Saturday, February 7, 2015

PI JACOBS--- Hi-Rise Ranch: An Album

Scratch that.  Make it "Pi Jacobs--- Hi-Rise Ranch:  A Find" because that is exactly what this album (and a string of her earlier albums as well) have become.  The past few days I have been bouncing around trying to find out what I could about Pi (like, for instance, why she's named Pi) and it has been an adventure.  I have gone from who-the-hell-is-Pi-Jacobs to why-didn't-anyone-tell-me-about-this in sixty seconds, head planted by centrifugal force against the headrest.  Don't misunderstand.  She didn't plant me against the wall right off.  It took some doing.

My first exposure was a simple six-song disc (we used to call those maxi-EPs or mini-LPs back in the day).   Hi-Rise Ranch, in fact.  Six songs, five original plus (omigod!  Is that Babe I'm Gonna Leave You as in Led Zeppelin?  I dunno.... I mean, I just dunno) one "cover."  It is in fact the Zeppelin track, but you won't find me promoting that here.  It is, in fact, a song written by one Anne L. Bredon.  Why are we so adamant about crediting the Muddy Waterses and the John Lee Hookers but refer to the aforementioned song as a "Led Zeppelin" cover?  But that is neither here nor there.  Actually, it is, but not germane to this review.

Let's see.  Where was I?  Ah... Hi-Rise Ranch.  Six songs, five original, Pi Jacobs.  Got it. 

Well, the first time through did not stop the presses, if you know what I mean.  The music was good, the production was adequate, the performance--- well, a little late-seventies and early-eighties.  Not the late-seventies and early-eighties that you know, but the late-seventies and early-eighties that I know.  An era of female artists and female-fronted bands destined for the slag heap because of sound.  Yet it was a sound I loved.  Full-fledged band background, voice upfront with little embellishment.  No autotune then, sports fans.  The most you got was a little echo and the best take out of 37.  Want a list of the female-fronted albums I saved from that period?  CYNDY KNOWLES/With Penrose (1980)--- Cyndy spent this period playing the higher class taverns and lounges of Seattle while groups like The Skyboys and Annie Rose & The Thrillers owned the lower-rent district.  SCANDAL/Scandal (1978)--- Eugene band featuring two female vocalists (Laurie Tellock and Kevne Thompson) which could never break out of Eugene, thanks to lack of major label interest.  CAROLINE PEYTON/Intuition (1977)--- Fronted Bloomington, Indiana's legendary Screaming Gypsy Bandits before going solo with this album and then tying on with a touring theatrical outfit which presented The Pirates of Penzance.  There were others, but just the fact that you more than likely have not heard of these gives you an idea of how closed were the ears of the industry and the public at that time. 

Are they closed now?  Mine aren't.  I listened a few more times to Hi-Rise Ranch and began to get a feel for it.  I began to hear Ms. Jacobs in terms of those old days.  That soulful (and at the right moments, semi-soulful) voice started dragging me back to overlooked vocalists (and production values) of the past.  Icy Road, with its acoustic/electric groove beat.  The Train, anthemic and uplifting, a true ballad.  All For You, a more folk-jazz approach to a love song, worth it for the arrangement alone.  Speaking of arrangement, I thought I recognized Babe I'm Gonna Leave You but wasn't sure until the end of the first verse, where it takes kind of an odd turn.  Does it bum me out?  Not at all.  In fact, I am so tired of hearing Zeppelin that I am surprised I like this at all.  Again, give credit to the arrangement (mainly vocal) and the fact that this was one of the few Zeppelin songs I could stomach past the first million listens (I remember hearing it in freaking grocery stores, for Chrissake!).  I find Ms. Jacobs' version to be salve on the overplay.  I like it.

The above video of Want To Want To was put together by one Julie Cain, who writes and performs music under the name Little Lonely.  When I plugged into it this morning, it had a content warning (which surprised me), so I messaged Ms. Cain to see if she had placed the warning on the video.  She had not.  She sent me back a one word reply--- "Scandalous!"  I could hear her chuckling as he typed.  This, by the way, is Ms. Jacobs' choice for a "single" (which these days seems to mean a point of interest more than anything).  Watch it.

Know what else I love about Hi-Rise RanchKel Pritchard and Rita Soultanian.  Don't tell me the glory days of background singers are dead.  These ladies add another dimension to an already fine record. 

Pay attention!  I'm giving you a bonus here, sports fans.  Whilst digging through flotsam and jetsam, I found a string of albums by the Ms. Pi, which you can access by clicking here (it's worth the exploration), but more than that, I found this video of Anything from her album previous to Hi-Rise, Urbanicana.  God, but I love a lady with an electric guitar!

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gracefully.)

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