Before the MP3 revolution began, there was a time when I would walk into my favorite record store and simply buy an album without ever hearing of the artist. Sometimes the impulse was prompted by a review I had read or a simple recommendation. Other times, something as simple as an appealing album cover would peak my interest. In the case of Joan Jones’s Starlite Criminal, it was pure chance.
I knew very little about Joan before purchasing the album. At the time I didn’t even realize that she was originally part of the alternative-folk-rock outfit Sun 60. So I decided to educate myself.
I discovered that Joan was born and raised in Los Angeles and in the late 80’s, her and musician friend David Russo started a band called Far Cry in 1987. After relentless club appearances, they began to build a strong, local fan-base and were eventually signed to Epic Records at the turn of 1990. The collaboration brought the arrival of a few more permanent musicians to flesh out the sound and they soon dubbed themselves Sun 60, lasting long enough to enjoy the release of three albums in the 90’s: 1991’s Sun 60, 93’s Only and 96’s Headjoy.
Sun 60 dissolved after the release of Headjoy and Joan started work on her debut solo album, Starlite Criminal with producer Nick DiDia shortly thereafter. The album was released in 1998, but it seemed it wasn’t garnering much attention.
Upon first listen, however, I knew I had made a good purchase. The album is solid throughout, with great songwriting, an appealing sound and is beautifully delivered. DiDia’s production was clean without being overly glossy and never once outshined the material itself. I truly feel that Joan made an excellent debut.
Since the release of that album, it seems Joan has worked on the music for the animated show The Prom Queens and has apparently released another album I have yet to hear titled Velvet Underdog. I can’t seem to find many details about it, but it can be purchased here at this fine site for Joan.