Album of the Week, July 7: Match Game by Marti Jones

MartiJonesMatchGameMarti Jones started recording as the lead vocalist of the short-lived jangle pop band Color Me Gone. After recording one lauded EP, the band dissolved and Jones began her solo career. Her debut was produced by roots pop master Don Dixon; the two were married shortly thereafter. She maintained a steady alt-pop career, never achieving the commercial success that her wonderful voice deserved. Since the mid-90s, she has recorded only sporadically, focusing on raising a family and her career as a painter. Her albums are all wonderful, great blends of original tracks and well-chosen covers, usually with a great ensemble of supporting talent. She and Dixon have bucked the entertainment industry odds and are still happily together; he remains a strong presence on her discs. Their best work together was her second album, their first as a couple, the amazing Match Game. Assembling guest artists like Paul Carrack, Marshall Crenshaw, Darlene Love, Richard Barone, and Anne Richmond Boston, Dixon and Jones clearly enjoyed putting together this lovely disc.

Title Match Game
Act Marti Jones
Label A & M Release Date September 1986
Producer Don Dixon
U.S. Chart  n/c U.K. Chart  n/c
Tracks
  1. We’re Doing Alright
  2. Chance of A Lifetime
  3. Be Myself Again
  4. Just A Memory
  5. Touch Tone
  6. Foolish Lies
  7. Inside These Arms
  8. Whenever You’re On My Mind
  9. Crusher
  10. It’s Too Late
  11. Soon I Will Be Gone
  12. Soul Love

We’re Doing Alright is a perfect kick-off for the album. Slow and almost moody, it is actually an optimistic song, showing how one can rise above the trials of life. Jones is in fine voice and has great backing support on the powerful chorus. Dixon’s clean pop production welcomes the listener. Up next is Chance Of A Lifetime, a fun boy-meets-girl story song written by Dwight Twilley. It tells a tale of love conquering doubt and obstacles. Jones clearly has fun with it, making for a joyous romp. Be Myself Again is a nice statement of independence and inner strength, showing off Jones’ vocal range. The album’s finest moment is Just A Memory, a stunning cover of an Elvis Costello B-side. Jones’ vocal is aching, making the most of the rich lyrical terrain charted by the master. Her reiteration of the opening line as the song comes to a close is heartbreaking. Touch Tone is a more experimental piece, featuring just Jones and Dixon. It’s a wonderful phone-call song, capturing a telecommunications feeling that has since been lost. Dixon uses some fun synth and tape work to create an eerie atmosphere; rather than mimic the predictable sounds of the title, he builds a sonic space like a hollow phone connection and pipes Jones’ voice through it perfectly. It’s a surprising approach that works well. Side one of the original vinyl ends with the Richard Barone song Foolish Lies. It’s a stark, blunt song about betrayal that is delivered perfectly. Side two opens more optimistically, with the lovely Inside These Arms. It’s a sweet song of love and support, sung with evident joy. Marshall Crenshaw contributed the next track, the lovely Whenever You’re On My Mind. Dixon builds a wonderful power pop nest for the song to rest in and Jones reclines in it with happy meditation. Next up is the mysterious Crusher, a wonderful slice of Southern gothic told in dark pieces. Jones approaches the vocal in a lyrical speaking style that works nicely. The next pop gem is It’s Too Late, a gleeful kiss-off song that is clearly fun for everyone. With handclaps and great backing harmonies, it hearkens back to the Brill building while fitting perfectly in the alt-pop world of the album. Dixon breaks out the strings for Soon I Will Be Gone, a surprising cover of a song by Free. It’s another meditative song that the couple build perfectly, creating just the right atmosphere. The album ends with another surprising cover, David Bowie’s Soul Love. Bowie and Jones have little in common vocally, and the song fit perfectly on his concept album Ziggy Stardust. Jones makes it her own, however, as she does with all her covers. The result is a beautiful new rendition, creating a sense of hope and optimism that ends the album on a strong note.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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