MCA Records (Canada), 1991
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/18/1999
Some people have wondered when I was going to get around to reviewing Alanis Morissette's debut release...
Okay, no, wait... stop there. I'm not - repeat, not - talking about Jagged Little Pill. I'll pause now so most American readers can catch their breaths and wonder what I'm talking about.
You see, prior to Jagged Little Pill, Morissette had two albums that were released in Canada - both of them in a more Tiffany-like dance vein. But for some reason, these albums were never released in America. (Whether it's because the suits think there would be no interest or it's because there are some good lawyers making sure these never see the light of day again is beyond me.)
Morissette's real debut album, 1991's Alanis, has some moments on it that are wonderful and showcase the star in training. But in the end, the album does rely too much on insipid, stereotypical tricks that I've heard all too often in dance music.
(Okay, before I get mail from the diehard Morissette fans, I know that she had a maxi-single out even before Alanis. Cripes, it took me this long just to win the two CDs on eBay. Thanks to Steve Loter for offering them!)
The first half of Alanis is incredibly good. The opening track, "Feel Your Love," is a song that is catchy, well written and well performed. Morissette's voice is in fine form on this cut - and it blows away her Americal mallrat competitors. Likewise, "Too Hot" - which, if memory serves me correctly, was the first single - is a decent track, although it does take some time to warm up to. (It also foretells of the lameness that will soon follow. Line from the bridge: "Throw your hands in the air / and wave 'em like you just don't care." Oh, that's original.)
Some of the music on the first half of Alanis dares to challenge the listener, even if such ideas aren't completely original in this particular genre of music. "Plastic" features a more complicated, but catchy, rhythmic chorus that is infectious. "On My Own," the ballad of the album, is the track that shows there's more to Morissette than just the poppy dance numbers, and is a sign of things to come later in her career.
If only the second half of Alanis were half the album the first five tracks are. "Jealous" is the only track that comes close to that - but do I detect an uncredited sample right at the end of the track, making one think that it was recorded live? (I'll go out on a limb and say that what you're really hearing are the closing notes of Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" from Made In Japan - c'mon, gang, you should know you have to give credit where credit is due!)
The final three tracks almost seem to suggest that Morissette and her crew had run out of gas creatively. "Oh Yeah!", already a weaker song, has the most God-awful annoying sound effect in the chorus - it sounds like an evil duck. "Human Touch" and "Party Boy" are throwaway tracks that could have been written in study hall; there's just nothing to these songs musically or lyrically.
I will say this much for Alanis: it's still a better album than Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.
I do question why Morissette would want to completely hide her "dance diva" days, but I do understand why she would not want to have made this genre the only avenue of music that she explored. Being the teen queen is one thing, but those people aren't always in their teens (unless they're on the cast of Beverly Hills 90210), so they almost have to continually look for new musical roads to plow.
Alanis is an album that Morissette and her "team" don't want people to know about - and for part of the album, one understands why. But there is still enough material on this disc to make the search for it worthwhile (if not a bit costly). Die-hard Morissette fans, enjoy the search... but approach certain portions of this album with caution. And, don't worry, we'll get to her 1992 release Now Is The Time soon!