Jill Sobule's name cannot ever be mentioned again without
first referencing a certain girl-kissing song. And if your perception
of Sobule is that of a one hit wonder, that's a shame. California
Years was produced by the high-powered Don Was, and includes
some of the best songwriting to come along in a long time. If it doesn't
give you newfound respect for Sobule, nothing will.
Sobule calls this disc California Years because, in many ways,
it's a concept album about California life. California is a crazy
state, and two songs ("Palm Springs" and "San Francisco")
point out two towns that couldn't be more different from each other.
San Francisco is a city with a rich, counter culture heritage, whereas
Palm Springs is known for its large senior citizen contingent and
as the former home to Sonny Bono, who was once the anti-hippie.
The jewel in the crown of this disc, however, is "Nothing to
Prove". On it, Sobule tells the story of seeking a label deal
with "a dying record company" (and aren't they all death-bound
now?) where she encounters a typical artificial L.A. woman. Sobule
knows what it's like to be a good looking, pop star wannabe - those
words once described her. But she's not that girl anymore. Los Angeles
is a weird place to call home. It's not like Detroit, where industry
means car manufacturing. Instead, industry equals the entertainment
business. "Nothing to Prove" includes the following insightful
lines: "Everyone's in the industry/And I hate it when they use
that word/And when they tell me they're in the industry/I ask, "Oh,
are you in steel?"
One of the songs Sobule recorded just for fun is "Where Is Bobbie
Gentry?" Gentry is famous for "Ode To Billie Joe"
from many years back. On this new song, however, Sobule fantasizes
about meeting Gentry, and sings of this mystery woman over a country-soul
backing that is a dead ringer for "Ode To Billie Joe".
Somebody please give this girl a big, wet kiss because California
Years is one terrific album.
- Dan MacIntosh
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