners - Unreleased 3: Society's Child - Live: Working Without A Net - Billie's Bones - Folk Is The New Black
Unfortunately, Janis Ian is better known for a couple of fluke hit singles than for her mostly impressive body of work.
Dig deeper into her catalog and you'll be rewarded with a batch of wry, piercing songs with clever arrangements and
a disarmingly straightforward vocal delivery. Ian was a child prodigy, shooting to sudden fame at 15 with her self-penned
"Society's Child," about a white girl who succumbs to pressure and stops dating a black boy. Though it hasn't aged well,
it was controversial enough in 1967 to get her cursed and spat on, and it sailed up the charts. She rapidly matured as a singer and songwriter, but
nobody paid much attention until the surprise mid-70s hit "At Seventeen" and the accompanying album Between The
Lines established her as one of the preeminent soft-rock post-folkies. After several intriguing followups experienced
sales problems, Ian took several years off from the business, moved to Nashville, made a reputation as a songwriter
for others, came out as a lesbian, and started recording again (not necessarily all in that order). Luckily for us, her
songwriting skills are intact, and her recent work is just as sharp but more confident and relaxed.
Igot the chance to interview Ian in 2006; the results are viewable here, and I've also reviewed her 2008 autobiography. Her official site is back; there's also a very extensive fan site. (DBW)
Janis Ian (1967)
Produced by George "Shadow" Morton, who came to fame Svengali-ing the
Shangri-Las and was concurrently working with the Vanilla Fudge. It
would be easy to say that he was just manufacturing his entry into the
profitable world of folk-rock, but even at 15 Ian is clearly her own
boss: she wrote every tune and co-arranged, rare for any performer in
those days. Her Dylan influence is
pronounced ("Younger Generation Blues," the enigmatic "New Christ
Cardiac Hero") though she sometimes comes from a pure folk perspective
("Hair Of Spun Gold") and focuses most of her attention on the older
generation ("Mrs. McKenzie" and "Janey's Blues" both attack clueless
parents). Besides "Society's Child" she also pushes the envelope with
"Pro Girl," an portrait of a prostitute that's unsympathetic and
ultimately unconvincing. The arrangements aren't particularly
innovative (though the surprise ending of "Society's" is a hoot), but
Morton clearly had his ear to the ground: he lifts that telegraph guitar
sound from the "You Keep Me Hangin'
On" for "Mrs. McKenzie," the chaotic background from "Rainy
Day Women" for "Younger Generation Blues," and the omnipresent 1966
fuzz guitar for "Go 'Way
Little Girl." Considering even Stevie
Wonder wasn't writing many of his own tunes at this age, the
record's a remarkable achievement, but forty years on, it doesn't
really stand on its own merits - fortunately, a lot of changes were
still to come. (DBW)
...For All The Seasons Of Your Mind (1968)
This followup finds Ian considerably more grown
up, and pushing musical boundaries more than political ones (with
Morton's help). It's a fascinating mess, with obvious
problems - "A Song For All The Seasons Of Your Mind" has a corny,
overblown arrangement with sitar and vibe flourishes; "Shady Acres" is
an extended mood piece that's too precious for its own good; "And I Did
Ma" is a grating, out-of-tune practical joke. But at its best the record
is absolutely brilliant: "Honey D'Ya Think?" is a blistering attack on
downwardly mobile poseurs; "Bahimsa" is a lovely acoustic rendering of a
fine poetic lyric; "There Are Times," with Janis accompanied only by
piano in what seems like a Laura Nyro
impression, is wrenchingly powerful, and "Evening Star" is nearly as
affecting. (Presumably it's not so much that she's imitating Nyro as
they're both imitating Billie Holiday.) Her voice isn't much to speak
of, high-pitched and reserved like Joan Baez, and her lyrics, though
usually clever, are often facile ("Insanity Comes Quietly To The
Structured Mind"). Still, if I didn't know better, I'd assume that a 17
year old who was blending so many influences so successfully was
certainly headed for superstardom - give this a listen, just don't
expect it to be flawless. (DBW)
The Secret Life Of J. Eddy Fink (1968)
Purportedly some sort of concept album (Fink is her real last
name), but actually it's just teen angst ("When I Was A Child") meets
rock star whining ("42nd St. Psycho Blues"), with routine folk-rock
