Luscious Jackson Record In New Orleans by Keith Spera
May 30, 1996
Severe culture shock greeted the four confirmed Manhattanites of Luscious Jackson as they settled into the Southern Gothic splendor of Kingsway, producer Daniel Lanois’ opulent New Orleans mansion and studio, to work on their third album. “The first night here was so shocking,” says guitarist Gabrielle Glaser, lounging at the foot of Kingsway’s grand staircase with her band mates. “I’ve never done acid, but I felt like I was on acid. I was just sitting in my room looking around, going, ‘Every detail of this place is beautiful.'”
Kingsway’s three-story main building dates back to the 1860s and fronts an oaklined avenue alongside the historic French Quarter. Ornate chandeliers, assorted religious icons, subdued lighting, elaborate gold molding and high ceilings contribute to the moody ambience. The Luscious Jackson gang rooms on the second level; they eat by candlelight, family style, at a long wooden table downstairs.
Scheduled for a September release, the band’s new album is tentatively titled Take a Ride, which seems appropriate. Work began with three weeks in drummer Kate Schellenbach’s West Village apartment. Lanois and the band then journeyed south for two weeks at Kingsway, then west for a few days at another Lanois facility, a converted 1940s movie theater in rural Oxnard, Calif. The group is recording most tracks live, with little of the sampling, overdubs or drum loops that dominated its first two releases. “We felt that after a year and a half of touring, our playing had gotten that much better,” Glaser says.
As the nearly completed tracks ease from the Kingsway speakers, bassist and guitarist Jill Cunniff crosses the room to douse the lights. “It’s far too bright in here to listen to Luscious Jackson music,” she says. “Mood Swing” features a cool, seductive vocal turn by Cunniff. The faintly psychedelic, laid-back “Take a Ride” clocks in unedited at seven minutes and contains a striking, almost heavy-metal guitar part by Glaser. The former Brand New Heavies vocalist N’Dea Davenport, currently a New Orleans resident, wails in the background on “One Thing,” and recent Lanois client Emmylou Harris guests on “Soothe Yourself” and “Why Do I Lie.”
Best known for his work with U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan and the Neville Brothers, Lanois was introduced to Luscious Jackson’s music by his sister. “What attracted me was that I thought they were smart lyricists,” he says. “And secondly, I thought they had a fresh angle, and selfish me would like to be associated with something new.”
Luscious Jackson seem equally enamored of both Lanois – “He’s like our long-lost brother,” Cunniff says – an his studio. “It’s like your rich aunt’s house that you never had,” says Cunniff. Adds keyboardist Vivian Trimble, “Yeah, our rich Auntie Dan.”
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