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Janis Ian




Janis Ian - Hunger - 1997 - Windham Hill Records

Janis Ian, like so many artists, including the great Maria Muldaur, is mainly known for a few songs/hit singles like"Society's Child" and "At Seventeen." But check out her back catalogue, and you will discover just how good a singer and great songwriter she is. Her 1975 album, "Between The Lines" branded her as a soft-rock folk singer, and although this is not necessarily a bad label to have, it was also not what she was mainly about. Her nusical scope extended much further than that. Ian, at one stage semi-retired from the music business, and moved to Nashville, where she penned many great songs for other artists. "Hunger" has been called a "bare" and "melancholic" album, but these descriptions should not detract from what is a very good album, full of quality. Janis Ian has a great noice, very well suited to blues and jazz as well as folk. She also never received the recognition she deserves for her guitar technique. Give this album a listen, and buy her great "God & the FBI" album.

TRACKS

1.Black & White
2.On The Dark Side Of Town
3.Might As Well Be Monday
4.Getting Over You
5.Searching For America
6.Hunger
7.Welcome To Acousticville
8.Honor Them All
9.Empty
10.House Without A Heart
11.Shadow
12.Getting Over You (with strings)
All songs composed by Janis Ian, except Tracks 4, & 12, by by Ian, Janis/Burr, Gary & Track 9, by Ian, Janis/Varsos, Jim

MUSICIANS

Janis Ian (vocals, acoustic guitar)
Kevin Breit (electric & National steel guitars, bazouki)
Andrew Gilchrist, Dan Huff (electric guitar)
Randy Leago (accordion)
Glenn Worf, David Piltch (upright bass)
Ani DiFranco (bass, samples, background vocals)
Andy Stochansky (drums, percussion)
Steve Brewster (drums)
Terry McMillan, Cyro Baptista (percussion)

REVIEWS

Before Ellen came out and anyone who wasn't a Bible scholar knew who Lilith was – before Jewel, even – there was Janis Ian. Gay, earnest and a superb singer, songwriter and guitarist, Ian kept the folk-pop faith through the long years during which her sound was out of fashion. Now the times again have come around to her, and, as Hunger eloquently demonstrates, lan is still there, crafting carefully observed portraits of people pressed hard by personal and social struggles. Ani Di-Franco produced the haunted "Searching for America," but Ian effortlessly summons her own magic on the lovely ballad "Getting Over You" and the funny, pointed "Welcome to Acousticville." Ian still feels the hunger and, no doubt, will continue to, whether or not she gets the recognition she deserves for this fine album and all she's done before. (RS 772) © ANTHONY DECURTIS, Posted: Oct 30, 1997, © 2008 Rolling Stone

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. © Wilson & Alroy's Record Reviews (DBW) www.warr.org

