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Music Review: Janis Ian – Best Of Janis Ian: The Autobiography Collection

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Janis Ian has been producing thoughtful and melodic folk/pop since her mid teens. Best Of Janis Ian: The Autobiography Collection has been issued in conjunction with her new book release entitled, Society’s Child: My Autobiography.  If the book is of the same quality as this CD release, we will have a double winner.

Janis Ian recorded “Society’s Child” in 1965. This song of interracial romance was a huge hit but was also very controversial in its time. By the 1970’s Janis Ian had become a respected and brilliant singer/songwriter who produced a series of excellent albums and single releases. Her song, “At Seventeen,” earned her five Grammy nominations in 1975 and she performed the song on the first episode of Saturday Night Live.  Her albums, Between The Lines and Aftertones were well received and sold well. Aftertones topped the Japanese charts for six months. Janis took ten years off from 1983-1992 but has returned to producing quality material for the past fifteen years.  

Best Of Janis Ian: The Autobiography Collection is a two-disc retrospective of Janis Ian’s career. All of her hits and well know songs are included as well as some of her equally impressive but not as famous new material.  

“Hair Of Spun Gold” is probably Janis Ian’s first song and finds her in a folk mode. “Society’s Child” may seem dated today but it is amazing that a teenager could actually write sophisticated material such as this. By the time she recorded “At Seventeen” her voice had matured and her lyrics were becoming more precise. This song of eternal teenage cruelty and suffering would never become outdated. “Fly Too High” is about as overtly commercial as Janis Ian gets. It was part of the soundtrack to the Jodie Foster film Foxes. It is a nice, positive up-tempo song that moves smoothly along.

The lesser-known modern material continues Janis Ian’s musical odyssey with more strong creations. “When Angels Cry,” “Days Like These,” “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye,” and “My Tennessee Hills” all tell wonderful stories that are sung well via her straightforward vocal style. She continues to use her acoustic guitar and piano for the underpinning of her songs. 

Janis Ian has not spent more than 40 years in her career. At times her music can lull you and at other times make you think. Best Of Janis Ian: The Autobiography Collection takes the listener on a thoughtful and creative journey through Janis Ian’s musical life and mind. It is a journey that is well worth the time and price.     

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