Janis Ian: “Between the Lines” Album Review

Written By: Edward Ramjuse

Janis Ian singing in Between the lines, was extremely delightful; she demonstrated that her quiet and beautiful voice was indeed capable of going over the top with vocals that stole the audience’s concentration. The album was wonderfully produced and everything in there was just in the right place. I explored the album and what I heard was the best introspective and straightforward songwriting and arrangement ever. Her lyrics were very mature and showed a lot about her taste for bittersweet themes, her skills were her emotively powerful yet reserved melodies. The words were daunting, inviting, inspiring and very realistic. And I am assured that this was undoubtedly the factor in “At Seventeen” becoming a Grammy winner as well as a chart-topping single stateside.

I have to confess that it’s only two years ago when I heard the song ‘At Seventeen’ playing in the radio, it really moved me like no other song. What stimulated me most was how Janis was bringing in her audience; the emotions and acceptance. I had to go on and dug her songs and realized she was among the best artists from the 70’s. “Bright light and promises” was an exceptional song and “lover’s lullaby” was one for the ages as well which contained perfect harmonies. ‘In The Winter’ was showing nerve tingling bright blue and red in an icy breeze. ‘I met your wife, she’s very nice, what can I say,’ the artist’s voice trailing off at the end in self-conscious revelation.

Unlike the more somber and introverted tracks that dominated Between the Lines (1975) which garnered public attention, the disc commenced with the most important example of Janis’ infectious coziness on the light and air, “when the party’s over” was one of the title’s more straightforward love songs and featured an aptly lilting counter-harmony.  More typical were the somewhat dark and oblique ‘From Me to You,’ ‘The Come On,’ and the despairing title track. Darker still are “In the Winter” and the utter loneliness of ‘Tea and Sympathy’ both of which featured some appealing preparations.

This album was a masterpiece, one of the greatest she ever recorded. It is simply a combination of finest songs which were moving and emotional ever yet put in one album. Each song stood on its own and hit like a cold shower in the morning, unsophisticated honesty, simple yet deep lyrics, and melancholic yet uplifting sadness. It was real talent. Nevertheless, this was a flawless work, covered a great expanse of emotional and musical territory.

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