December 20, 1995
Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill (Maverick/Warner Bros. 1995) - Pissed off by your lover? A little angry at life? Don't have all the answers? Then Jagged Little Pill is the album for you. I was starting to worry that I was turning into a folkie. But Alanis, with one fell swoop, restored all my faith in rock 'n roll. And that's a powerful statement.
Now age 21, Morissette was raised in Canada, where she enjoyed early chart success with two soft-pop albums on MCA (Alanis in 1991 and 1992's Now is the Time). (You won't find her first albums in the U.S., however, as Maverick has taken steps to restrict their importation so as to redirect her career).
In addition, the teenage Alanis worked as a semi-regular actress on Nickelodeon's "You Can't Do That on Television" cable program. While many people assumed that she'd continue acting, her ambitions lay elsewhere. After moving to Los Angeles, Alanis hooked up with Glenn Ballard, who is best known for his safely-homogenized work with Paula Abdul and Michael Jackson.
However, their collaboration (in addition to producing the album, Ballard also co-wrote all songs and plays guitar on all tracks) led to something that Alanis calls "extreme and exciting."
The album has already yielded three big singles, including "All I Really Want" (a great song of disillusionment), "You Oughta Know" (think of Jagged Edge in a song, and you get the idea), and the perfect catharsis to this anger, the uplifting "Hand in My Pocket."
Morissette's voice has an unusual international accent that takes a moment to accept. But once you buy into it, you're all the way there. On Jagged Little Pill, Alanis bounces from one mood to another, from happiness to irrational anger and back again, all in the space of a few lyrics.
While Morissette may have entered L.A. as an unknown, she managed to induce some big names to help her, including Benmont Tench on keyboards, and Dave Navarro and Flea (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) for guitars and bass, respectively, on "You Oughta Know."
Much ink has been spilled over Morissette's supposed anger. I think some of her bile might be posing; no one at her age could be so bitter. But she cut one hell of an album. Get Jagged Little Pill. Play it loud. Get your ya yas out.
Big Audio Dynamite, Planet Bad: Greatest Hits (Columbia 1995) - A few years back, I thought Big Audio Dynamite (also known as B.A.D. II) was going to become one of the biggest bands on the planet. Unfortunately, the group suffered too many lineup changes and unnecessarily delayed their final releases (including last year's disappointing, Higher Power).
However, in their prime, Big Audio Dynamite was one of the 80s most exciting bands, as it helped blaze the future of hip-hop and rock on such albums as This is Big Audio Dynamite and No. 10 Upping Street. Columbia has gathered 15 of the best tracks from this seminal band for Planet Bad: Greatest Hits. The result is an indispensable addition to your collection.
Big Audio Dynamite was widely acclaimed as the first band to combine guitar-based rock songs with reggae, hip-hop, bee bop rhythms, and high-tech studio sampling. Though we can ponder why Big Audio Dynamite lost its edge, Planet Bad proves the band had impeccable chops. From such massive cuts as "Rush," "The Globe," through "E=MC2," Big Audio Dynamite was always at the forefront.
Without question, the most impressive song on the album is "Medicine Show," a dazzling marriage of rock, hip-hop, and sampling that received only a fraction of the airplay that it deserved.
Buy this album for "Medicine Show" alone. But there's far more to it, and you'll be continually delighted by Planet Bad.
Jimmy Buffett, Barometer Soup (MCA/Margaritaville 1995) - Now on his 26th album, long-time star, Jimmy Buffett continues the tradition that has created legions of "Parrotheads" (as his loyal fans are known). On Barometer Soup, Buffett remains true to his signature sound, which features Caribbean and tropical influences against a strong pop background.
Like John Prine, Buffett writes songs that are sometimes comic, sometimes wistful, and always honest. Because he doesn't underestimate the intelligence of his audience, Buffett has created a tremendously loyal fan base, all of whom will be delighted by Barometer Soup.
Barometer Soup was produced by the legendary Russell Kunkel, and features Buffett's stalwart Coral Reefer Band, including Michael Utle on keyboards, Greg "Fingers" Taylor on harmonica, and Robert Greenridge on steel drums.
With such songs as "Diamond as Big as the Ritz" (based on the long-forgotten fantasy short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald) and the bouncy "Don't Chu Know" (with its delightful ending refrain, "But I know one thing/Indecision/May or may not be my problem") Barometer Soup is yet another delightful serving from Buffett.
Buffett has scored hits with such singles as "Margaritaville" and "Come Monday," among his three gold, three platinum, and one double-platinum album. He may not chart singles anymore, but he still sells lots of albums, because he always delivers the goods.
By not taking himself too seriously, while also confronting life's problems, Buffett has built a durable career. Barometer Soup continues his happy travels down life's path.
-- Randy Krbechek
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