THE SERMON ON EXPOSITION BOULEVARD

    The inspration for the songs came from the Lee Cantelon's book "The Words", a modern rendering of the words of Christ. Released on February 6th, 2007, packaged in a beautiful, recycled paper case. A special edition was also released, offering an expanded booklet, a 5.1 surround mix, an SACD version of the record, high-fidelity MP3's of the entire album, as well as a 50-minute DVD that documents the project from its beginning.


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    open digipack: back (left); front (right): click here to view enlargement of cover art

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    interior pages: Rickie singing (left); Peter Atanasoff and Rickie recording


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Peter writing (left); (clockwise from upper left) Peter and Marc Chiat in the art studio, Rickie in New York City, producer Rob Schnapf with Rickie, and engineer Dough Boehm


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Peter working with drummer, Jay Bellerose

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Rickie on tour, 600 miles inside the Arctic Circle to perform songs from the new album

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

    (clockwise from upper left) Marc Chiat, co-producer, Lee Cantelon, The Words, engineer Bernie Larsen with Peter; Joey Maramba, Rickie, Peter, and engineer Richard Shaw


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (left) painting by Marc Chiat; (right) Rickie walking in South Central Los Angeles

    » THE SERMON ON EXPOSITION BOULEVARD - HIgh Resolution Photos by Lee Cantelon

    CRITICAL ACCOLADES POUR IN FOR RICKIE LEE JONES’ ALBUM THE SERMON ON EXPOSITION BOULEVARD

    “…the most rocked-up music of her almost-30-year career.”
    --Alan Light, NEW YORK TIMES

    “…enriched by roadhouse rhythms and her distinctive whiskey-soaked voice… vintage Rickie, and way more rocking than your average Sunday-school primer.”
    --Leah Greenblatt, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

    "...some of Jones's finest vocals. When she sings on the first single, ‘Falling Up,’ of the painful letting go of old routines and of the unexpected ascension into new planes, she could be describing her own artistic reinvention as much as a spiritual experience."
    --Geoffrey Himes, WASHINGTON POST

    “…veers from punk rock minimalism to ethereal, whispery rock… Jones neither preaches nor proselytizes, but instead witnesses, through Jesus’ eyes, her ever-evolving faith.”
    --Andria Lisle, MOJO (4 stars)

    "...full of thought-provoking meditations. On songs like ‘Gethsemane’ and ‘It Hurts,’ Jones manages to mingle contemporary realities of televangelists, poverty and alienation with spiritual archetypes of suffering, forgiveness and redemption.”
    --Steve Kling, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

    "...the moving, jubilantly eccentric The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard might be the best of her career....potent musical frameworks, from the ragged, Velvet Underground-like anthem that starts it off to the free-flowing groove that ends it on a note of Astral Weeks trembling emotion."--Richard Cromelin, LOS ANGELES TIMES (four stars), February 18, 2007

    "This majestic, thoughtful collection, among Jones’s best, is the kind that only comes with age, when an artist has something pressing on her mind.”  --Lara Pellegrinelli, TIME OUT NEW YORK (five stars), February 15, 2007

    "Jones' new songs are quite literally private prayers.  It takes the coalescence of her still astonishingly expressive voice and a sympathetic, locked-tight band to transform those confessions. When that happens, resurrection isn't too strong a word for describe her return."  --Roy Kasten, NO DEPRESSION, March/April 2007

    “What a record this is: Rickie Lee in the raw, scatting, squawking and whispering through 12 songs of angry rock and unnervingly stark arrangements… Strangely accessible and highly addictive, it’s her best work in three decades.”--UNCUT (4 stars), March 2007

    "The two-time Grammy winner may be the most brilliant and distinctive vocalist since Billie Holiday...Jones' genius here, aside from her voice and her wonderfully odd phrasing, is in being able to strip away the baggage that has accumulated around Christianity and recast Christ's life and message in a completely fresh and compelling way."--Chris Jorgensen, BILLINGS GAZETTE (MT), February 23, 2007

    "The new material, which is lyrically compelling and sonically hard driving, is among the strongest in Jones' long career." --Sheryl Hunter, HARTFORD COURANT, February 20, 2007

