Ian’s mid-late 70s albums are largely undermined by a nagging feeling of soft-rock sedative, despite still showcasing a talented and versatile songwriter. Aftertones (1976) didn’t alternate much from unexpected comeback predecessor Between The Lines, (1975) whilst having few tangible holes; Miracle Row (1977) was actually a great deviating funk-disco effort, yet strangely still felt like business-as-usual; Janis Ian (II) (1978) displayed beautiful piano but found Ian low on inspired or inspiring material to carry it. In her recent auto-bio Ian hinted at big label pressures during this period. Now comes Night Rains (1979) and Ian dismisses any notion at this point of not being a fully-fledged pop musician. And it works. Co-writing seems to have renewed fervent passion in Ian and the somewhat twee ‘The Other Side of the Sun’ is enjoyable as is the rollicking slice of disco-pop ‘Fly Too High’. Even ‘Photographs’ works in the grand scheme of things despite being simple Ian faire, as does ‘Day By Day’ which appears to preempt a yuppie 80s vibe. One aspect which makes Night Rains work is its sheer variance; in one breath there is ‘Memories’ a fun disco-piano era piece, yet in another ‘Jenny’ seduces the listener with Ian’s delicate vocals accompanied by an inspired warm piano tango. Piano in fact colours much of Night Rains, at times jumping at the listener in fun ways. Ian would use much of the country elements indicative of the title track on her low-key follow-up Restless Eyes (1981) before fading into obscurity for a while, here on Night Rains however she finally delivers what one would presume a record exec. at the time would swoon over, but without compromising much integrity. This is still syrupy and fun; not a scratch on the inventiveness of her dark and interesting 60s verve catalogue, but it’s late night-late 70s pop executed well, with Ian sounding as if she has some direction for once.
Night Rains (1979) – Janis Ian