Not long ago, I reviewed Everything I Touch Runs Wild by Lori Carson. As I listened to Carson, I wondered why she and her peers are celebrated by rock snobs while artists like Jewel are mercilessly mocked.
Well, the day I took that Lori Carson CD back to the EPFL, what did I see on the shelf? That's right, Jewel's Goodbye Alice in Wonderland. Serendipity, right? No matter the pain, I vowed to work my way through this Jewel album and see if I could figure out why people like me love Carson but hate Jewel.
(To be entirely honest, I've always had a soft spot for Jewel. Everytime I hear one of her songs, it inspires an indescribable sense of nostalgia for a past I've never known. Since I haven't ever heard one of her records from start to finish, this gives me an excuse to check out some Jewel without totally losing my right to call myself a man. Just do me a favor and don't tell anyone, okay?)
Musically, this is a pretty cold album. It sounds as if producer Rob Cavallo mapped every chord change and orchestral swell out in an Excel spreadsheet, ran a formula to calculate the maximum amount of emotion, then hired a bunch of studio mercenaries to play the solution. It's disappointing, because Cavallo has made some pretty incredible records in his time.
Jewel's words and delivery save Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, though. She makes it believable, and that's a mighty good thing since she calls this her musical autobiography. The words are sincere and sentimental, sometimes raw and confessional, and are clever enough that they even made me laugh out loud once or twice.
You know what'd be nice? If she performed all of these songs by herself, just her voice and her acoustic guitar, without a session musician or an Excel spreadsheet anywhere in sight. If she did that, she might give Lori Carson a run for all that critical acclaim.
It's a good package filled with photos and drawings, but the layout of the lyrics is awful. I would expect an artist who released a book of poetry to know better than to cram each song's lyrics into a big block of difficult-to-read text. Most of the photos of Jewel are very flattering, but there's one where she looks like a drunk who got into Tammy Faye's makeup bag. Not a good look for you, honey.
Listen if you like: Sarah McLachlan, James Blunt, Goo Goo Dolls, Alanis Morissette but you've grown up a bit since you bought Jagged Little Pill. The production is probably way too slick to appeal to fans of singers like Lori Carson.
If it were food, it'd be: jalapeno poppers from a chain restaurant. The core ingredients are spicy, but they're cooked up in a way that won't offend consumers with very bland tastes.