#36: Melissa Etheridge – The Shadow Of A Black Crow
Bluesy and dark, this track from the 2012 4th Street Feeling album is awesome. Melissa’s voice is truly one of a kind, and when she talks about the scratch marks on her soul, I believe her! This copy of the record was a cool deluxe edition, a cardboard package much larger than a standard digipak, with a large cardboard guitar pick.
I’ve raved about Etheridge in these pages before… This 2012 album is raw, powerful, and poignant. The use of dynamics, the bluesy soulful feel, the arrangements, her unique and perfectly imperfect voice (which, as her career winds on, edges closer and closer to Janis Joplin territory)… everything about it is spot on. This deluxe edition has three bonus tracks, a significantly larger gatefold digipak, a full colour booklet with her handwritten lyrics and notes, and a cardboard guitar pick that’s too big to actually be used for anything and yet not quite big enough to be a drink coaster. This album is absolutely recommended.
Melissa Etheridge – Your Little Secret
Move ahead a couple of years from the amazing Yes I Am album and here we have Your Little Secret. At this point, Melissa’s just proving she can’t miss. Another excellent record! It also has Kenny Aronoff (and Dave Beyer) on drums, and I’m an Aronoff fan from way back.
The title track (a great single) is another big roomy blues rocker with a slinky beat, that trademark Etheridge sound. I used to love playing along to this one, again as drum warm-ups at band practice. Our guitar player, who could play just about anything note for note by ear if he heard it once through (an incredible skill*) would jam along. Great times, fantastic song!
I Really Like You is a fun bouncy blues, though the lyrics are a bit silly, in places. It opens with “I’ll buy you mangoes, baby, your favourite fruit.” Uh huh, OK! It’s fine, this stuff comes from a long tradition of blues and soul songs just like it. She really wails the vocals and the band’s in fine form, so it’s all good! Nowhere To Go (another single) is the requisite slow down late night highway drifting song, after the opening to rockers. I love this song, just gorgeous. “There’s no one to hear, you might as well scream. They never woke up from the American Dream…” Oh yeah. Yes yes yes.
An Unusual Kiss takes a good while to build, but as she counts through the times on the clock it’s apparent that that’s the point. In lesser hands, this song wouldn’t have made the album. But here, with her singing, it absolutely works. Next up, of course, it’s I Want To Come Over (a huge single). I’m sure you’ll know this excellent song well already.
All The Way To Heaven slows us down a bit, beautifully, with this intricate little guitar line strung through it just so, and the bass is up front prominent, the snare is all rimshots… Perfect. This one is played with real feel. The intro to I Could Have Been You plods a bit as it swings, but again that’s the point. After all, this tune comes from “…where deprivation turns into decay. I’ve stood underneath this rain…” When the chorus hits and it’s a full-on band assault, all I can think is hell yes!
Shriner’s Park was always a favourite of mine. What a story – encapsulated perfectly, so simple but not. This is all of your teen years in one song. I know I couldn’t write something that good, for sure! Then it’s the penultimate tune, Change, which has just perfect guitar parts, the stars here as much as Etheridge’s great lyrics. And finally it’s This War Is Over, an atmospheric builder that sounds like it could be a Peter Gabriel song. And I mean that as the biggest compliment I can offer it – this is one helluva way to end the record! Love it.
I’ve said it for every one so far, but this is another fantastic Melissa Etheridge record. By this point, she wasn’t just on a roll. She was showing everyone else how it oughta be done, time after time after time. She was empire building. A true talent, awesome.
* Last time I saw him, he came to visit us at our place. He picked up my $200 Epiphone and effortlessly whipped off a flawless version of Panama through my little Fender amp as though he was EVH at MSG playing an encore. Bastard. 😉
Melissa Etheridge – Yes I Am
All this recent Etheridge listening has led me to this 1993 CD, which I’ve owned forever and never sold off because I love it completely. This was a big record for her, really bringing her genius to wider audiences.*
The opening blues burner I’m The Only One is a stone classic, holy man. I would use it as drum warm-up before band practice, just throw on the boom box and give ‘er while the stragglers were still getting their coats off and their guitars out of their cases… If I Wanted To was also a radio hit, you’ll know it well. She’s in great voice here. Come To My Window (with Juliette Lewis in the video) was also a single (three in a row!) and it’s way creepier than it needs to be. I know what she means, but it sounds way different. She won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for this song!
