I first encountered Marti Jones toward the end of 88, when her third album Used Guitars popped up at Record Service. I’d guess a Rolling Stone blurb or review pushed me over the edge to purchase it. It’s a nice record, but it’s her second release, 86’s Match Game, getting the microscope today.
I scooped up my copy of Match Game from a cut-out bin in 90 or 91, one time when Greg and I were out dumpster diving. It’s got 12 tracks; as with all her other disks, production, along with plenty of guitar and background vocal work, is being handled by eventual husband Don Dixon. It’s become the album of hers I’ve played most often and like the best.
At this stage, Jones was almost strictly a singer, as opposed to singer/songwriter. She’d increasingly contribute her own material on subsequent albums, but here, we’re pretty much relying on Marti and Don to choose tunes that suit her lovely, almost-smoky alto (she has co-writing credit on just one track). It’s been great fun checking out original and/or alternative takes of the songs on Match Game. Jones and Dixon usually don’t give us radically different arrangements, but they’re invariably tastefully done. I’m excited to share my discoveries with you today–let’s get it rolling.
The lead-off track was written by Reed Nielsen, of one-hit wonder Nielsen/Pearson band fame. When I first heard Marti sing “We’re Doing Alright,” soon after I bought the disk, it felt familiar. Turns out there were at least two other versions recorded around the same time as hers, by Van Stephenson and Kenny Rogers, but I don’t know I would have heard them in 86-87 (the Stephenson was a non-charting single, so who knows). By the way, Darlene Love is doing backup here (well-known musical folk making appearances turns out to be a recurring theme).
Next up it’s a little something from Dwight Twilley. As best as I can tell, Twilley didn’t record “Chance of a Lifetime” himself until his 2004 release 47 Moons. This is one of six tracks on the album that has Mitch Easter contributing on guitars.
This might be the best piece on the whole disk. “Just a Memory” was written by Elvis Costello–it was originally the B-side to a UK single from Get Happy!! And look who’s contributing in addition to Jones and Dixon: Marshall and Robert Crenshaw, T-Bone Burnett, Paul Carrack, and Anne Richmond Boston. Absolutely gorgeous.
Speaking of Crenshaw, here’s a cover of the lead single from Field Day. While I can’t say it’s an improvement, Jones does “Whenever You’re On My Mind” justice.
Jones and Dixon really knew how to dig around and root out quality songs. “It’s Too Late” is a cover from the well-regarded 79 eponymous comeback LP by Britain’s The Searchers. Wasn’t familiar with it ’til now, but I just went and placed an order for the CD that couples it with another album they recorded for Sire the following year. We’ve got the Crenshaws again here, and Richard Barone of The Bongos provides some backup vox. One of my faves on the disk.
Jones ends with what initially feels like an odd choice: “Soul Love,” from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. She really smooths out Bowie’s edgy vocals, though, and makes it her own.
Alas, Jones never did break through. She’s done just a little recording since the mid-90s, and has mainly focused on her painting.
One last note: I skipped over a favorite track from Match Game today, one that appeared on a mix tape I made in 91. Expect a write-up of that cassette in the not-terribly-distant future.
(This post first went up just before intended, so if you’re an email follower, you received a not-quite-finished version. Apologies.)