backing. Though there are a few psychedelic touches (a lengthy jazz break and jarring tempo shifts on "Mistaken Identity")
most of the experimentation is gone, which was apparently Ian's choice (she gets production credit along with
Morton). Though again all the lyrics and music are Ian's, she continually slips into cliché ("Sweet Misery") and
doesn't come up with a single memorable tune. Some of the material is copyright 1967, and one suspects this was at least
partly a collection of leftovers intended to pacify her label while she took stock of her career. I'll keep listening to
this, but so far I don't hear anything to recommend this dreary disc. The band
is Carol Hunter (bass, guitar), Buddy Salzman (drums), Joe Price and Richie Havens (percussion) - there's a lot of
organ and guitar here, and I'm guessing Ian played most of that though
the record doesn't say so. The last Shadow production, though according to Ian he missed the sessions because of
personal problems, leaving his 17 year old charge to fend for herself. (DBW)
Who Really Cares (1969)
Produced by Laura Nyro producer (and former Four Season) Charlie Calello, and the arrangements are well detailed
and lovely - ghostly flutes (by Joe Farell) on "Snowbird," a trombone solo (by Tony Stud) on "Month Of May" - with
strings, vibes, French horns and keyboards all used creatively and never laid on too thick. The songs cover various
branches of pop, from the psychedelic rocker "Love You More Than Yesterday" (with a strikingly 90s-sounding high-pitched
repeating hook) to the driving Walt Whitman-meets-Motown "Sea & Sand." Overall it's probably closer to Seasons Of Your
Mind than any other Ian album, with two significant differences: the production is far more elegant, and the
songwriting is far less ambitious. Lyrically Ian backs away from weighty themes in favor of navel-gazing ("Time On My Hands")
and diffuse imagery ("Orphan Of The Wind"), and her vocals are sometimes hard to hear through all the instrumentation.
Al Kooper plays organ on "Do You Remember?" and "Calling Your Name"; the rest of the large cast
includes Dick Hyman (keyboards), Hugh McCracken, Stu Scharf and Ralph Casale (guitar), Bob Bushnell (bass), Al Rogers
(drums), and a horde of string and horn players.
Present Company (1971)
Produced by Jerry Corbit of the Youngbloods, and the instrumentation is bare-bones country-rock - rhythm section plus
steel guitar - with players including Charlie Daniels. Instead of the fanciful arrangements of the previous album, the
emphasis is placed on Ian's voice, which is a good thing: on a couple of piano-only numbers, she's completely captivating as
she moves from hushed tones to a full-out wail ("Weary Lady"). The bad news is, the uptempo numbers have a hokey
hoedown quality thanks to the bargain-basement production ("Alabama"). Also, like many songwriters of the day she
fell right into the Abbey Road pop symphony trap, with too many fragments
that don't add up to much (five of the sixteen tracks are one minute long) and too many jarring, abrupt
transitions ("My Land"). There are some lovely melodies in there ("The Seaside"), but waiting for them can be
a chore. This musical departure was another commercial flop; at the time it must have seemed like Ian was fading out, but
in fact the album's spare, tense tone set the course that would carry her to stardom in the 70s. (DBW)
After a few years of taking stock, Ian returned with a direct, pointed lyrical style ("You've Got Me On A String") and a
more refined version of the approach she'd begun on Present Company. But this time there's only one unequivocal
country-western tune ("Sweet Sympathy"), and an emphasis on sparsely-accompanied soft rock (the morbid anti-war "Dance
With Me"). What's missing from this release is the humor present in both earlier and later recordings;
the sound and vocals are so dry and austere it's downright off-putting. Even the closing Dixieland romp "Applause" suffers
from the heaviness, as it's bookended by moody, downbeat unaccompanied fragments. And she sometimes takes the pared-down
aesthetic too far, as on the lengthy guitar-and-vocal title track which ultimately loses your interest despite the lyrical
content. The sad-but-dry-eyed "Jesse" is probably the major song here; it became a big hit for Roberta Flack shortly before this LP came out.
Arranged by Ron Fragipane and Ian; only soloists are listed, and they include jazz bassist Richard Davis,
drummer Barry Lazarowitz, Ray Beckenstein, Phil Bodner, Romeo Pengue, George Ricci, Joe Shepley and Ian herself.
