Jackie Shane: Any Other Way Review

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Jackie Shane: <i>Any Other Way</i> Review

A mix of pop and belly-fire soul, Jackie Shane’s version of “Any Other Way” is one of the great buried treasure finds of the ‘60s—the mournful horns and emotive vocals on par with more well-known classics of the era. Though the song is familiar to many a crate digger, the groundbreaking artist behind it is still largely unknown.

A fiery performer and Nashville native who briefly found fame in Toronto, Canada, Shane lived her life as a transgender woman at a time when it was not only taboo to do so, but illegal. After relocating to Los Angeles with her band in the early 1970s, and turning down an offer to join George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, she seemed to disappear into thin air, leaving behind nothing but a mystery. It’s an incredible story—one that’s illuminated in the 78 pages of liner notes included with the collection, but also in the music of Any Other Way—a complete collection of Shane’s six singles and her only LP, Jackie Shane Live out via Numero Group.

The A and B-sides of the six 45s that Shane recorded throughout the ‘60s are collected on disc one—running the gamut from covers of well-known, contemporary tracks (Rufus Thomas’ “Walking The Dog”) to the total soul makeover of “You Are My Sunshine.” It quickly becomes clear that the quality of each side varies as greatly as the actual sound quality of the recording. A lackluster “Money (That’s What I Want)”—the iconic Barry Gordy and Janie Bradford hit recorded by everyone from Barrett Strong to The Beatles—doesn’t offer much that other versions don’t already.

On the other hand, Shane’s take on “Sticks and Stones” keeps the Latin drums of the Ray Charles version, but cranks up the tempo till the knob breaks off, resulting in a wild ride of splashy piano, hot brass, and Shane’s frantic, locomotive voice. “Comin’ Down” is a serious contender for best track of the disc, its wicked sax solo and sexy R&B mood packing a groovy punch matched only by Shane’s gut-wrenching delivery—but it’s the title track and Shane’s only hit that still tops the pile.

Written by William Bell and Chuck Jackson (both recorded their own versions), “Any Other Way,” is a knockout song. An ode to defiance in the face of heartbreak, all three renditions are killer, but Shane’s is still tops. It breathes more than Bell’s version, and holds back on the brazenness of Jackson’s—the jagged horns serving as the only punctuation necessary for the quiet triumph in Shane’s pride. Most importantly, when she sings, “Tell her that I’m happy/Tell her that I’m gay/Tell her I wouldn’t have it/Any other way,” she leaves you no choice but to believe her.

A live version of “Any Other Way” can be found on disc two—which houses 13 live tracks recorded at Toronto’s Sapphire Club in the ‘60s—the song’s runtime taken to nearly eight minutes due to one of Shane’s infamous inter-song monologues. Not every cut is a revelation, but when Shane is on, she’s on. Her voice turning to napalm during “Knock On Wood,” or the fevered pleading of “I Don’t Want To Cry No More” providing us with the clearest picture we’re going to get of Shane as performer—an infamous showstopper trained in the grand tradition of Chitlin’ Circuit heavies like Little Richard, that once upstaged headliner Jackie Wilson so severely, she and her band were asked to not continue the tour—but it’s the time spent talking to the audience that we’re given a glimpse of the person, as Shane tucks hints to her own struggles between flashy posturing.

“You know what my motto is?,” she asks the crowd during a 10-minute version of “Money,” “Do what you want, just know what you’re doing. As long as you don’t force your will or your way on anybody else—live your life.” It’s a quick drop of the mask—a peek at the real live person who could be arrested for their appearance once they walked out of the nightclub—but it doesn’t last. “This is the closest to Jesus Christ some of you are ever gonna get!” she boasts deliciously, before sinking her teeth into the next song.

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