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music and memories
Laurel Canyon
RPM Records (RPM304)
A conversation between Peter Lerner and William George

Ultimate

The third release in RPM Records’ acclaimed reissue series is Jackie’s 1968 concept album Laurel Canyon

The third release in RPM Records’ acclaimed reissue series is Jackie’s 1968 concept album Laurel Canyon.

Laurel Canyon
PL
:  A lovely laid-back loose groove to start the album. And Jackie sounds as if she’s loving it so much. Complicated pianistics from Mr Rebennack and cool lyrics from Jackie. And this was three years before Canadian Joni Mitchell started singing about the self-same Canyon.
WG: This song really sets the tone for the ensuing album. It has a laid-back hippie vibe that makes me nostalgic for a place and time I never got to experience. Jackie sings her lyrics with loads of conviction. Sounds like it was recorded live in one take - and they nailed it.

Sunshine of your love
PL
:  A musicians’ jam on the Cream classic – it’s a gas. Obviously done in one take – if there had been a second take I might have asked the guitarist to tune down by a quarter of a tone. How to turn British prog rock into inspirational gospel.
WG: This would be sacrilege if it weren't so good. Jackie acts as a real team player here, letting the band and the backup singers share in the glory. They must have worked up a real sweat during this one.

Crystal Clear
PL
: In complete contrast, Jackie in reflective mood, so gentle. Love is all around. Wish I knew a little more about Ray Trainer, the composer. Those spine-tingling harmonies in the middle of the song just come up and grab you. Beautiful.
WG: I like the arrangement on this one - the way the instruments and singers layer on gradually. Seemingly simple, sweet lyrics, but with a question mark. I understand Ray Trainer recorded a version himself; I'd like to hear that one sometime.

She’s my best friend
PL
: Another soul groove, and a song about friendship, pushing all those 1968 buttons. Jackie’s voice is so warm on these songs, Bill, at the peak of her powers – which she seems never to have left!
WG: This was always one of my favorite songs on the album. A relatable lyric, and the band gets into a great groove. You can hear Jackie having a blast singing along.

I got my reason
PL
: A Barry White composition. Structurally very like “The weight” which comes later on the album. Churchy harmonies and a strong message. And I think Barry might have also been listening to the lyrics of Jimmy Ruffin’s “What becomes of the broken hearted.” Mmm mmm.
WG: Yes, the intro is very similar to The Weight. This is another one of my favorites. I love the message, and Dr. John's piano and the singers really cook.

Holly would
PL
: This is a standout song, a song about a life, about a generation. Her performance lets the emotion shine through. Jackie, please sing this one when you come to
London.
WG: I always liked this song musically, but felt the lyric was a little dated (I was born about the time this album was released). But I'm listening with new ears on this reissue, and while it definitely is a creation of a certain era, the senitment is lovely. And the track truly is beautiful.

You’ve really got a hold on me
PL
: Smokey Robinson’s song has always been a favourite of mine. This is a brisk cover, and those effortless harmonies are golden.
WG: Effortless? Sounds like they're working pretty hard to me, but in a good way! This was never a favorite song of mine, either by Smokey Robinson or the Beatles. But Jackie's version is my favorite. Loads of energy and soul.

The weight
PL
:  Well I heard The Band’s version of this first, all those years ago, and was surprised that Jackie had chosen to record it, but all the worries melted away when I heard it. There is a load of individuality in this version, and Jackie puts her all into it. Well done
USA for making it a hit record.
WG: It should have been a bigger hit than it was. This is a glorious track. Different from the Band's version, but just as good. A classic performance of a classic song. And remember, Jackie covered this the same year it was originally released. How's that for hip?! My one regret…Jackie cut one verse.

Bitter honey
PL
:  Jackie’s in control here, her personality moving this song along, her voice sexy and in command. A pleasure to listen to.
WG: This may be my favorite track on the album. I can't help but dance along. Pure pop and pure fun. Gives my chills of joy. Should have been a massive hit.

