This biographical CD is a companion to Genya Ravan’s book, Lollipop Lounge, and it is a departure from her previous solo discs – Undercover(2011), For Fans Only(2002), And I Mean It(1979), Urban Desire (1978), Goldie Zelkowitz (1974), They Love Me, They Love Me Not (1973), and her CBS debut, Genya Ravan with Baby (1972), Ravan’s work after leaving Ten Wheel Drive.
In commanding form the singer/songwriter goes through her career in music and words, her relentless band at the top of their game as Ravan covers Lou Reed’s classic “Coney Island Baby” giving his semi-autobiographical underground pop masterpiece not only a female perspective but a Genya Ravan perspective and, of course, gives nods to the Yardbirds and her days in the original all-female rock band, Goldie & The Gingerbreads. This was the time before Fanny and The Runaways …Goldie/Genya paved the way with her brash and sometimes audacious style…interesting that she’s referenced in the original Clive Davis book – 1975’s CLIVE: Inside The Record Business (Clive Davis, with James Willwerth), but conspicuous in her absence in the 2013 Clive Davis: The Soundtrack to My Life, which the LA Times says “is more about music stars than music business.”
When Billboard Books originally released Lollipop Lounge they also shipped the two 20th Century Fox LPs in their CD form thanks to UMG’s Hip-0 Select. That stroke of genius was constructed by yours truly and I will take the credit, as I will in this full disclosure for flying Genya to Warren Rhode Island in 1986 to sing with Buddy Guy and the late Jimmy Miller on the Buddy Guy sessions (and treat of all treats, with Buddy and Jimmy in some Rhode Island nightclub that evening. Wish we had it on videotape…what a stunning performance!). That’s where “Do You Know What I Mean” came from, the re-make of the Lee Michaels tune we had planned for Buddy’s album (the one before his Grammy-winning Damn Right I Got the Blues). You can see the review of Genya’s solo rendition of “Do You Know What I Mean” here on TMR Zoo, the initial single from this new disc released prior to the full album.
Typically Genya embraces a song and gives it her own thumbprint, as do all the greats, from Etta James to Billie Holiday, but Cheesecake Girl differs in that Ravan takes on the role of storyteller – not reading the book over instrumentals but constructing new melodies and new words that are a companion to her autobiography, a re-telling more than reciting.
The band doesn’t skip a beat, in fact, they stretch out more than they might be able to in the confines of a pop song. Ravan has always been, at her core, a pop artist…from her first hit, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (the British release reportedly came before Herman’s Hermits conquered America with it; both artists working out of the same artist, Genya with Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffrey, while producer Mickey Most worked with Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits.)
So for the loyal Genya Ravan crowd, don’t expect the mind-blowing primal screams on the Vanilla Fudge classic “Take Me For A Little While” from For Fans Only, or the FM classic “Junkman” where Ravan duets with Ian Hunter…this is not that kind of record. It is yet another pioneering deviation, descending into the world of deviates, junkies, artists and creatures stranger than those found in the “wretched hive of scum and villainy” that is the Chalmun’s Cantina at the Mos Eisley Spaceport in the original Star Wars. That pirate city had nothing on the places that Genya Ravan has travelled…surviving those travels and living to tell about it here in Cheesecake Girl. Enter at your own peril.
Clive Davis may have forgotten this fantastic talent in his new book, but through our writings on TMR Zoo and the many reviews on Rovi/AllMusic.com we hope to keep the magic Genya Ravan makes alive and in the public eye.
is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.