Twenty-five years ago, Sass Jordan made her first big breakthrough onto Canadian radio airwaves with her sophomore album Racine. It was very much a “right place, right time” kind of moment – with bands like the Black Crowes and singers like Melissa Etheridge holding a whole lot of time and space on playlists around the country. Jordan fit right in with the time and tastes of a mainstream rock radio audience who was still hearing new music during happy hour at their favourite watering hole.
It proved to be a pretty good place to start and, for the fourteen years which followed, the singer held her own with the power of her unbelievable voice as times and tastes changed repeatedly. No matter where music seemed to go stylistically, Sass always found ears without actually changing anything about her music. That kind of consistency speaks volumes about Sass Jordan’s talents as both a singer and a songwriter and, if you hear it, it says an even greater amount about the longevity of that voice.
Now though, twenty-five years after her first big breakthrough, Sass Jordan has elected to revisit Racine and re-record the songs on it. Why? It might have something to do with rights reverting back to the artist (read: she’s done it just because she can) or it might just be a celebration of the quarter-century milestone that the album has reached this year but, either way, this new approach to Racine shows fans just how able to summon the old magic Jordan is.
As soon as “Make You A Believer” kicks off the proceedings, listeners who remember the album will be transported right back to the moment when they first heard the music because, while none of Sass’ original backing band appears on Racine Revisited, the care that has been taken to keep the performance true to the original is remarkable. Here, guitarists Derek Sharp and Chris Caddell stride a lean but tight and Stones-y rhythm figure which starts heads nodding involuntarily, and the keyboard figure also supplied by Sharp adds a swaggering finish which seals the deal for the right kind of minds . It’s a perfect, bluesy beginning, but it is (not surprisingly) Jordan herself who sets the hook within seconds of stepping to the mic. Right from breath one, Sass Jordan calls all of the ghosts which have always colored the edges of her voice – Melissa Etheridge, Janis Joplin and Alannah Myles – and presents them again as if it was the first time. There is no rust or age showing in Sass Jordan’s voice or performance here, and that it arrives without exhibiting any wear at all has the capacity to set even the most loyal fans reeling.
Listeners may not quite regain the balance of which “Make You A Believer” robbed them at any point during the remainder of Racine Revisited‘s running, but the upside to that is they’ll be able to re-discover the album and truly fall in love with it all over again if they’re familiar, and just fall in love with it if they’re not. Re-takes of songs including “Who Do You Think You Are,” “Windin’ Me Up,” ”Do What Ya Want,” and “Where There’s A Will” all genuinely refresh and rejuvenate the sensations that any listener can feel as they trip through this running. While they don’t re-write the impressions left exactly, these performances which hedge out timely sounds and cliches instantly feel more enduring and potentially timeless than the original productions.
It’s easy enough to understand (or hope) that listeners could find new appreciation of the songs on Racine Revisited (and Racine, by extension), but readers may still question the quality of this presentation before they hear it. The catch in situations like this is always a matter of how tall the shadow of the source material looms; sometimes the original performances are simply considered inimitable and impossible to recapture. That logic is understandable but, in the case of Racine Revisited, it is inapplicable. There will certainly be fans who treasure the original cuts and the manner in which they were performed will still hold a special place in the hearts of many fans, but even one listen proves that the reworkings of them which appears on Racine Revisited stands as at least equal – if not superior – to the originals.