On her latest release, Hunger, Janis Ian explores the emptiness in many aspects of our existence, spaces between right and wrong, between black and white, between individuals in strained and broken relationships; it is within the limitlessness of these spaces that we seek to build connections between one another, to eliminate the hunger, both spiritual and physical, that gives rise to our very human condition. Hunger begins with "Black And White", a reexamination of the fight for racial equality. A soft yet persistent militaristic drum-beat underscores the lyric as a gravel-voiced guitar evokes the anger and frustration of the singer who concludes that 'it's all gone to pieces' and we are still far removed from racial reconciliation. A glance at any newspaper would force one to agree with this conclusion. From macrocosmic anguish, Janis Ian moves into the microcosm of adultery with "On The Dark Side Of Town". Here, a woman ends an affair with a serial cheater after empathizing with his wife and child. It is an interesting twist on an age-old theme, enhanced musically by a hint of Spanish guitar and a liltingly reflective vocal. Miss Ian moves from the subject of giving up what she shouldn't have to not getting what she really desires on "Might As Well Be Monday". A jazzy and, at least for this artist, upbeat commentary on how the whole world seems to be invited to a party on the weekend - except the loveless, rejected vocalist. The song jangles the nerves and borders on distorted instrumentation, yet is strangely enjoyable. In a startling antithesis to this cacophony, Miss Ian follows with the haunting, achingly beautiful "Getting Over You". The line-up of recording artists wanting to cover this simple yet evocative lost-love song should be extensive as the song lends itself to universal performance. An overwhelming sadness is conveyed effectively by the wounded singer as she expresses the universal pain of the ending of a love affair; stark acoustic instrumentation and a pure vocal express her pain profoundly. A second version of this song concludes the CD, but the addition of lush strings is beyond redundant as the first version approaches perfection. Certainly the thematic centerpiece of this opus lies within "Searching For America". a lengthy exploration of the tragedy of the American dream. On a very literal level, the song explores the hardships and failures of the immigrant experience as hopes and dreams are smashed upon the rocks of reality; it is not too far-fetched to suggest that the song is about the failures we all encounter in life itself; Miss Ian suggests that we will eventually rise above the tragic unfolding of our lives - we will die. The eight minutes spent listening to her longing vocals pass all too swiftly. The song's despair is lessened by the feeling that we all share this voyage, finding solace in the search even if the holy grail of dreams-come-true is unattainable. The title track is a litany of the many kinds of hunger produced by love. Miss Ian sings of the gnawing physical hunger of one lover for another, but also of the existential hunger of one soul for the completion it can only attain by merging with another. The song is presented as a pure Janis Ian folk song one notch below melancholy on the angst dial. But all is not bleak in Miss Ian's artistic vision; "Welcome To Acousticville" is an accomplished acoustic blues number, presented here as a live recording that is not without a wry sense of humor; the piece explores the unpredictability of whom fame will chose in the world of the blues artist. The singer handles the vocals with emotive dexterity while the instrumentation, guitar and bass, is understated, yet entertainingly effective. "Honour Them All" finds Miss Ian stylistically entering James Taylor territory with reflections on the family; for better or for worse, we are what we are because we have been made that way by our mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, and they may be the only refuge we have when battered by the storms of our daily lives. The song is pure folk, and reflectively enjoyable. On "Empty", the theme of hunger again is addressed, but this song falls somewhat flat and rather short of its mark when compared to previous works, both on this CD and earlier ones. Nothing new is added to her thesis as Miss Ian uses a moderately paced jazz influence to evoke lost love. "House Without A Heart" is a soft folk-rock song that also touches on the same territory where others including the artist herself have often trod, but does not add anything new to the exploration; the song is pleasant enough, but seems to serve as mere filler on this disc. The penultimate song, "Shadow", finds the mark once again. It is elemental and elegant in its presentation - a wistfully forlorn vocal clinging to an austere guitar accompaniment. Thematically, this song is the antithesis of "Wind Beneath My Wings": the singer stands earthbound in the shadow of someone with the courage to fly. Wishes and dreams, and even the inspiration of others, are not enough to make our spirits soar if we will not leave the shadows. Janis Ian is all too familiar with the shadows, in both her personal life and her musical career. No stranger to the come-back, she has come back once again into the spotlight, this time with a collection of songs that explore the hunger of the human condition and the spaces between us all. She takes us with her on her introspective journey with an illuminating array of insightful songs. She hits her target so accurately, and so frequently, that this reviewer forgives her for the occasional miss. © D. Malcolm Fairbrother, www.audiophilia.com/software/Popular/reviews/dm2.htm

ABOUT THE ALBUM

The basics: Produced by Janis Ian & Jeff Balding; "Searching For America" produced by Ani Difranco. Recorded spring 1997 at Bearsville, NY; in Austin; and at various Nashville studios; original release September 1997 (Windham Hill). "Honor Them All" went top 10 on the Gavin chart; "Getting Over You" top 5, and top 30 on the R&R chart. "Honor Them All" is also the title track for the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) album release, and benefits MADD. Inside scoop: Windham Hill and Janis seemed to be a marriage made in heaven; they asked her to record, gave her a budget, and left her alone. Janis chose a producer whose work she admired greatly, and "the first 5 days of recording, while the band were present, went great. After that it degenerated into the worst recording experience of my life - and after 32 years, that's a mouthful!" The producer wouldn't even address Janis by name, referring to her through third parties as "Your little friend" and insisting she leave the studio during "his" editing and mixing. When the record company refused to accept the master as technically satisfactory, he demanded his name be removed from the credits, which Janis gladly obliged. She brought in Jeff Balding to rescue the project; they only had five days, so she re-recorded seven lead vocals and twelve guitar tracks in two days while Jeff was mixing in another studio. Still, Hunger got a rave review in Rolling Stone, and wonderful critical notice from the press. Ani Difranco was, and remains, one of Janis' heroes. Shadow, Might As Well Be Monday, and Hunger were all written in Janis' dormitory room at Bearsville Studio, "where I took three days off before everyone arrived and sat by the creek, thinking and singing. Shadow just fell out of me, the night before we began recording. Hunger I'd started a year earlier, but hadn't been able to get further than the first verse - I asked them to bring me a Bible, started leafing through Psalms, and found the second verse. It's a perfect writing environment up there." What is it with those jerks at Windham Hill? You can't get this new in the US. How weird… well, you can still get it here! (So much for "A marriage made in heaven")... © http://store.janisianstore.com




