Janis Ian should have titled her new album, “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Instead, she’s seeking a subtle form of “Revenge.”
Only her second album in the past 14 years, “Revenge” (on Beacon Records) is easily the folk-based pop singer-songwriter’s best work since her 1975 No. 1 album “Between the Lines,” which featured the Grammy-winning “At Seventeen.”
It is her first release since 1993’s “Breaking Silence,” in which she ended a self-imposed exile from the business and openly admitted she is gay – all this after she divorced, nearly died from a burst intestine and had to sell much of her song catalog to pay off an Internal Revenue Service debt inflicted upon her by poor management.
Today, at 44, she’s feisty and determined as ever while maintaining a biting sense of humor.
“This title comes more from the attitude that living well is the best revenge,” Ian said recently from her home in Nashville. “I look around at a lot of the record companies I was with, a lot of the label presidents who passed on me and the A&R people who passed on me even in the past five years … they’re out of work right now, and here I am still working.
“Who could ask for more, really?”
On “Revenge,” Ian takes an inspired, more direct approach than the subdued desperation of “Breaking Silence.” She dabbles in folk, blues and pop, all while retaining an honest, compelling writing style that dates back to the controversial “Society’s Child” in 1966.
“It was the right bunch of people at the right time,” Ian said of the group she assembled for the album. “We had seven people who clicked from the first song, ‘Ready For the War,’ and onward. We also had the right producer, John Jennings, and the right studio.
“It was a conversion of things. The record company and everything else fell into place within this one six-week period, and four weeks later we had an album.”
Therapists and “a fair amount of good vodka rather than the cheap stuff” helped her through rough times, Ian said jokingly.
“You keep your sanity because it’s too hard otherwise. It’s too hard a business to be able to afford that kind of indulgence. It’s amazing that people like me are allowed to make a living being singers-songwriters.”
In the inner sleeve of the album, Ian makes a plea for the return of her prized Martin D-18 guitar (serial number 67053), which was stolen in 1972. “If you have information, please contact me. No questions. Reward,” she wrote.
“I was talking with a cop a few years ago who said, ‘You know, your only chance of getting it back is to advertise.’
“I’m sure whoever bought it doesn’t realize it was stolen,” Ian said. “It’s a little hope in the corner of my mind, that somebody has it and reads it and goes, ‘I’ll sell it back to her.’
“I haven’t given up hope.”
BWF (before we forget): The Janis Ian album discography – “Janis Ian” (1966, Verve/Forecast); “A Song For All the Seasons of Your Mind” (1967); “The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink” (1968); “Who Really Cares” (1969); “Present Company” (1970, Columbia); “Stars” (1973); “Between the Lines” (1975); “Aftertones” (1976); “Miracle Row” (1977); “Janis Ian” (1978); “Night Rains” (1979); “Restless Eyes” (1981); “Breaking Silence” (1993, Morgan Creek); “Revenge” (1995, Beacon); “Hunger” (October 1997, Windham Hill).
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