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God & The FBI
2000, Windham Hill
Janis Ians voice and music are immediately recognizable to a whole generation of fans that came of age listening to such hits as "Societys Child" and "At Seventeen." What many of Ians early fans do not know is that she has continued to write, record and perform throughout the Eighties and Nineties, and remains one of the most exciting performers on the contemporary acoustic stage. Listen carefully and you can hear some of her latest offerings on television shows like "Dawsons Creek." Yes, Ian is still speaking to todays young people through her music.
In 1997, Ian rejuvenated her career by signing with Windham Hill Records and recording the groundbreaking Hunger. In 2000, Ian has delivered a strong follow-up CD with the intriguing title, God & The FBI.
The new recording opens with the title track, "God & The FBI." The driving beat of the percussion, with the addition of the sound of tapping on typewriter keys, help to create a feeling of general paranoia. And paranoia abounds here, as in the following lyrics: "they called the FBI/ I had to disappear/ called the t-men, g-men/ see-you-at-the-scene men/ toldem I was hiding here/ they could fingerprint my heart/ I knew it from the start/ aint no place for a face to hide/ from God and the fbi."
One of the things that continues to draw us to Ians work is her ability to write so many classic songs of perfect beauty such as "On the Other Side." [RealAudio sound sample from www.janisian.com] The shimmering quality for which Ians voice is famous is showcased here. Gorgeous, soaring vocals, powerful lyrics and a dramatic melody distinguish this piece. And it concludes with a powerful "requiem" in Latin, sung by an angelic-sounding choir.
Ian shows us that her home is now in Nashville (she moved there some ten years ago) with country co-writers Deana Carter (on "Memphis") and Jess Leary (on "Jolene"). And lets not forget Willie Nelsons contributing vocals on "Memphis," with Chet Atkins lending a hand on guitar.
There are too many great tunes here to cover them all in detail. The closing song, "Murdering Stravinsky," acts as a bookend to the paranoia of the title track. Its wonderful original melody and creative lyrics address the killing off of the famous creative people of the past in order to concentrate on building the future. Its all very dark, twisted and ironic, but the engaging melody draws you in.
God & The FBI is almost entirely the work of Ian and three other musicians: Philip Clark (who also co-wrote two songs), Jim Cregan and Marc Moreau. It has the feel and the sound of a large studio-produced effort on a much larger budget. It is vital, alive and interesting, just like the artist herself. One of the best recordings of the year! Roberta B. Schwartz