    "...the most startling work of her career...a compelling rock record that isn't preachy and has rightly been compared to Patti Smith's Horses and Van Morrison's Astral Weeks for its raw intensity and emotional honesty."
    --Scott Mervis, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE (4.5 stars)

    "Mature, inspired, confident."
    --Sylvie Simmons, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE,

    “Strangely accessible and highly addictive, it’s her best work in three decades.”
    --UNCUT (4 stars)

      "...melodically and lyrically it's some of the richest, most instantly gratifying work in her discography....  Its [the album's] cousins, actually, are Van Morrison's great soul-searching works, from Astral Weeks to Hymns to the Silence. It's every bit as unrelentingly focused, infused with both blood and spirit, and incredibly uplifting in ways you can't quite pinpoint."
    --Ben Wener, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER (A minus rating)

    "Jones' voice sounds stronger than ever—an instrument in its own right—and the overall sound is weirdly experimental, yet accessible. She sings about Jesus' last night from his perspective in the eerily beautiful ‘Gethsemane. She sings about the challenge of praying in a modern world on Where I Like it Best.’ She sings about riding around in heaven in ‘Elvis Cadillac.’ And it's pure joy to listen."
    --Kim Curtis, ASSOCIATED PRESS

    "...this may be her finest work to date. It's certainly the best album of 2007 thus far."
    --Ray Ellis, BLOGCRITICS.ORG

    "...Sermon is a mystical masterpiece that works in service to the miracle and purity of beauty; it worships beats as much as language..."
    --Jim Walsh, CITY PAGES.COM (Minneapolis)

    "The improvisatory, loose-jointed approach Jones chooses makes songs such as 'Elvis Cadillac' resonate more like the soul- and gospel-inspired rock of early-’70s Van Morrison than anything remotely preachy....She tackles spiritual themes in ways that are anything but obvious, embracing the mystery while letting it be."
    --Steve Dollar, TIME OUT CHICAGO, February 22, 2007

    "... it's musically audacious and adventurous, mixing mysticism and blue-eyed soul with jarring, thrilling rock textures."--Monica Kendrick, CHICAGO READER, February 24, 2007

    “’Where I Like It Best’ is Jones at her finest, homeless and dying outside of a crowded restaurant, wondering how one ‘can pray in a world like this.’  Buoyed by gentle acoustic picking, she howls and moans in a voice that’s at once broken and assured.  ‘I Was There’ is nearly as arresting, Jones delivering a stream-of-conscious deathbed rant amidst genuflecting notes.”--Andy Downing, ABSOLUTE SOUND, March 2007

    "...rich, challenging...songs that are energetic and catchy...a lovely spiritual energy..."
    --Jim Abbot, ORLANDO SENTINEL, February 23, 2007

    "...a real sense of creative spark at its heart, Sermon is a worthy entry into the Book of Rickie Lee."--Sarah Rodman, BOSTON GLOBE, February 6, 2007

    Jones brings conviction to Sanders with 'Sermon'
    By Jonathan Perry,
    Boston Globe Correspondent
    February 19, 2007


    CAMBRIDGE -- She was right there in front of us, flesh and blood and long blond locks, and yet somehow from the moment she materialized behind a piano to conjure the "sad-eyed Sinatras" of "Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue)," Rickie Lee Jones seemed spectral, a hazy apparition of Patti Smith's hippie kid sister.

    Perhaps the illusion had to do with Jones's tea-cozy shaped "Alice in Wonderland"-evoking pinafore, her blissfully drowsy countenance, or that peculiar, precocious voice that throbbed with both child like wonder and bruised wisdom, dreaming and remembering at once. Dreams and memories: Saturday night's set before a sold-out crowd seated in pews inside the handsome old environs of Sanders Theatre was about both.

    Jones, who had not played Sanders in nearly 15 years, is touring in support of her latest disc, "The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard." The idea for the album, released this month, was inspired by "The Words," a book based on Christ's teachings written by her friend, author-musician Lee Cantelon (who occasionally joined in on various percussion instruments at Sanders when he wasn't watching the proceedings from a perch at the rear of the stage).

