Steve

Steve

Music Columnist

Something Old, Something New Album Review

After the first couple articles I started bugging Chris to give me some of his musical favorites.  Here’s the thing, he is not a music fanatic. Fan yes, fanatic no.  But for part 6 of Something Old, Something New Album Review, he gave me an idea and one of the two albums.  May 9th is Mother’s Day, so we are gonna do records made by female artists.  Chris’ suggestion was one of the biggest albums of all time, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. For the something new, we’ll be checking out the newest album by my wife’s favorite group, The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks). 
 
Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
1995 Maverick Records
Rating: 4.5/5

Starting off with the Something Old, we have an album that went DIAMOND in the US. For those not familiar with industry lingo, that’s sales of 10 million copies.  It has actually sold 16 million copies in the US, and 33 million worldwide. At the time of release, Alanis, her management team, producer and label were just hoping to sell enough so they could make another record. Safe to say they did. Alanis actually started out her career in Canada as a Debbie Gibson (Google her) style pop star. She released 2 albums in Canada only, that were moderate successes. When her contract was up, she moved to Los Angeles and together with producer Russ Ballard wrote and recorded Jagged Little Pill, a complete 180-degree turn from the music she had previously made. Once finished, they shopped it to labels, most of which said; No. The label that finally said Yes was Madonna’s label, Maverick Records. Not knowing what to expect, the first single “You Outta Know” became a hit in LA, and soon, a worldwide smash. The album spawned an insane six singles (half of the albums songs), with the fourth single, “Ironic” being the one that blew the top off and propelled it past that coveted 10 million mark

. I was in high school when this album came out and I didn’t know many females into rock music that didn’t own it, almost as a call to arms. There were plenty of women in rock before Alanis, but she connected in a way that none of them were able to before. I think there are many reasons for that, aside from the songs themselves being well produced with hooks. The material ranges from outright rock songs to slower ballad type material.

 

However, if you really look at the lyrical content, the central theme seems to be a a young woman who was burned in love, and is exploring all the emotions that come from that. Ranging from seething anger to shades of hope, that kind of honesty is easy for people to make an emotional connection with as it is very relatable. And I don’t mean this in any negative way, while talented, Alanis in many ways is very average. While pretty, she was not pushing some unattainable standard of beauty. She looked like your every day pretty girl in her late teens early 20’s. And while her voice was adequate, it wasn’t GREAT. She strained to hit higher notes, and didn’t have a particularly great vocal range. What she was able to do was harness that voice and deliver her words in a way that made the emotion behind them come across so genuinely that it just…. connected. She was the right voice at the right time with the right record and listening to it now brings me back to a time where this cassette was in just about every rock girls walkman, and her video’s were all over television. Alanis never reached that level of success again, but she didn’t have to. Her mark on the cultural landscape is just too big to ignore.

The Chicks – Gaslighter 
2020 Columbia Records
Rating: 4/5

 
 
For the Something New, as I mentioned earlier I checked out the new album from The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks). This is a Mothers Day themed entry after all, and I thought it would be cool to feature her favorite group. When we met, she had a bumper sticker on her car that said “Earls In The Trunk” from their hit song “Goodbye Earl”. The funny thing about that form myself, is that my middle name is Earl, after my Grandfather. Whether you’re a fan of the group or not, most people know the biggest part of their history.  While on tour on 2003 in London England at the height of their popularity, after selling millions of records in America and establishing themselves as an Arena touring act, just days before the United States invaded Iraq, lead singer Natalie Maines said they did not endorse the war and were “Ashamed” US President George Bush was from Texas. Combining the fact the audience for Country music is largely conservative based, and at the time due to 9/11, patriotism in the US was still pretty high, there was immediate blowback from the comment. They were immediately dropped from rotation of almost all Country music radio in America, ticket sales for the American leg of their 2003 tour suffered, and while their previous 2 albums both sold 10 million copies in the US, sales the album they were touring behind, Home, which was on pace to match the sales of it’s predecessors stalled at 6 million. 
 
The real impact was felt on the subsequent album and tour. Released in 2006, Taking The Long Way sold just two and a half million copies, which while in itself is succesful, considering their previous 3 albums combined for sales of over 26 million records, it was a failure. The supporting tour was selling 5000 – 6000 tickets in venues that held 15,000, with some shows simply canceling. After the cycle for that album ended, the group went on a hiatus. The 3 members of the group released albums separately, Natalie releasing a solo album and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison releasing 2 albums under the name “Court Yard Hounds”. They toured together in 2010, 2013, and 2017, but hadn’t released an album in 14 years until Gaslighter arrived last year, along with a name change, dropping the “Dixie” from their moniker. I listened to the album with my wife. It was not her first listen, and she gave me her persepctive. I’ll paraphrase here; “The album is much different from their previous ones. The music has always been great and played well, but on their older records there were more upbeat songs. Songs that made you want to dance and sing along. A lot of the country elements are gone, and the album has a much slower pace. It feels like an album that will take many listens to truly appreciate. It’s very good, just different.”
 

I’ve heard a lot of their songs, as 20 years ago they were unavoidable.  And to me, this is an album made by a group of artists that have been through some very tough times, and are expressing that emotion and life experience through their music. It sounds geniune and it sounds raw at times. A very interesting record by a group who’ve had a very interesting history.

 


Thanks again for reading! This is dedicated to all the mothers in our lives! You are loved and you are appreciated. 
You can find me on Instagram @Stevedestru
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