Teddy Thompson/Rickie Lee Jones

Teddy Thompson
(Virgin)
It's Like This
(Artemis)

He's the son of Richard and Linda Thompson -- hence the no-shit CD review, because Teddy is the heir to more than three decades' worth of giddy accolades and piss-poor sales -- and dear ol' dad shows up on five of the debut's ten sing-alongs. But 24-year-old Teddy, who lacks his pop's guitar prowess and makes up for it by singing real pretty, might as well be the offspring of Jackson Browne and James Taylor, especially if he was conceived while For Everyman and Gorilla were playing on the hi-fi. After six listens (five of which were out of professional obligation; there damn sure won't be a seventh) it's still hard to tell whether that's a good or bad thing -- like it makes a difference anymore, since even their detractors begrudge them respect, which all good little whores gain upon surviving middle age. “Waaaaaake up, everybody's sleeping/Daylight has a way of creeping up when you're in love/When you're in looooove,” Teddy sings during the disc's opening moments, and it sounds as if he's napping; seems even the sound of Teddy's own voice knocks him out. Six times around and I still have no idea what he's on about. Then again it's hard to pay attention to the words when the music keeps lulling you to sleep.

Knocking Teddy for not sounding like his dad is like picking on Muhammad Ali's daughter for fighting like a girl. Richard is a scabrous songwriter, a hoarse singer, and a technical whiz on the guitar. Teddy is the polar opposite: a sentimentalist with a soft voice and a softer touch. Little wonder, then, that he hooked up with fellow son-of-a-rocker Rufus Wainwright for two songs (“Missing Children,” an aptly named co-write, and “So Easy,” a guest-vocals appearance that goes down, well ...), since both share a taste for the maudlin, the sticky sweet, and the big bland. The only difference is Rufus wants to be Van Dyke Parks or Randy Newman, while Teddy is content to pretend it's 1971 and he's Mud Slide Slim, without the smack habit to keep things interesting. The debut is produced by Joe Henry and features poptopian Jon Brion, which ought to keep sales down, and rumor has it Emmylou Harris guests. (When does she not?)

Joe Jackson and Ben Folds lend four helping hands to the latest by Rickie Lee Jones, who at least earned her right to sound like a Seventies vestige (she is one, ya know). Her third album of covers (following 1983's ten-inch EP Girl at Her Volcano and 1991's Pop Pop) is her first release since the drowsy drecknotronica Ghostyhead in 1997, a disc so popular among the fanatics it's now out of print. This go-around the playlist includes not only jazz standards (“Someone to Watch Over Me,” “On the Street Where You Live”) but also the eclectic essentials, among them laconic versions of Traffic's “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” and Steely Dan's “Show-Biz Kids,” the latter of which is essential if only for the moment when Jones and Jackson (sounds like a law firm) start snarling about how they “don't give a fuck about anybody else.” If she did it's doubtful Jones would cover Marvin Gaye (“Trouble Man”), which is like Sebastian Cabot doing Dylan -- a novelty, but very, very beside the point. But the disc closes on the highest low point possible, another Jackson-Jones duet: “One Hand, One Heart” from West Side Story, only proving that these two belong in the best piano bar in the world.

 
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