    Musically speaking, "Sermon" is a noir-ish universe of spooky, swirling grooves cut with minimalist, diamond-hard riffs that recall the Velvet Underground, reined in by Jones's street-poetry meditations and lamentations on faith, doubt, and the state of the world. It's also the 52-year-old singer-songwriter's best work in years, and she knows it.

    Rather than sprinkle a nostalgia-heavy set of old favorites with the obligatory smattering of new material, as many veteran performers past their prime are wont to do, Jones -- an adventurous artist who always seems to strive for a new prime not yet realized -- opted for the inverse. Yes, she hearkened back with sly, blissfully slur-voiced affection to her early boho/beatnik Americana portraits: "Living It Up"; the early Springsteen-isms of "The Last Chance Texaco" ; the wistful recollections of "On Saturday Afternoons in 1963." But most deeply and deliberately, Jones immersed herself inside the more recent spiritual preoccupations of "Sermons," and it was that material -- especially the louder, harder-rocking numbers -- that shone brightest.

    Flanked by an endlessly inventive band that was a shape-shifting combo of guitars, bass, drums, and the occasional accordion -- it ranged between three and six members at any given time -- Jones laid down a thick, knotty, insistent groove that brought tough, soulful selections like "Nobody Knows My Name" to strutting life and infused "Tried to Be a Man" with streetwise menace.

    When she strapped on an electric guitar, the result was magic. The glittering half-sung, half-spoken rap that sent "I Was There" shooting toward the stars capped a performance that was by turns earth-bound and ethereal , much like Jones herself. "And we were blessed, yes we are," Jones testified, the rest of her band by now having exited from the stage, save for guitarist Peter Atanasoff , who stood conjuring beside her. "You tell them I was there, man. I was there." 

    "...often brilliant...the lyrics are revealing and inspired...The improvisational element that has always informed Jones' approach invigorates Exposition Boulevard...."
    -- Rashod D. Ollison, BALTIMORE SUN

    "...her first rock record. Languid and tough, it evokes the Velvet Underground and Neil Young."
    --Joan Anderman, BOSTON GLOBE

    "Rickie Lee Jones has turned her latest music into a meditation. With its chant-like vocals, ascetic lyrics and hyper­-repetitive riffs, the cuts on The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard seem as much incantations as songs, like a soundtrack for channeling a force from beyond."
    --Jim Farber, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

    "...a disc that's unflaggingly challenging--and unfailingly rewarding..."
    --David Sprague, BARNES & NOBLE.COM

    "...it rocks, it rolls, it swings and strolls...Sermon on Exposition Boulevard feels raw and immediate, and most of all, it rings true. The music here was made because Jones had to make it...The songs on this record feel like they come from the street in order to go back there, not to witness or testify, but simply to be there as a witness to life in the process of spending itself...a masterpiece."
    --Thom Jurek, ALLMUSICGUIDE.COM

    "As usual, her lyrics showcase what’s on her mind with a brash insight and daring that often posses the questions we all want to ask, but won’t or can’t. The lone instrumental, ‘Road to Emmaus’ teeters like cherry blossoms falling in the dark before the power of a coming typhoon, while ‘Tried to Be a Man’ gathers in that wind-blown energy with a rumbling under-current, saw cut guitars and Jones’ anguished, whispered growl. Throughout, there is a dark undercurrent, a mellow abrasion and slanted instrumentation—her husky voice included—that makes this repeat listen."
    --Glenn BurnSilver, RELIX

    ...we must make special mention of Rickie Lee Jones, whose forthcoming disc, The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard’ is as fine as anything she's made since that late-'70s stuff people mostly still associate her with."
    --TIME OUT NEW YORK

    "... rocks in a way Jones never has before, building from the Rolling Stones/Velvet Underground riffs of ‘Nobody Knows My Name,’ ‘Tried to Be a Man’ and ‘Elvis Cadillac,’ which provides poignant commentary on modern deities. This Sermon is a real conversation piece."
    --Gary Graff, BILLBOARD

    "...the album is among Jones’s most deeply personal and emotionally intense. She plays all sorts of instruments here–guitar, keyboards, dulcimer, percussion, etc. – but the most affecting passages come from her singular voice. From ethereal and fragile to stentorian and tough, it conveys feelings in words and phrases and sometimes just sounds, as though actual words have failed. Although the songs in part channel the words of Christ, they’re also naturally entwined with her own perceptions and emotions, so the collection never feels preachy but more like a quest."
    --Natalie Nichols, LOS ANGELES CITY BEAT