Produced by Brook Arthur (an engineer on her debut), as were the next two albums. (DBW)
Between The Lines (1975)
Here Ian leaped to her commercial peak: this album contains the Top Five
single "At Seventeen," and the album went all the way to #1. The years
have given her voice a lot more depth and resonance, and her lyrics are
more precise and easily related to - often soul-searching and/or social
comments, and she's got so much to say even the choruses usually have different words each time
through. However, she seems to have mostly abandoned musical
experimentation: the arrangements are mid-70s soft rock, sometimes
uncannily like Steve Stills, dominated by
acoustic guitar and piano. (She does add interesting fluttering string
arrangements to "In The Winter" and "Watercolors.") The melodies are
effective enough but rather commonplace: even "At Seventeen" sounds
ready-made for Muzak; the bizarrely lurching title track is most
reminiscent of the daredevil composer of Seasons. (DBW)
You wouldn't expect an album knocked out a few months after a surprise
soft-rock chart success to show any continuing artistic growth, would
you? But Ian seems to specialize in doing what you wouldn't expect. Here
she integrates the laid-back sound of Lines with the smart-aleck
humor of her early work on the kissoff "Boy, I Really Tied One On," the
Mr. Badbar anthem "This Must Be Wrong," and the stinging, self-pitying
"Belle Of The Blues." She also has a heavier voice than before, giving
her alienated lyrics a new melancholy power. And musically she's
experimenting a bit, if not too successfully: "I Would Like To Dance"
tries to be a toe-tapping Latin groove, with piano and arrangement by NY
salsa heavyweight Larry Harlow, but it's just too tame, though it does score
points for lifting the theme from I Dream Of Jeannie. The
album-closing "Hymn" is a simple melody carried by a shifting chorus of
backup singers, while her windwood arrangement on the gentle "Goodbye To
Morning" is almost haunting. Despite the lack of an obvious hit, there's
a lot of intriguing, thoughtful music here, and if you can tolerate 70s soft
rock you should really check this out. (DBW)
Miracle Row (1977)
Oddly lacking in passion and humor; the only moving song is "Sunset
Of Your Life" about a woman placed in an old folks' home. The soft rock
backing has a Steely Dan pseudo-jazz flavor, with very little acoustic
guitar, no horns, and a laid-back groove that's the opposite of rousing.
As a result, the uptempo tracks seem forced ("Let Me Be Lonely") and
the long album-closing medley "Miracle Row/Maria" drags something awful,
despite the cool chord progression. However, this is close enough to the
other mid-70s albums that fans will still get something out of tunes
like "Party Lights." Just don't expect too much. The musicians were Ian's touring band: Jeff Layton
(guitar), Barry Lazarowitz (drums) and Stu Woods (bass). (DBW)
Janis Ian (1978)
A quick rebound, more focused and varied than Miracle Row, with
jazzy jamming tossed aside in favor of sharply-etched songs: "That Grand
Illusion" makes its acid observations so quickly and quietly you might
miss them; "Do You Wanna Dance?" is layered and tricky beneath its
bouncy exterior; "My Mama's House" is mournful but unsentimental; the
confessional "Hotels & One-Night Stands" has that touch of self-loathing
we all need once in a while, coupled with driving piano runs. Then
there are the well-detailed breakup songs: "Silly Habits," "I Need To
Live Alone Again." The only extended epic is "Streetlife Serenaders,"
and it's lightened up by an amusing salsa break. The band includes
Sal diTroia, Steve Gadd, Will Lee and
Richard Davis. Once again, Ian has so much to say she can't be bothered
to repeat choruses, and once again, her lyrics are so good you won't
mind - there's not a single throwaway. Not much experimentation, mostly
just pop flavors she'd already worked with, and she's so unsparing you
may find yourself more tense after listening to this than you were
before. But, hey, if you want to chill out, listen to dolphins or whales
or something. Produced by Joe
Night Rains (1979)
Produced by Ron Frangipane and Ian. The genre-jumping is back, with
mostly positive results: two songs written with (and produced by) Giorgio Moroder are dry and dull (the
disco "Fly Too High" from the movie Foxes, and the ballad "Day By
Day"). But two tunes cut with jazz stars are excellent: Ron Carter holds down bass on the pensive
"Photographs," and Return To Forever leader Chick Corea's fanciful piano playing is a
perfect complement to Ian's musings on the closing "Jenny (Iowa
Sunrise)." Two straightforward pop songs featuring E Street sax player
Clarence Clemmons are less satisfying - "The Other Side Of The Sun"
written with Albert Hammond, and "Have Mercy Love" - though as usual the
lyrics are intricate and searingly honest. The title track is pure
country and western, and it's thoroughly convincing, soothing
and memorable. Musicians include diTroia, John Crowder (bass), Richard
Crooks (drums), Mike Mainieri
(vibes), and Harold Faltermeyer.
