Melissa Etheridge - self titled


While driving home last night and listening to Sirius station #15 Classic Rewind, "Similar Features" by Melissa Etheridge came on the channel. I had absolutely forgotten how much I loved this song and really the entire album. It's from her debut self titled album, released in 1988. Interestingly, I just read that the album as it is sold now was re-recorded in 4 days, as her record label rejected the original cuts of the songs as being too polished.

Absolutely every song on this album is amazing and could have been released as a single. I'm (shockingly) not going to focus on Billboard chart positions or RIAA certifications in this post (although the album went multi-platinum [how vague!] if you're wondering).

Here's the tracklisting:
1. Similar Features
2. Chrome Plated Heart
3. Like The Way I Do
4. Precious Pain
5. Don't You Need
6. The Late September Dogs
7. Occasionally
8. Watching You
9. Bring Me Some Water
10. I Want You

Now that all that technical stuff is out of the way, here's my emotional take on it:

It's a raw, gritty album, packed with the real emotion that so called "singer songwriters" these days wish they could channel. The music itself is powerful, but never overshadows Etheridge's voice - a true instrument in itself for the way she can growl out a phrase or alternately sound completely vunerable. "Occasionally" relies mostly on Etheridge's voice as the only accompanying music is a percussion beat. Songs like "Watching You" are richly textured and evoke a clear picture of a cold night in which the subject of the song looks up at their lover's window (and pave the way for future songs like "An Unusual Kiss").

"Like The Way I Do" is the standout track on an album of standout tracks. It's a story of jealousy, desperation, and love that is unashamed. There is something very visceral about this song that I think resonated with many people - including me (way back in the year 2000... to the point where I still consider this one of the songs that defined me most at a certain time in my life). "Similar Features" is a song of similar subject material...

Go on and close your eyes
Go on imagine me there
She's got similar features with longer hair
And if that's what it takes to get you through
Close your eyes, it shouldn't bother you

The lyrics are just as intense on songs like "Bring Me Some Water" and "Don't You Need". What helps this album to succeed is a thread running between all the songs - they fit together almost like puzzle pieces of a story. "I Want You" is the tale of a one night stand in which one person refuses to acknowledge the former lover - a song incredibly chilling, the lyrics those that stay with you for a very long time.

This album is certainly almost completely forgotten by now, except by Etheridge fans who should count it as one of her best. Sadly on her 2005 greatest hits album, although three of the songs were included, they were all "remixed", whatever that means. Isn't it clear that the real power of these songs lies in the emotions laid bare in the lyrics, the tone, the music itself?

Out of the 4 Etheridge albums I own (self-titled, "Yes I Am", "Your Little Secret", and "Skin"), this one is the best.

The best compliment perhaps I can give the album is that 20 years later, it still retains its power, intensity, and sense of urgency.

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