BIO (Wikipedia)

Janis Ian (born Born Janis Eddy Fink in New York City on April 7, 1951) is a Grammy Award-winning American songwriter, singer, multi-instrumental musician, columnist, and science fiction fan-turned-author. She had a highly successful singing career in the 1960s and 1970s, and has continued recording into the 21st century. At age thirteen, she legally changed her name to Janis Ian, her new last name being her brother's middle name. At the age of fifteen, Ian wrote and sang her first hit single, "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)," about an interracial romance forbidden by a girl's mother and frowned upon by her peers and teachers; the girl ultimately decides to end the relationship, claiming the societal norms of the day have left her no other choice. Produced by melodrama specialist George "Shadow" Morton and released three times between 1965 and 1967, "Society's Child" finally became a national hit the third time it was released, after Leonard Bernstein featured it in a TV special titled Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The song's lyrical content was too taboo for some radio stations, and they withdrew or banned it from their playlists accordingly. In the summer of 1967, "Society's Child" reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Apparently "Society's Child" was too hot for Atlantic Records as well at the time. Ian relates on her website that although the song was originally intended for Atlantic and the label paid for her recording session, the label subsequently returned the master to her and quietly refused to release it. Years later, Ian says, Atlantic's president at the time, Jerry Wexler, publicly apologized to her for this. The single and Ian's 1967 eponymous debut album were finally released on Verve Forecast; her album was also a hit, reaching #12. In 2001, "Society's Child" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings considered timeless and important to music history. Her most successful single was "At Seventeen," released in 1975, a bittersweet commentary on adolescent cruelty and teenage angst, as reflected upon from the maturity of adulthood. "At Seventeen" was a smash, receiving tremendous acclaim from critics and record buyers alike — it charted at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It even won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance - Female beating out the likes of Linda Ronstadt who was nominated for the classic Heart Like A Wheel album, Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy. Ian performed "At Seventeen" as a musical guest on the very first episode of Saturday Night Live on October 11, 1975. The song's album, Between The Lines, was also a smash and hit #1 on Billboard's Album chart. It was quickly certified Gold and later earned a 'Platinum' certification for sales of over one million copies sold in the US. Another measure of her success is anecdotal - on Valentine's Day 1977, Ian received 461 Valentine cards, having indicated in the lyrics to "At Seventeen" that she never received any as a teenager. "At Seventeen" can also be heard playing in the background in one scene in the 2004 movie Mean Girls. The movie, like the song, addresses the topic of teenage cruelty and alienation; the film features a character named "Janis Ian" who was not a lesbian but was called one nonetheless by some of her classmates in an attempt to demean her. The character was played by actress Lizzy Caplan. "At Seventeen" is also mentioned in Jeffrey Eugenides's 1993 novel The Virgin Suicides, where the song is used by four girls imprisoned in their own home and essentially cut off from normal adolescent experiences to communicate with the narrator and his friends. "Fly Too High" (1979) was her contribution to the soundtrack of the Jodie Foster film Foxes. It earned her a Grammy nomination and became a hit single in many countries, including South Africa, Belgium and the Netherlands. Another country where Ian has achieved a surprising level of popularity is Japan. She had two top 10 singles on the Japanese Oricon charts, "Love Is Blind" in 1976, and "You Are Love" in 1980; and her album Aftertones was a #1 best-seller there in October 1976. By contrast, in the U.S., Ian made the pop charts only once more after "At Seventeen" ("Under the Covers," #71 in 1981), though she had several more songs reach the Adult Contemporary singles chart through 1980 (all failing to make the Top 20, however). Ian spent much of the 1980s and early 1990s without a record deal; her label dropped her in 1981 following the disappointing sales of Miracle Row (1977), Night Rains (1979), and Restless Eyes (1981). "Basically, I didn't do anything from 1982 to 1992. Ian finally resurfaced in 1993 with the album Breaking Silence, its title song about incest. She came out as a lesbian with that release. Also in 1993 was her infamous Howard Stern Show appearance where she performed a "new" version of "At Seventeen" about Jerry Seinfeld. Ian has released five albums since (including one live album, 2003's Working Without A Net). Ian's most recent album, Folk Is The New Black, was released jointly by the Rude Girl and Cooking Vinyl labels in 2006. It is the first in over twenty years where she did all the songwriting herself. She still tours and has a devoted fan base. Other artists have recorded Ian's compositions, most notably Roberta Flack, who had a hit in 1973 with Ian's song "Jesse" (also recorded by Joan Baez; Ian's own version is featured on her 1974 album Stars). Ian also co-wrote "What About The Love?", featured on Amy Grant's 1988 album Lead Me On. She is an outspoken critic of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a record industry organization which she sees as acting against the interests of musicians and consumers. As such, she has willingly released several of her songs for free download from her website. She was not only one of the first artists to do this but also was one of the first, along with author Eric Flint, to show conclusive evidence that free downloads dramatically increased hard-copy sales, contrary to the claims of RIAA and NARAS. Ironically, Ian's signature tune At Seventeen sold over two million singles in the United States alone yet was never certified. "I've been surprised at how few people are willing to get annoyed with me over it," she laughs, "there was a little backlash here and there. I was scheduled to appear on a panel somewhere and somebody from a record company said if I was there they would boycott it. But that's been pretty much it. In general the entire reaction has been favorable. I hear from a lot of people in my industry who don't want to be quoted, but say 'yeah, we're aware of this and we'd like to see a change too'." In addition to being an award-winning singer/songwriter, Ian writes science fiction. A long-time reader of the genre, she got into science fiction fandom in 2001, attending the Millennium Philcon. Her works have been published in an assortment of anthologies, and she co-edited, with Mike Resnick, the anthology Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian, published in 2003. When her schedule permits, she occasionally attends science fiction conventions. Ian has been a regular columnist for, and still contributes to the LGBT news magazine, The Advocate. She has a selection of her columns available on her website. On July 24th 2008, Janis Ian released her Autobiography: Society's Child (published by Penguin Tarcher) to much critical acclaim. An accompanying double CD "The Autobiogrphy Collection" has also been released with all Ian's best loved songs. Ian currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with attorney Patricia Snyder, whom she married in Toronto, Canada on August 27, 2003.