The Bottom Line Encore Collection (rec. 1980, rel. 1999)
Ian's first-ever live album, with interesting song selection: "Silly Habits," "I Would Like To Dance," and "In The
Winter" alongside the inevitable hits ("At Seventeen," "Jesse," "Society's Child").
Recorded at The Bottom Line in NYC with Crowder (bass and fiddle), Scott Zito (guitar and keyboards) and
Arti Dixson (drums and percussion), and the small group does a commendable job of reproducing the variety of arrangements
Ian has used over the years, from country ("Night Rains") to disco ("Fly Too High") while keeping the
intimate atmosphere that suits her storytelling style. Ian herself is in exceptionally fine voice ("From Me To You"),
occasionally indulging the audience in a spoken explanation or joke ("Stars," the encore) but mostly letting the songs
explain themselves. Solo live recordings (cut in 1991) of "Seventeen" and "Society's Child" are tacked on as an extra
treat. Peter Fornatale and Hank Medress are listed as producers.
Restless Eyes (1981)
Ian went back to a simpler pop-folk style here,
though some of the best tunes continue the country stylings of "Night
Rains" - the wistful, album-closing "Sugar Mountain." Unfortunately,
the album is distressingly ordinary: lyrics, melodies and
mostly acoustic arrangements alike. Several melodies sound shockingly like Dylan's ("Dear Billy"), and apparently Ian was
getting back to her roots or something. But it comes out
sounding simplistic rather than charmingly simple, with grating lyrics like "I believe in tomorrow/But I remember
Produced by Gary Klein; musicians include Lee Sklar, Byron Berline, Dean Parks, Buzzy Feiten, Lenny Castro, Bill Payne,
Jeff Porcaro. (DBW)
Uncle Wonderful (1985)
I swear, 1985 was a cursed year: I can't even count how many great artists made records that were not only
bad, but also completely out of context with their careers before and since. That goes double for this outrageously overproduced pop record, where
Ian doesn't sound like herself and in her album photos, doesn't even look like herself. The most sparsely-arranged track, "This Night,"
sounds like a TV theme ("Theme From The Greatest American Hero," to be exact). But if you take away all the booming snares, pointless
fills and bending synths, it's still a weak set of compositions with insipid melodies ("Hit You With The Guilt") and incomprehensible lyrics
(title track, "Sniper Of The Heart"). Meanwhile, "Why Can't You & I?" is as overblown a torch number as you're ever going to hear.
The only good thing about the project is the wonderfully ferocious antisexist lyrics to "Just A Girl" - maybe someday we'll
get lucky and she'll rerecord that one.
The band is Cyro Baptista (percussion), Jeff Berlin (bass), Kim Bullard (synth), Arti Funaro and Chas Garsamke (guitars), Marvin Kanarek
(drums) and Ian (piano); Funaro and Ian produced.
Dan Hartman co-wrote and arranged the synth-dance disaster "Heart Skip Too Many Beats."
Initially released only in Japan, and this time I don't think they knew something the rest of us didn't.
Breaking Silence (1992)
Moving to Nashville definitely did Ian good: the songwriting and
arrangments here are crisp and to the point, with no wasted motion or
rambling. Plus, she rocks out on the title track and the album-opening
"All Roads To The River." Lyrically, much of the album focuses on abuse,
including the stunning "His Hands," a fresh take on domestic violence,
and "Tattoo," about a Holocaust survivor. Then there's the remarkably
forthright love song "Ride Me Like A Wave," though her 60s nostalgia
anthem "Guess You Had To Be There" leaves a lot to be desired. The
instrumentation is basic, effective country-rock, though there are also
several 70s style minimal ballads ("Through The Years"); her voice is
clear and occasionally powerful. Incisive and moving; you won't regret
giving this a listen. (DBW)
In the same polished country-rock mold as the previous album; Ian and the band sound great (the bluesy "Rudy"), but the songwriting
isn't terribly precise. Some of the love song lyrics are so simple they sound like Johnny Mathis hits ("Tenderness," "No One Else Like
You"); "Take Me Walking In The Rain" is a catchy, tender, low-key number, but unaccountably it's stretched out for seven minutes.