     "...Jones mines a raw Americana vibe, but adds her own stamp to the proceedings. The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard succeeds in tackling religion and religious imagery...  with complete class."
    --Justin Gage, LIVEDAILY.COM

    "...an opus that's equal parts earthy and dour, soul-searching and uplifting."
    --Patrick Donnely, LAS VEGAS WEEKLY

    “A deft musician whose body of work reflects an artist in a state of constant exploration, Jones' new record, The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, displays an edgier side to this multi-faceted performer. It rocks, in fact. She's a consummate storyteller and a brilliant lyricist.”
    -- Suzanne Cheavens, TELLURIDE DAILY PLANET (Colorado)

    "It's a pleasure just to hear Jones wailing in ‘It Hurts to Be Here,’ or her throaty stage whisper over the distorted guitar in ‘Tried to Be a Man.’ A lighter number on the album, ‘Elvis Cadillac,’ harks back to the snappy pop sound that made Jones a star in the late '70s."
    --Joe Barron, MONTGOMERY NEWSPAPERS
    (Ft. Washington, PA)

    "...an exquisite musical journey..."
    --Scott McLennan, WORCESTER TELEGRAM

    Sermon on Exposition Review
    by O. Dubhthaigh (UK)

    A long time ago, my German teacher, Rev Charles Knapp, had us read Heinrich Boll's "Kurzen fur Maria" - a profoundly moving story that in German delivered one of the most profound mystical punches I have ever felt: the protagonist observes a woman who enters the Church every day and lights a candle before the statue of the Mary. She then kneels and prays quietly, and at some point takes her leave. It breaks the protagonist's heart as he wishes he could pray like that. Knapp made it clear the sentiment that one would wish that one could pray with such simple piety contained more reverence for the private places in the soul, and likely came closer to gaining God's ear, than all the prostrations and caterwauling that passes for religious fervour. 

    Well, get yourself ready, as this disc accomplishes the very same poetic piety in recasting the New Testament through the eyes of RLJ and her characters. The music is terrific - in fact some of her best ever. The musicians are so spot on, that it seems almost as though it was done on the first take. Embracing an aesthetic that you can hear in bands like God Speed You Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky, Jones and her colleagues move organically and propulsively forward in what seems simple but in fact portends a sublime subtlety that is absent from almost every other songwriter out there. No one has addressed spirituality like this since Teilhard or Heidegger: the root of our grace is hidden in those quiet places that need to be uncovered from all the debris of our existence. RLJ catalogues the debris well enough and then points directly to who has seemed to pick up the trail and followed that core message to love all things, to forgive, to show compassion. 

    - O. D.

     

    THE SECOND COMING of JESUS JONES
    by Jim Walsh

    There's an exciting new lyricist coming out of Los Angeles and here, there, and everywhere, whom everyone will be talking about in a new way in a couple of months. He's got as many pseudonyms as he does myspace pages but you probably already know him as the son of God, the prince of peace, the reason for the season, the scapegoat for the war, etc., but with the exception of, say, The Gospel Of Thomas Aquinas, we've never heard him like we're about to hear him.

    "Do you know my name?," he sings on his new record The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard , in the same sexy mofo voice that all the cannibalistic Catholic girls -- all those hot vampirellas who grew up drinking all that blood -- wet their pants over when they heard him sing in the '70's rock opera that bears his superstar name.

    Yes, my brother, we know your name. Your name is Jesus, and sexy is back. In the form of you in me, us, and Rickie Lee Jones.

    Jones' new album won't be released by New West Records until February 6, but I've been playing it non-stop since I received it a few days ago. It's a breathtaking work, sure to be one of the most discussed and ingested records of next year (if only by serious music listeners), but at the moment I'm happy to simply report that it melds gorgeously with all the Christmas music in the air; all those beautiful underground sentiments about Jesus and love.

    "Music is love," Jeff Tweedy once said, which is what I've always believed, just as so many have believed "Jesus is love."