Silent Legacy takes me right back to her first two records, what a powerful track! I Will Never Be The Same should have been a single too, that sweet rock swing and the slide guitar… If this doesn’t lift you, I don’t know what will. All American Girl (another single) rocks like hell in the best Mellencamp tradition. Love it love it love it. The title track is another throwback to a few years earlier, just brilliant. Listen to her sing – take that, Sass Jordan! Haha.
Resist rocks us out again, so great. Coulda been a single too. Ruins is a funky track, it’s got this hypnotic feel to it (it’s that guitar line in the verses). And finally it’s the beautiful sweep of Talking To My Angel. It just builds and builds, rippled through with beauty. Superb album ender!
I sound breathless, writing about this one. But seriously this whole record’s a keeper. I’ve played it through from top to bottom so many times, over the years, and it never, ever disappoints.
* Wiki mentions that this was also around the time when she came out as gay (and may have led to the album’s title), too, so I imagine people made a big deal about that (fools).
Melissa Etheridge – Brave And Crazy
Yesterday I lavished (much-deserved) love on Etheridge’s 1988 debut self-titled album, which I’d bought for $2.
Well, today it’s her next record, released the very next year, 1989, and which I found on that same day, sitting (as it was) on the shelf next to the debut, also for $2. Of course I grabbed it up too, yoink! It begs the question, who would donate these two albums, in perfect shape, for nothing? And then the place sells them so cheap? It’s just nuts, I tells ya. A boon for me, of course.
At the time of its release, I didn’t own this record right away. Don’t ask me why, since I loved the debut. But a couple of years later I was introduced to it by a co-worker on my night shifts during university (sleep? who needs it!). She loved this album, and with great reason. This whole CD plays like a greatest hits set. Sadly, my first copy was another victim of a purge and just further proof that I can be a goof when it comes to this stuff. Anyway, it’s here again and thank goodness!
Of course you know No Souvenirs, a single that’s just a brilliant track. The title track has a helluva groove, sensational. You Used To Love To Dance slowly and bluesily proves its mettle, especially after it builds in full. The Angels saw release and hit Mainstream Rock Tracks at #34, a solid tune through and through. You Can Sleep While Drive is a fantastic ‘let’s get outta town’ track, her vocals carry the whole thing. Love it!
Testify is just so, so strong. It’s lifting, it’s personal, it’s damned real. Let Me Go and My Back Door are pure Etheridge genius – that poignant, edgy and human sound. Skin Deep is playful, the guitars have a bluesy pop until the chorus when it rocks you straight up. And finally Royal Station 4/16, on which Bono plays harmonica, builds and then sends the album out on a huge crash bang awesome crescendo of proving this lady has the goods and she’s here to stay.
Two thumbs up. If I had four thumbs, it’d be all four thumbs waaaay up. Hells yes, own this. There’s not even a mediocre track here.
Melissa Etheridge – Melissa Etheridge
Zap yourself back to 1988, and here comes Melissa Etheridge’s debut album. Did you hear it then? I did – I had a friend who had a lot of the new tapes and made sure I heard them. I bought it, based on hearing his copy. And then, like a dummy, I let it go out in a purge. Then I found it for $2 recently and yoink! I own it again! Am I ever glad I do. What a strong record.
A lot of the songs here swing in that way I like best. They’re bluesy and not just musically, it’s lyrically too. It’s concerning that of the first three songs, two of them are about how her partner has found someone else and she wonders if they’re as good as, or even better than her. Gah. But therein lies that power of reality, again.
Precious Pain is a definite stand-out, wow! What a track! I can hear Springsteen doing this one, it’s that good. The power continues right through every track, like the soaring build of The Late September Dogs. Occasionally blows your mind when you know it’s just her voice and somebody (her?) drumming on, what, the side of an acoustic guitar? Whoa! Watching You is another standout. You’ll know the bluesy rock brilliance of Bring Me Some Water – it’s here we hear the Melissa of years to come. Oh yes. And then I Want You rocks us out.
Hot damn. This was exemplary.
I also hear this as a template for some of the new country that came later. Not that this is country, but I can hear what others took from this to try to capture some of this lightning in their bottle.
It just sounds real. Does that make sense? It’s like she’s singing right to you and, sometimes, right through you. This is pure passion, raw and jagged and perfect in its humanity. Yes!