New Logo riveting riffs magazine Sass Jordan and Racine Revisited
Sass Jordan Photo One

Racine Revisited is a fabulous new album from Rock singer and songwriter Sass Jordan. The original album Racine was first recorded in 1992 and Jordan refers to it as her most successful album to date. The new album is not simply the same songs remastered or remixed, but instead the decision was made not to go back to 1992, but to record all of the songs again only this time as though they were being recorded in 1975.  

“We did that on purpose, because the question that I had to the people I was working with was, why the hell would anyone want to buy a record that they already have? We wanted people to talk about 2017 is the 25th anniversary of the release of that record. That record was a big record for me. I think it was the biggest record that I ever did. There are a lot of fans that were directly affected in some way.  

I said if we record it again, let’s put a twist on it. Instead of bringing it up to date and making it sound all spangly (This word is a Jordanism) fresh in 2017 why don’t we make it sound as much as possible and to the best of our ability as if it was recorded in 1975. Let’s record it as if we were in 1975.

There aren’t any click tracks and there isn’t any Auto-Tune. We adhered as much as we could to the idea that it was 1975 and not 1992 and not 2017. That is when I would love to have made this record,” says Jordan.

Sass Jordan Photo One AThe album opens with “Make You A Believer,” a powerful, vocally driven song, backed by strong guitars from Chris Caddell and Derek Sharp (The Guess Who), electric bass by Rudy Sarzo (Queensrÿche, Ozzy Osbourne) and booming drums and percussion courtesy of Brent Fitz (Alice Cooper, Streetheart. It is a song that can best be described as Gospel meets edgy Rock and Sass Jordan says that would be a good way to describe her vocals, as well with some Blues mixed in for good measure.

“It (“Make You A Believer”) is the centerpiece of the album and when that song came out every other song followed in quick succession (as far as being written). When that song was written the record labels gave us a tremendous and strong reaction, as well as the agent and the publisher. They were like wow this is a knockout. We love this song.

The song felt right. It almost wrote itself. I had gone to a party with my manager Lisa and I met this guy named Ron Bloom who was a songwriter and a producer (Jo Dee Messina, Air Supply) and he had produced a record for Princess Stéphanie of Monaco (The record was simply called Stephanie and was released in 1991.) It was a hit record. Anyway, I met Ron at this party and he said I am going to tell you what southern phrasing is. I remember going okay. Then he told me this long story about how all of the southern Gospel singers and the Memphis horn guys recorded at Muscle Shoals in Alabama. It is all from that southern area like Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. The southern phrasing that he showed to me was the coolest thing I have ever, ever heard. All of a sudden I understood Joe Cocker, because you didn’t have to be southern to sing that phrasing. Clearly I’m not. You just had to know what it was. You wouldn’t be able to identify it unless you were a singer and you were really interested in that kind of a thing. It stayed inside me percolating and it finally came out in the song “Make You A Believer.” It is like it wrote itself. It had been sitting inside of me stewing and getting ready and all of a sudden it just burst out and that is the song that it burst out on. It is one of my most successful songs ever,” she says.  

When I was growing up I was listening to all of these insane records like Big Pink by The Band or the Allman Brothers Eat A Peach (released in 1972). The Band wrote Big Pink when they lived in a house in upstate New York (the recording took place in studios in New York City and Los Angeles). The name of the house was Big Pink. I had all these romantic notions of The Allman Brothers and Bonnie Raitt that they were all living in houses together, with children and dogs and chickens. There was this hippy dippy commune family environment and they were making the records as they lived in these social experiments,” she says, explaining how she envisioned that time in music.

Continuing, Jordan says, “That is precisely what I was trying to do (envision that) and it is what gave me the energy and the excitement, while Racine Revisited.

To be honest I think it is better than the original, because it sounds more genuine to me. It sounds like a weird thing to say. The songs are grown up children now. They are all adults. I see songs as children and with some of these grown up children I wanted to see what happened in their lives. One of them became a banker, one of them is living on the streets and one of them is married with children. What happened to these kids? That is how you explore them.  I have been living with these songs for twenty-five years and playing them live for twenty-five years. When I originally wrote them I didn’t get a chance to perform them before we recorded them. Some of the original arrangements did not lend themselves to live performances particularly well and they had to be tweaked live. We took the live versions that we have been doing for years and we used them instead on this new recording.”

When Sass Jordan released her debut record Tell Somebody in 1988 on Atlantic Records there were not a lot of women solo Rock artists or women fronting Rock bands who were well-known.

The former Billboard Female Rock Artist of the Year says, “Women generally are not accepted in the Rock genre. It’s not really a big genre for women. There was Chrissie Hynde. There were quite a few, but not well-known and the reason is it was such an aggressive genre and culturally we were not ready for females to show that kind of aggression and rawness when I was starting out. I think it is changing dramatically now. Now all the Pop stars are soft porn stars. It is bizarre to me. There is a lot of that in “Rock” too, but I see very, very few women and men that I would consider to be any good. I do this, so it takes a lot for me to think someone is good. (She laughs).

My biggest influences were males. I never (really) liked female Rock singers. I really like bluesy type stuff. My favorite female vocalists are people like Bonnie Raitt and of course all of the black singers like Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin, but that’s a whole other genre and if I could have sung like that, you would never have caught me dead doing this. The male singers who were my biggest influences were people like Steven Tyler, Robert Palmer and Paul Rodgers. These guys have such command of rhythm and it is rhythm that makes a great singer, just like it is rhythm makes a great guitar player or a great bass player or a great drummer. It is astounding how underrecognized that is. It is all about rhythm, freezing rhythm and timing. Obviously pitch and the ability to turn a phrase that matters too, but it is rhythm. You can find that artificially in this day and age with technology like beat detective and with the recording technique, so you can move the track over slightly, so it melds in the pocket, mathematically, but a true singer does it naturally. We didn’t have that technology when I started out or when any of the guys that were my biggest influences Lou Graham, Robin Zander, Rod Stewart and Lowell George, the slide guitar player from Little Feat started out.”

