Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Silver Label) VINYL LP REVIEW

EXCUSE ME IF I come up a bit short on this review. You see, the thing is, I’m a late convert to Rickie Lee Jones, and I love her to death, but for the life of me, can’t really figure her – or her art – out.
Pirates was her second album, released in 1981, and it’s widely rumoured to be “about” her breakup with Tom Waits, as much as music can ever be “about” anything, really. I disliked ‘Chuck E’s In Love’ (or at least, I disliked having to endure it endlessly flogged on the radio) and, consequently, wasn’t even slightly interested in hearing the more sensitive sequel. And in a way, I’m glad I didn’t, because, if anything, her music has improved with age.
Musically, it’s a complex brew – although it’s more like a fine wine than a beer – and there’s an absolutely stellar supporting cast to hand, including Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, saxophonists David Sanbourn and Tom Scott, bassist Chuck Rainey, trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Steve Gadd. Studio pros all, their skills turn Jones’ filmic scenarios into highly stylised musical watercolours full of subtle hues.
It’s no surprise that Pirates ended up on the ‘Mofi’ list of albums to bless with their special vinyl magic, and it sounds just as good as it should. While the CD issue of this album sounds okay, I always thought there was something missing in the translation – that the complexity of these arrangements didn’t quite work when boiled down to bits and bytes. On vinyl it sounds lush and refined and all the latent emotionality of Jones’ voice comes through, despite the fact that most of the time on this album, her instrument sounds delicate, bending to the music rather than beaming The Voice.
It’s an amazing album that, like I said, after all these years I’m still coming to terms with, and the original master recording sounds just great on this ‘Mofi’ edition. GARY STEEL
Sound = 4.5/5
Music = 4.5/5

Gary Steel’s admittedly less than highly spec’d gear includes: Pro-ject Xpression II turntable, Ortofon cartridge, Pro-Ject Phono Box II, Rotel RC-1550 preamp, Yamaha CD-S2000 Super Audio CD Player, and Martin Logan Powered Hybrid Electrostatic Loudspeakers.
* The vinyl of Rickie Lee Jones’ Pirates is available from Southbound Records, a fabulous vinyl-dominated store located at 69 Mt Eden Rd, Auckland.


  1. Do you know if Magazine has or will be given this treatment? It’s my favourite RLJ!

  2. Sorry Cliff, ‘Magazine’ hasn’t made it to Mofi vinyl… yet, anyway.

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