MORE ABOUT JANIS IAN

A singer/songwriter both celebrated and decried for her pointed handling of taboo topics, Janis Ian enjoyed one of the more remarkable second acts in music history. After first finding success as a teen, her career slumped, only to enter a commercial resurgence almost a decade later. Janis Eddy Fink was born on May 7, 1951, in New York City. The child of a music teacher, she studied piano as a child and, drawing influence from Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, and Odetta, wrote her first songs at the age of 12. She soon entered Manhattan's High School of Music and Art, where she began performing at school functions. After adopting the surname Ian (her brother's middle name), she quickly graduated to the New York folk circuit. When she was just 15, she recorded her self-titled debut; the LP contained "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)," a meditation on interracial romance written by Ian while waiting to meet with her school guidance counselor. While banned by a few radio stations, the single failed to attract much notice until conductor Leonard Bernstein invited its writer to perform the song on his television special Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The ensuing publicity and furor over its subject matter pushed "Society's Child" into the upper rungs of the pop charts, and made Ian an overnight sensation. Success did not agree with her, however, and she soon dropped out of high school. In rapid succession, Ian recorded three more LPs -- 1967's For All the Seasons of Your Mind, 1968's The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink, and 1969's Who Really Cares -- but gave away the money she earned to friends and charities. After meeting photojournalist Peter Cunningham at a peace rally, the couple married, and at age 20, she announced her retirement from the music business. The marriage failed, however, and she returned in 1971 with the poorly received Present Company. After moving to California to hone her writing skills in seclusion, Ian resurfaced three years later with Stars, which featured the song "Jesse," later a Top 30 hit for Roberta Flack. With 1975's Between the Lines, Ian eclipsed all of her previous success; not only did the LP achieve platinum status, but the delicate single "At Seventeen" reached the Top Three and won a Grammy. While subsequent releases like 1977's Latin-influenced Miracle Row, 1979's Night Rains, and 1981's Restless Eyes earned acclaim, they sold poorly. Ian was dropped by her label and spent 12 years without a contract before emerging in 1993 with Breaking Silence (the title a reference to her recent admission of homosexuality), which pulled no punches in tackling material like domestic violence, frank eroticism, and the Holocaust. Similarly, 1995's Revenge explored prostitution and homelessness. Two years later Ian returned with Hunger; God & the FBI followed in the spring of 2000. A live set, Working Without a Net, appeared from Rude Girl Records in 2003, and a DVD, Live at Club Cafe, saw release in 2005. Folk Is the New Black appeared as a joint release from Rude Girl and Cooking Vinyl in 2006. © Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide