Sound: Alanis Morissette did for the nineties what Joni Mitchell did for the seventies and what Kate Bush did for the eighties. They all brought a confessional tone to their work while still be accessible to a wide audience. When the original "Jagged Little Pill" was released in 1995, it was hailed as the underdog of the decade and eventually sold up to 33 million units. The album had an unrelenting amount of singles from the angry "You Oughta Know", introspective "Ironic", carefree "Hand in My Pocket" and the catchy "You Learn". "All I Really Want" and "Head Over Feet" are two more, making a whopping six successful singles on one album.
Now flashforward an entire decade. Morissette released a few more albums including "So Called Chaos" and "Under Rug Swept", but none matched the sales of "Jagged Little Pill". Was it the strength of the songs, or was it that the album just came along at the right time in music? Morissette's eighth studio album "Jagged Little Pill Acoustic" is exactly what one would think it is. An acoustic album. And it's surprisingly very very good.
Trading in her dance pop influences for guitars and minor percussion effects, Morissette is able to get to a lyrical core with her songs that she was not able to do on the 1995 release. When striped down, power is given to the all important lyrics in her work. String arrangements are also emphasized nicely as well as nice harmonica playing by Morissette herself. Other instruments include the marxophone, perapaloshka and mandolin giving the album's sound a very eclectic feel. // 9
Lyrics: Morissette's lyrics are similar to journal entries. Well, journal entries with a familiar pop sound. (I wish my journal entries reached 33 million sales) It's one of those few confessional albums that creates an amazing balance between personal experience and relate-ability to a wide audience. What makes the album amazingly strong is the fact that its "non singles" are equally as strong as the singles themselves. "Perfect", the third track, is a reflection on parental pressure to be the perfect child with Morissette singing the part of the parent. Its subtle satire makes Morissette not just an intelligent writer, but also an instinctual one like Joni Mitchell. Another "non single" is "Forgiven" which is especially more powerful on the acoustic album with the gorgeous string arrangements by Glen Ballard who also was a co-writer for the songs. Its reflections on religion can be seen in its lyrics "What I learned I rejected but I believe again/ I will suffer the consequence of this inquisition/If I jump in this fountain, will I be forgiven?"
A million and one things could be said about the acoustic album where its striped down arrangements add power to the lyrics. "Ironic" is simply hysterical in this version. When defining irony in the original, Morissette sings "It's meeting the man of my dreams/And then meeting his beautiful wife". However, in the acoustic version, the word "wife" is replaced by "husband". It makes all the difference and defines the word ironic much, much more. Her ability to create a definite tone along with a catchy refrain is to be commended.
Yet, "You Oughta Know" doesn't sound nearly as vengeful and angry as its predecessor, but still makes for a nice listen. The last two tracks never really grabbed me, even on the 1995 release, which gives the album's end an unfinished feeling. However, listening to one successful and catchy song after another would make any album's end sound unfinished. It's hard to finish on an album so powerful. // 10
Overall Impression: Overall, the acoustic album cannot helped but be compared to the original in other reviewers' responses. It did not even remotely meet the success of the 1995 release, nor the critical response. However, if the 1995 version was never available, this album would be considered a masterpiece.
Therefore, why can it not be a masterpiece? The songs are still the same strong songs from "Jagged Little Pill" but with different arrangements. What the other reviewers are trying to say then, is that they don't like the arrangements which is a matter of perspective I suppose.
However, the stripped down arrangements, in my opinion add to the power of the lyrics. It's an amazingly powerful work by one of the top female artists of her decade. // 9