That sense of rhythm is very evident when Sass Jordan sings “Going Back Again,” which sees her revisiting her roots growing up in Montreal, Canada. Sass Jordan is not just a good Canadian Rocker; she is a good Rocker period, End Stop. She deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the best Rock singer / songwriters to ever perform on stage or to record in a studio. Her vocals on “Going Back Again,” are both gritty and melodic, as she reminisces about her hometown.  

“The story (behind) “Going Back Again,” is I had moved to Los Angeles and all of my roots and everything that was familiar to me was gone. It doesn’t seem possible, but interestingly enough, moving from a place like Montreal, Canada to Los Angeles, California there is a culture shock. It is not the same culturally at all. I grew up with the French influence and in Los Angles (the influence) is Mexican. It is a whole different mindset and a different vibration. It is the west coast. It is even like that in Canada. Vancouver is nothing like Montreal. They are just different worlds. It is a different pace of life. “Going Back Again,” was a way for me to be grounded instead of feeling like a stranger in a strange land. My geographical references in the song that I sing, “I am going back someday / Down by where the river meets the ocean,” well the river does not meet the ocean in Montreal, but it did sound good in the song and that is why I used it (Editor’s note: But the St. Lawrence River does in fact run through Montreal and joins the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean),” she says. Sass Jordan Photo Two

“You Don’t Have to Remind Me,” is a ballad about a love that ended and trying to struggle with both being alone and seeing someone else in the arms of your lover. As several of the songs on Racine Revisited do this song boasts incredible guitar solos. Also, like so many of the songs on this album the only thing that keeps you from believing that this was recorded live before an audience is just that the absence of any sounds from an audience.

Jordan talks about the song, “I wanted something that would allow me to showcase the intense emotion that we all experience over relationships gone badly and this is what we came up with. My dear old pal, Parthenon Huxley contributed the line, “I don’t need you to bring it home,” because for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a line there!

 

I was friends with Timothy Leary. I met him about four years before (1992) he died. I met him on his seventieth birthday and we became fast, fast friends. When I wrote “You Don’t Have to Remind Me,” he wasn’t dead yet, but his energy was with me. I told him that I had written it for him, even though it is not about him. It was like a little gift to Timothy. He loved that record when it came out (the original Racine).”

It is obvious that Sass Jordan is really relishing touring this album and when we talked to her just before Christmas (2017) she said, “I just did my last show and this tour has been called the Racine Storyteller Tour. We have been having the time of our lives and so have the people who came to see the show. It (consists of) two forty-five minutes sets. I wrote a bunch of stories about the making of Racine and about my life in that time period, 1991 – ’92. I tell a story and then I do a song. Then I tell another story and we do another song. There is an intermission and then we do it again for another forty-five minutes. I swear to God the joy with people laughing and crying and standing ovations it has been extraordinary and the band said these are the best shows we have ever done. They all love doing the show. It is semi-acoustic.”

Racine Revisited was released in 2017, because it is the 25th anniversary of the release of the original album Racine. We wondered how Sass Jordan has changed or evolved over the years.

“I don’t even know (she laughs), 1992 wasn’t even the same century.  I was a young person trying to find my way I was in a position at the time that was kind of unusual, because I was doing a job that got a lot of attention. The negative part of it I suppose would be the negative attraction that success in this business has for people who just want to hitch their wagons. There were a lot of people around me at that time and it was difficult sometimes to weed out the ones who had a more negative agenda. I experienced a fair amount of disillusionment I suppose.

As I have become more mature, more experienced and wiser, I am much more able now to figure out the good vibes from the not so good vibes.  It is much easier for me to understand that.

The other thing is at that time (1992) I didn’t even know how to say no that’s not good for me. No I don’t want to do that or whatever.  I thought that you had to say yes to everything, because I had this programming from the time and culture that I grew up in when you had to make sure that everybody liked you. No matter what it does to you, you have to do everything so everybody is happy and to forget about you. It was a kind of programming that was a part of me and it took a long time to figure that one out. You want to take control back of your life. You want to do what works for everybody to the extent that you are not paying the personal price for it. I think that is the biggest difference between the Sass of 1992 and the Sass of 2017.”

As for her relationship with her fans, she says, “Social media has revolutionized everything, as far as being an artist and being able to be directly in touch with the people who enjoy your work. It is immediate and it is not a letter that somebody sent by snailmail, like in the olden days. Twitter is instant, Instagram is instant and Facebook is instant. You have the ability to communicate directly with people and to access them with the same ease that they can now access you. I prefer today, although there were a lot of things about the olden days that were pretty wonderful and most of that was money. There was a lot more money that was available. The record sales, people used to buy records and the record company would help you with tour expenses and stuff like that. You could earn a lot more money that way, but now there is a lot more direct money available, because you can deal directly with your customer aka fan, so you can get rid of the middle man in a lot of ways.  There are pros and cons to everything.

Racine Revisited by Sass Jordan is a classic album, which may sound to say when the original Racine was classic as well, but the new old sound, the songs that were tweaked from the way they were first recorded in 1992 and the fresh, live feel to the album make this a “must have” for any serious Rock music fan.

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This interview by Joe Montague published December 17, 2017 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos are the the property of  Sass Jordan unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved