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'Acoustic' album 10 years in the remaking

By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, August 8, 2005
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The saying loosely goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, in the music industry, it seems to go a little something like, "Before I go broke, let's remix it." If this was Alanis Morissette's intent when she decided to record an acoustic version of the album that put her on the map, then Jagged Little Pill Acoustic should be as practical as a William Hung album.

Fortunately for the Grammy-winning Canadian, Acoustic maturely marks the 10-year anniversary since the original Jagged Little Pill's release and offers highly developed vocal control on Morissette's part and lovelier chord arrangements on the part of producer/ co-composers Glen Ballard and Suzie Katayama. No angst-ridden or whiny vocals, no psychedelic sound effects; just Morissette on the mic, accompanied by strings (guitar, mandolin, violin, viola, cello, bass, piano), mild percussion, a little bass, some other eastern instruments and, of course, Morissette's harmonica.

In theory, it is a stupid idea to rerecord an album and is right up there with Gus Van Sant's frame-by-frame remake of "Psycho" or George Lucas' digital revamping of the original "Star Wars" films. But Morissette isn't the only one making good on changing her sound. For instance, Foo Fighters' double-disc "In Your Honor" successfully features a completely acoustic disc of all original songs. Call it a rivalry, because Dave Grohl did steal Morissette's drummer (Taylor Hawkins) after all!

But despite Acoustic's mellow offerings, the release of the album has not been without controversy. Before its official release on July 26, Acoustic was only available for purchase at Starbucks in North America. According to Rolling Stone, this pissed off some of Morissette's countrymen, particularly folks at HMV Canada (the country's largest record retailer), who boycotted her album prior to its release. But when Alanis first burst onto the U.S. scene in 1995, her first two albums were exclusively available in Canada. Isn't that ironic?

In 1991, her debut album Alanis, went double platinum in Canada with the cheesy, poppy single "Too Hot." Her sophomore effort, Now Is The Time, released the next year, broke away from her dance-friendly sound, but didn't sell nearly as well in Canada.

Alanis Morissette

8 out of 10

  • "Jagged Little Pill Acoustic"
  • Label: Maverick

Before she could legally drink alcohol in the U.S., Morissette headed to Nashville and later to L.A. where she hooked up with Glen Ballard-the masterminding producer and co-composer of both Jagged Little Pill albums. At a mere 20 years old, she recorded the 13 songs that appeared on what would become the biggest selling album by a female artist in history, going 16 times platinum.

Now 10 years later, an older but not necessarily wiser Morissette has recreated something that was hers and made it into something everyone could cherish as brand new. With each track as drastically different as the original, Acoustic begins as its predecessor did with "All I Really Want," which incorporates an eastern flair of strings.

In its toned-down state, "You Outta Know" doesn't pack the bite it did in the original and that F-word isn't as shocking anymore. However, with "Forgiven," which incorporates spirited Spanish guitar, Morissette sounds just as disillusioned with the Catholic Church as ever.

If you're wondering, "How could she make Perfect or Mary Jane sound any more depressing?" she answers that question with the same sad guitar riffs and the incorporation of piano to add that extra oomph of melancholy goodness.

For the most part, Morissette has left all her lyrics as is, but made one sizable change on "Ironic" by singing, "It's meeting the man of my dreams / Then meeting his beautiful husband." (However, she apparently still hasn't learned the definition of the word, "ironic.")

Acoustic is complete in the sense that practically nothing from the first version is missing in the second. Except that second version of "You Outta Know," which suddenly comes in just after the last track, "Wake Up" on the original album. However, the hidden 13th track "Your House" is still intact. Originally an a capella piece-which she performed with a guitarist at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards-the acoustic version also includes guitars, percussion and piano, but is not nearly as interesting as the original.

That same year, Morissette also performed a highly revered acoustic version of "You Outta Know" at the Grammys, which proves that if she's cashing in, she's only cashing in on what people want to hear. Therefore, even if Acoustic is merely a ploy developed to cash in, Morissette deserves every penny because she Acoustic-ly delivers.

Old twenty-something fans will appreciate the freshness of a classic favorite while new forty or fifty-somethings might start feelin' her sound as they inadvertently take in her new groove while sipping their lattes.

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