Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Janis Ian - Aftertones (1976)

Boy, I really tied one on....


Released in 1976

Running time 33.11

After 1974's slightly patchy, not quite there Stars and 1975's superb Between The Lines, Janis Ian followed up with an album that was somewhere in the middle between the two. As with all the albums, it is immaculately played, with an infectious bass and an often rhythmic, understated backing. Ian's lyrics are brutally honest, self-searching, sometimes a bit saucy and acutely observational, particularly with regard to the minutiae of relationships. Imagine a relationship with Janis - yes there would have been some fun, but boy, all that analysis!


1. Aftertones
2. I Would Like To Dance
3. Love Is Blind
4. Roses
5. Belle Of The Blues
6. Goodbye To Morning
7. Boy, I Really Tied One On
8. This Must Be Wrong
9. Don't Cry, Old Man
10. Hymn                                                                                                       

Aftertones is a gentle, acoustic number, with Janis singing in a plaintive, breathy style rather similar to some of the folk singers of the time. As I mentioned earlier, the bass line is sumptuous, as are the strings. After a bit of a reflective beginning to the album, it soon kicks into a lively ambience with the fun, jazzy strains of I Would Like To Dance. It features some intoxicating rhythms and a fetching flute solo. It is one of Janis’s most lively numbers. She is not all about angst, she can pound the stage boards when she feels like it, becoming a real song and dance girl.

Love Is Blind is a slow, mournful but dignified ballad with a big backing. Roses is a delightful, subtle number sung winsomely over a truly seductive bass. Belle Of The Blues has Janis showing that she could sing the blues too, over a delicious slow piano-driven blues backing. It is one of the best tracks on the album, similar to Bonnie Raitt’s material from the same period. Nice fuzzy guitar at the end too.

Goodbye To Morning once again has a vocal like Sandy Denny or Jacqui McShee in some ways in a quiet but also rousing, committed song. Boy, I Really Tied One On is an honest but cynical and slightly amusing song about an unfortunate one-night stand encounter. Janis did this sort of song really well. It finishes with a snatch of funky guitar.

This Must Be Wrong is another smoky, bluesy  number with some excellent piano and a strong vocal. It is a far puncher song than many would expect from Janis Ian. “You were the high priest, I was the sacrifice…” she sings, forcefully. Don’t Cry, Old Man is a strange, sombre song sung by Ian using that shhh-sounding s-sound that is also used by Mary Chapin Carpenter - “thirshhty”, for example. It is an orchestrated, simultaneously understated yet dramatic song.

Hymn is a gospelly, evocative ending to the album that finishes as quietly as it has begun. In between, though, it was quite fun and also bluesy, reflecting the many sides to Janis Ian’s character as shown in her songs. Janis Ian albums were rather like Bread albums from the same period, not all quiet ballads, but a fair mix of different paced material. There is always something good to be found in any Janis Ian album. They are quite underrated little gems.


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