Jones’ vocal performances fill each track with pathos, longing, humor, romance. Pieces of Treasure is brimming with insight, if not outright autobiography. She is telling a story, playing a part, but the boundaries between artist and character continually blur until all you can hear is her emotional truth. Creating this work with a producer who was with her during the most turbulent and triumphant period of her career adds to its power. These two survivors, these two friends, have returned to where they started off together: making magic in a studio.
Titelman and Jones are used to the kind of emotionally exposed moments that have yielded astonishing music. In 1980, the famously arduous sessions for Pirates resulted in a brilliant album that Rolling Stone awarded a rare five-star review— and the magazine put Jones on its cover for the second time in two years. Back then, says Titelman, he and co-producer Waronker were more like “casting directors” for this young genius who could write, sing, arrange and conjure up a sweepingly cinematic version of her real life. All she had to do was bring players to complement her and keep the tape rolling. Following her debut, Time had dubbed her The Duchess of Coolsville and the name stuck.
Rickie Lee Jones’ recordings, starting with the hit “Chuck E.’s In Love” that launched her debut album, have all been like chapters in an evolving life story. Jones told a lot more of that tale, particularly those parts that predate her music career, in an acclaimed 2021 memoir, Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour, hailed by The New York Times for being “as rich and colorful as Jones’s best lyrics.” “She is a mercurial presence, impossible to pigeonhole or pin down, her songs as restless as her spirit,” writes The Guardian. “Reading her wild and wonderful book, one senses that, in a very real way, music was a calling that saved her life.”
“‘Give’ is the key word,” Jones decides. “When I was young it was about getting—it was about getting money, getting fame, getting the glory. At some point you have to get old enough to know—some kind of peace comes when you say, I’m going to give something to somebody. For me, I had to grow into that shape, where I felt I had something to give, that my job is only to give. There are lots of ways to sing a song. But…maybe what I possess is this imagination, and the ability to bring my imagination to others.”