Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge

Island Records, 1988

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The late eighties was a period in music where the female singer-songwriter came into the forefront. To be sure, women had been doing just this throughout history, but this now became the commercial cause celebre to the industry. Artists like Tracy Chapman, Sarah McLachlan and the Indigo Girls all found themselves with recording contracts and, at least initially, marketing muscle behind their albums.

In this mix we find Melissa Etheridge’s self-titled debut album. Released in 1988, it doesn’t neatly fit into any musical category, though it did spawn a hit with the song “Bring Me Some Water.” As a first effort, it’s not bad—but it’s far from perfect.

Production-wise, it almost has too sterile of a feel to it. Tracks such as “Like The Way I Do” and “Chrome Plated Heart” —two songs which became staples of Etheridge’s live performances—sound overly polished, which in effect stripped away any emotion in the tracks. Compared to a track such as “The Late September Dogs,” which is rife with soul and emotion, it makes these “cleaner” efforts seem far weaker.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As a songwriter, Etheridge was still developing her skills—and while there are some powerful efforts to be found in these 10 songs, not everything hits the target. As overplayed as it became for its time, “Bring Me Some Water” is a high-water mark for this disc, as are “Don’t You Need” and “The Late September Dogs.” But for every strong effort, there are those that fall short. “Occasionally” dares to feature Etheridge a capella, backed only by her thumping away on the back of her Ovation 12-string guitar—a brave effort, to be sure, but one that feels lyrically underdeveloped, and the overall track seeming to beg for an instrumental richness that isn’t present. Similarly, tracks like “I Want You” and “Precious Pain” just don’t hold the same emotional punch that the more powerful tracks have in terms of their lyrical delivery.

This isn’t to say that Melissa Etheridge is a bad effort overall. Rather, it’s uneven—which can almost be expected for a first effort. Indeed, Etheridge would grow into her role as a songwriter on future releases, and there are signs of that greatness to be found on this one. Also, the bass guitar work of Kevin McCormick proves to be the anchor that held Etheridge’s first four albums together instrumentally. The musical pairing of Etheridge and McCormick is as natural as putting jelly on peanut butter, and remains a pleasure to listen to even nearly 35 years later.

Etheridge’s career would go onto bigger and better things, and though there is quite a bit to celebrate on Melissa Etheridge, it would also be incorrect to say the album, as a whole, is a success (though the successes narrowly outweigh the miscues).

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2023 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.