Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge

Island Records, 1988

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Long long ago, when MTV actually still played videos, I remember being utterly transfixed by the sight of a bitter-mouthed, expressive woman with reddish hair singing a simple ballad whose words twisted like cold, acid knives. Not at all the usual stuff of Empty Vee, and I assumed she'd sink without a trace; I was pleasantly surprised to see her hang on and become one of the most influential artists of the nineties. The song on that video long ago was "Similar Features," from Melissa Etheridge's self-titled debut album.

I've been a fan of Etheridge since then. Sometimes, I think she's skirted a touch too close to commercial, and sometimes I think she's been utterly brilliant. But it all started with that video, and this CD, and in many ways everything she has been up to now is reflected in this first disc, and it is, simply, a powerhouse.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Etheridge's sound on Melissa Etheridge is still young, a touch raw, a touch ragged-edged - in many ways she was still finding her voice here, polishing things up for the later genius of CDs like Brave And Crazy or Yes I Am. But because of the social commentary that her music and presence evokes wherever it goes, it's easy to forget that Rock's First Public Lesbian is also one hell of a musician. In some ways, it's easiest to see that on Melissa Etheridge; without the expectations of VH-1 or the icon status of her sexuality, she just performs. And perform she does.

The songs you know are a convincing argument that Etheridge is one of the best rock performers of the last ten years. The jewel of the album is the hard-driving, acoustic "Like The Way I Do," an angry challenge of a song, powerful and defiant. "Similar Features" is bitter and soft, biting and mourning at the same time; "Chrome Plated Heart" is almost country in some moments, a tongue-in-cheek statement of self; and "Bring Me Some Water" is another hard-rocking beg for relief from an indecisive lover. All these songs got some radio play, and rightfully so; in the keyboard-drenched dregs of the late eighties, they were a breath of fresh air.

That's only half the story, though. There's also Etheridge's more introspective side, featured on songs like "Precious Pain", "The Late September Dogs,", or the acoustic drums and voice of "Occasionally." "Watching You"'s guitar is elegant and crystalline, and the building emotion is almost perfect. The CD's close with the funky, upbeat "I Want You" is a fitting end to a wonderful work.

In my humble opinion (worth exactly what you think it is), Etheridge will be remembered as one of the great rock artists of the nineties and beyond. It all began here, and it's marvelous. Check it out.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Duke Egbert 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.