    Jesus and music. Combine the two without the ball and chain of the Christian dope show or numbskull preaching -- as Jones and her collaborators does on every track of Sermon -- and the result is something so rare it feels historic, necessary, and distinctly of its time, the way other classic mystic-beatnik albums like Horses and Astral Weeks and Nighthawks At The Diner and Late For The Sky screamed out of the sky with something important to say.

    And not to put too fine a point on it, but this Sermon is important: The lyrics to all 13 songs are Christ's words, and, as we hurl towards doomsday and another 30,000 troops in Iraq in the name of someone else's god, hell if they don't sound like Barack and Beck and the Mountain Goats riffing together.

    "The recording began in a painter's loft on an abandoned industrial street in mid-L.A in the summer of '05. Lee Cantelon, who can best be described as a modern renaissance man, originally conceived the project as a lo-fi, low budget undertaking, a spoken word interpretation of "The Words," his book of Christ's teachings. Cantelon had created beds of music with guitarist Peter Atanasoff ('The Velvet Underground was the name that seemed to come up most often,' recalls Rickie Lee), and Cantelon's initial plan was to recruit friends and associates -- running the gamut from punk icon Mike Watt to a homeless man he encountered every day to Rickie Lee --and let them do the talking.

    "When Rickie Lee arrived to record her spoken work track, the project was to take an unexpected turn. Instead of reciting the text, she improvised a stunning 'sermon' that was to change the undertaking in a wonderful and personal direction. 'Nobody Knows My Name' set the pace for what was to become THE SERMON ON EXPOSITION BOULEVARD -- and it appears on the record exactly as it was delivered that day. And the fact that she had not even heard 'Nobody Knows My Name' when she began to sing was no less remarkable. She found a niche by improvising off the texts to tunes she had -- and had not -- heard, and the resulting songs are truly inspired."

    "How do you pray in a world like this?," sings Jesus-Jones, forlornly, but also putting into practice what a teacher of Travis's Fran Healy's once told him: "When you sing, you pray twice." God knows Jones does as much on "Where I Like It," one of the most amazing vocal performances-slash-channelings you will hear in this lifetime. Then when she sings, from the gutter and the gut, "I'm down here, too; I'm down here, too," she is both Jesus Christ weeping in the garden, and Rickie Lee Jones begging God the father not to forsake her.

    "I wonder why there's so much suffering," she sings. "It hurts to be here," she sings. She's pissed at him. She's a reluctant servant. So when she goes, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," she does so with a there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I sarcasm, as if she feels blessed for her life and all her gifts but she can't shake the trials and tribulations of others, and so s/he's questioning the very existence of a higher power, wonders if He even hears her/us, with all the resignation of a jilted lover who has spent way too much time throwing prayers out to the universe but never gets a callback, no, no, no, and so she sounds like she's going crazy, like we all do I suppose, like we're all just hanging on by the hair of our chinny-chin-cobwebs of hope.

    "I tell you what, you gotta take it back from them," she/he instructs; talking here about faith and love and weathering the storm, staying strong, and reclaiming all the good stuff from the creeps who have co-opted it. In the end, that's the main point of this sprawling Sermon , which suggests that love has much more to do with you and I than with a toy baby in a manger or some dead guy on a cross.

    -- Jim Walsh


    Jim Walsh is a native Minneapolitan. He has been writing articles, stories, essays, columns, and songs for most of his life--for the Minnesota Daily , the St. Paul Pioneer Press , City Pages , Spin , Rolling Stone , the Village Voice , the L.A. Weekly , and various other publications. His essay "Baptism By Bruce" was included in the DaCapo Best Music Writing 2001 collection. In 2002-2003, he was the recipient of a John S. Knight Fellowship from Stanford University . He joined City Pages in 2003 as a general columnist, and lives in Minneapolis with his wife Jean and their kids, Henry and Helen.

     

    "The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, the new album by Rickie Lee Jones and her first for New West Records, is a beauty--soul-satisfying and sonically unique. RICKIE LEE sounds completely tapped in, alive and vital, heading down some mighty interesting roads and discovering new magical essences. Lots of creative sparks here--plenty of them. She sounds like she's going through a transformation throughout the album in a way that's reminiscent of Van Morrison's performances on his classic album Astral Weeks." -- Amazon.com

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