Come and stay with me
PL
: So subtle, so warm. A lovely song, done by Jackie in her own special way. Full marks too for the unintrusive but intricate accompaniment. Another one for the
London concert, please.
WG: Yes, this would be great to hear in concert. Marianne Faithfull stills performs this song. A heartfelt lyric, and Jackie adds just a little gospel to this folk ballad. I always liked the stereo separation of the guitar and organ; you can listen to just one or the other accompaniment if you like.

LA
PL
:  What rush, what hurly burly. I’ve never been to LA (except for a one hour airport transfer) but this is how I imagine the place. Superb economic songwriting.
WG: This is my other favorite song on the album. This is Jackie's tribute to her adopted city, and it drips with sincerity. I especially love the double-tracked vocal coda. I lived in LA for years and this deserves a place next to Randy Newman's I Love LA as unofficial city anthem.

Too close
PL
:  Jackie doesn’t emote the blues often enough. When she does it’s stunning. Just listen to this.
WG: Pure gospel. Jackie has never sounded as emotionally raw as on this track. A real vocal tour-de-force without histrionics. Sure to induce chills in all but the most coldblooded of listeners. I saw Stevie Wonder cover this a few years ago on TV. How's that for a testament?!

Bonus Tracks:

Trust in me
PL
:  A little bit of soul. A song you might imagine Percy Sledge singing. Just let it wash over you.
WG: This is one of my absolute favorite Jackie records of all time. The arrangement is perfection, as is Jackie's vocal. This could be a hit today as is  - it sounds totally contemporary. Calling Joss Stone...

What is this
PL
Uptempo soul groove. Jackie can do this as well as anyone. On the 45, which I’ve had for years, the sound is a little muddy. Nice to hear it clarified, now.
WG: Not quite as strong as the last tune, but a successful sweaty soul workout. I love that little bit o' James Brown on the break.


Happy go lucky girl
PL
:  This sound says
Chicago to me, but evidently I’m wrong and it’s Muscle Shoals. Whatever. It’s the background track to any late sixties movie. So effortless and so perfect. And no-one knows who wrote it. Whoever they were, they had talent.
WG: I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be written by Jackie herself. It sounds like a pop song  turned into R&B. Could have been the theme song to a swingin' 60s TV show. Innocent fun.

Ooh you did it again
PL
:  And this could be a bit of Motown. Not a substantial song but a great combination of soul backing and Jackie’s huskiest voice.
WG: These two songs are outtakes from the Trust Me single. I like them both, but the right songs were definitely chosen for release. Jackie wrings as much out of this song as she can. The result is light but infectious.

Effervescent blue
PL
: And now we’re in Bacharach territory, although actually Jackie wrote this complex and ethereal song. Stuck on the back of a 45 for years, with proper digital sound it’s true worth shines through. So many rhythm changes, definitely not one for the dance floor!
WG: This song is uncategorizable. Is it pop? Jazz? Some sort of bossa nova? Whatever it is, it is unique and heavenly. Jackie was definitely paying attention during those Bacharach sessions.

The Greener Side
PL
:  One of Jackie’s demos, and I’d only ever heard Johnny Walsh’s decent cover version before. Lots of good things here, and you just wish there had been a completed studio version. Still nice though.
WG: Groovy is the first word that comes to my mind. I envision love beads and fringe jackets in
Central Park. It may be a demo, but it sounds pretty complete to these ears. Rough and ragged - a perfect compliment to the Laurel Canyon tracks.

Children and flowers
PL
: Lovely melody, very personal delivery. Nothing more to say. Bill, which do you think is the best version of this?
WG: Well, now I think Jackie's is the best version. Her unadorned version brings more depth to the lyrics than I hear in the cover versions. Of course, the Critters' version is great, and I also like the Bachelors' countryish rendition.

Put a little love in your heart
PL
:  Jackie’s favourite song, her liner notes tell us. It never fails.
WG: It's interesting that this song has found new life as a gospel standard. But there ain't nothing like the real thing.




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Cover Pic v19


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