Liner Note Author: Geoff Gough.
Tom Jans began his career as a partner of Mimi Fariña's in the late '60s, spent a fair chunk of the '70s gunning for a soft rock crossover hit, then died under mysterious circumstances in 1984, two years after recording what wound up as his final album. In the process, he built up a strong body of work, highlighted by "Loving Arms," a song turned into a hit by Dobie Gray and covered frequently by country and R&B singers including Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Etta James, and Kenny Rogers. Despite this not-insignificant accomplishment, Jans was largely lost to obscurity, a situation not helped by the lack of his music on CD. Raven rectifies this situation with the 2013 compilation Loving Arms 1971-1982, a sharply selected cross-section of his four albums which also contains highlights from the Japan-only 1982 LP Champion. As this collection progresses, Jans slowly moves away from simple, folky songs into lusher settings, helped somewhat by the executive production of Lowell George on 1975's The Eyes of an Only Child, but from that point on, Jans favored production that could conceivably bring him within shooting distance of the Top 40. That sentiment applies to the buried Champion, which actually may be his most blatant attempt at a hit despite its lack of release in the U.S., but through the remove of history, Jans winds up seeming like a hybrid of Jackson Browne and Boz Scaggs, a serious songwriter given considerable commercial gloss. His music never quite satisfied either extreme, which explains why it didn't get much attention at the time, but from the distance of several decades, it sounds like thoroughly appealing, '70s Californian singer/songwriter soft rock, and an album that should have been given credit much earlier than 2013. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine