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Monday, October 5, 2009

Between The Lines. Janis Ian. CBS (1975)


This is the most romantic collection of songs I have heard. This is not a collection of love songs, though love is an important idea in the songs, they are adult romantic songs that measure the way ideas and dreams shape and haunt us. We grow up with ideas about how our lives will unfold, how central romantic relationships will feel. The reality of our lives usually diverges widely from these ideas, they still retain a considerable force as a measure of what could or should have been. A romantic adult retains these dreams in a modified form, there is still the hope that they could be fulfilled, there is a undying hope that they may become true.
The songs in this collection are drenched in this struggle between the hope for fulfillment and the sharp reality of living and the compromises that it entails. "At Seventeen" is the most explicit accounting of the divergence between reality and the dreams and the price that is extracted for having them in the first place. "Bright Lights and Promises" looks at what a life is like when the dreams you had are all you have to cling to as you move through a life you could never have imagined, a life that is based on simulating romance.
"Between the Lines" walks headlong into the difficulty of being a couple, how can it possibly be made to work and the beautiful "Light a Light" catches the aftermath of love and its dreams. The music is lush and mellow on the songs, it captures and frames the mood with precision and deepens the impact. It is subtle and pervasive, it does not come forward over the vocals, it gently frames them. Janis Ian's vocal are pure and clear, she has a mellow tone that expresses emotion clearly. This is a great production of a lovely collection of songs.

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