"Davy," with Ian voicing the confused dreamworld of a bag lady, has the self-satisfied feel of a failed creative writing exercise.
But since everything else is in place, when the lyrics hang together, the tunes soar (the cold-eyed infidelity study "Stolen Fire," "When Angels Cry").
Aside from Ian, the musicians include John Jennings (guitar), Matt Rollings (piano and organ), Willie Weeks (bass),
Steve Gadd (drums), Cyro Baptista and Jim Brock (percussion); Jennings and Ian produced.
Another stripped-down, mostly acoustic record spotlighting Ian's
compositions, it's a treat for anyone who still listens to
singer/songwriters. Ian manages to write love songs that sound
completely fresh and sincere without a word wasted ("Might As Well Be
Monday," "Getting Over You") - the title track is breathtakingly
beautiful. Her social conscience numbers aren't as sharp as on
Breaking Silence: "Honor Them All" and "Black & White" border on
the platitudinous. On the other hand, her guitar playing keeps getting
better: the album's centerpiece is the eight-minute "Welcome To
Acousticville," an unaccompanied live recording - between the clever
lyrics, her engaging manner, and the acoustic flourishes, your attention
never wanders. By contrast, another lengthy track, "Searching For
America," produced by Ani DiFranco, is unfocused and obscure. Overall,
though, Ian's never sounded more in control of her muse (or vice versa).
The band includes Cyro Bautista on
percussion, Kevin Breit on guitars, and David Piltch on standup bass.
Unreleased 1: Mary's Eyes (1999)
First in a series of homemade fan-oriented releases, collecting songs that never made it onto official releases. Most are spare demos, just voice and guitar ("Unwinding" and the excellent mid-70s "Make A Man Of You" are voice and piano), which generally suits the quiet intensity of the material ("Mary's Eyes").
There's a full band on a few numbers: "On The Way To Me," "La Cienega Boulevard" and the live performance of the jazzy, laugh-out-loud "Cosmopolitan Girl," one of the few gems to be found here... There are plenty of well constructed, pleasant tunes ("Way Of The Land," "Paris In Your Eyes") but too many are story songs that don't really go anywhere: "Lone Ranger Days," "Forever Young," "We Endure."
God & The FBI (2000)
Ian decided to treat this as if it were her final album, and it is unusually personal. The title track is a rapid-fire,
"Subterranean Homesick Blues"-like examination of Ian's childhood as a Red Diaper baby
during and after McCarthyism. "Play Like A Girl" is a defiant answer to music industry sexism past and present. Less
successful are "The Last Comeback," a defensive celebration of Ian's unpopularity ("These are the songs nobody wanted/This
is the voice that no one heard") over a cheesy drum loop, and "Murdering Stravinsky," a bizarre attack on avant garde
musicians. Recorded in a private house with a small group of compatriots
(Philip Clark, Jim Cregan, Marc Moreau) who played all the instruments (not counting the Willie Nelson duet "Memphis," which
features Chet Atkins, Gadd and Weeks).
Since all four are guitarists, they ended up duplicating each other with a lot of similar guitar lines (title track), so paradoxically the
sound is less spacious than Hunger's.
The tunes are either country-rock (the hilarious, rollicking "If I Had Boots Like Emmy Lou's") or spare piano
ballads ("Days Like These," "She Must Be Beautiful"), and the melodies are either simple and effective (the lovely
"On The Other Side") or simple and painfully obvious ("When You Love Someone"). Produced by Cregan, Ian and Moreau.
Unreleased 2: Take No Prisoners (2000)
Another collection of unreleased tunes - plus a lengthy live version of the title track - and it's far and away the best
of the three. For one thing, this is the only volume that gives recording dates for each cut so you can put them into the
context of her career. More importantly, there are some outstanding songs here that match up against anything she's done:
the gritty blues "Black Crow Flying" (not the Joni Mitchell song of the same name); the dramatic, piano-led "Childhood Hero"; the
touching anti-homophobia "You Don't Know My Heart"; and especially the caustic love song "Holes." There's also a bit more stylistic variety: Everly Brothers style harmony on "You're Too Late" (written and performed with Kye Fleming); brooding keyboard pieces (the intellectual-deflating "Solitaire");
and least predictably, some simple uptempo singalongs ("Georgia," "The Old Man's Shoes").
Certainly not as coherent as Aftertones or Breaking Silence, but as an introduction to Ian's talents I'd as soon recommend this as anything.
Unreleased 3: Society's Child (2001)
The last "unreleased" collection to date, and you can kinda hear why: she was just plain running out of stuff.
Ian takes her craft seriously enough that - aside from a few early experiments - she never writes a truly bad song, but
some of them are slight, and that's the problem here: from the near-instrumental "Breeze On Through" to the early electric Dylan imitation
"Bayonne Blues" to the pensive "If We Had Wings," nothing makes much of an impact...
you never think, "How come that one never made it onto an album?"
That said, the lilting piano ballad "Old Photographs" is a nice tune, it's good to hear her version of "This Old Town" (previously recorded by
Nanci Griffith), and as with the other two volumes, the acoustic guitar-and-vocal nature of the recordings is charmingly intimate.
Live: Working Without A Net (2003)
A two-CD set recorded between 1991 and 2003. Usually I prefer live records to cover a shorter period of time, so they capture one working band at a given moment, but in this case it doesn't make much difference, because Ian hasn't really changed her approach since her early 90s renaissance, and as the focus is always on her, the other players are window dressing anyway. (Not that I'm putting them down: bassists Rick Blackwell and Chad Watson are exceptionally fluid, while Randy Leago skips ably from keyboards to sax, flute, accordion and harmonica.)
The material is mostly from the 90s ("Ride Me Like A Wave"), plus the biggest hits from the 60s and 70s ("Jesse"), and a couple of then-unreleased tunes ("Paris In Your Eyes"). But whether the songs are obscure ("Watercolors") or overplayed ("At Seventeen"), heavy ("Tattoo") or lighthearted ("Boots Like Emmy Lou's"), the performances are unfailingly intense and rewarding. Well, okay, I could've lived without the concluding encore of "These Boots Are Made For Walking," but even that has a charming spoken introduction.
Billie's Bones (2004)
Low-key and gentle to a fault, with country-western instrumentation (Dan Dugmore on dobro and steel guitars) but without its energy. Four of these songs had already appeared on the Unreleased volumes - "Forever Young"; "Amsterdam" - but that's not why I feel shortchanged... I wouldn't be complaining if she'd resurrected more substantive work from that series.
Characteristically, Ian's lyrics are ruthlessly precise and honest ("Mockingbird"), but this time they often don't connect: the title track (adapted from an early poem) strives to explain her fascination with Billie Holiday; "Matthew" is just another not particularly insightful rumination on Matthew Shepard's murder.
And I know if I got Dolly Parton to guest on my album, I'd give her more to do than the sweet, slender background vocal on "My Tennessee Hills."
Produced by Jeff Balding, Ian and Marc Moreau.
Folk Is The New Black (2006)
Back to basics, in every way... The band is just Ian (guitar and vocals), Viktor Krauss (upright bass) and Jim Brock (drums), so spare that every note stands out. The arrangements sometimes veer toward country, but overall have fewer non-folk elements than any of her other records.
All the lead vocals were recorded live - "Do not try this at home," the notes warn - but somehow her voice sounds better than ever, from terrifying fragility recalling the mid-70s albums ("All Those Promises") to full-voiced enthusiasm ("Life Is Never Wrong").
For the first time in years, there are no co-writers, and that may be why the compositions are even leaner than usual, whether deadly serious ("Haven't I Got Eyes") or whimsical ("The Crocodile Song"). The one song which had previously appeared on an Unreleased release has been sharpened from a decent anti-censorship number ("Rate My Music") into a terrific deconstruction of reactionary fear. Meanwhile,
"My Autobiography" may be the quintessential Janis Ian song, combining wry ego deflation, clear-eyed observation, confession and a stinging touch of self-reproach, creating a song that's humorous but unsettling. If you're still on the fence, the fun, singalong title track is free on Ian's site... as the lyrics say, "download it and see."
What were you doing at seventeen?