The Good: Excellent voice, excellent engineering, mostly good lyrics, competant instrumentals
The Bad: Some track organizations, not all albums have the bonus tracks, The GAP!
The Basics: A pleasant surprise by the combined talents of Imbruglia and her producers, buy the 17 track album, enjoy the beginning, leave the room for 12 minutes, then return!
The pre-emptive statement to the actual review here has to be that I'm listening to the Left of the Middle bonus album - that is, there are two versions to Left of the Middle (at least) a 12 track version and one with either a second five-track c.d. or 17 tracks. The 17 track version (or double c.d.) is available in Australia. There are ways to find it and at equal to or less than the 12 track version price. The five extra tracks make a lot of difference! (The second link at the bottom is for the specific disc I am reviewing!)
That said, Left of the Middle sold in the US on the strength of its sole #1 charting single "Torn." While a few people bought it after "Wishing I Was There" was released and did not have the same - or even near - success of "Torn." "Torn" was an amazing song and a great start to both the album and Natalie Imbruglia's career.
Understandably, Imbruglia released a second single that she had some part in writing. After all, she wanted to be more than a one hit wonder and show that she had more than just vocal and guitar talents. In several other countries, Imbruglia followed up with "Smoke" and if she had in the US perhaps the album would have done better.
Left of the Middle showcases a wide array of themes and emotions and a surprisingly wide sound for all music that is classified as pop-rock. Outside the rocking "Torn," Imbruglia plays mellow and mysterious with the hypnotic "Leave Me Alone" and has some of the best written pop moments in "Smoke." They're two solid tracks. With the bonus tracks, the album is far superior: the acoustic "Tomorrow Morning" will make the album worth the price, it's that good. As well "Diving In the Deep End" is impressive in sound and "Something Better" is perfect for enhancing the overall album sound. Moreover, Imbruglia takes one of her best tracks, "City" and presents it live as the final bonus track and succeeds in doing something few musical artist do; adding something to the song by having multiple versions.
The weakness of the album is easily in the middle. After the wonderful "Smoke," comes the meandering "Pigeons and Crumbs" which probably wouldn't seem as bad as it comes across as had it been sandwiched between two good songs! As it is, it is followed by the equally shaky "Don't You Think" which is followed by the pure pop duds "Impressed" and "Intuition." Imbruglia loads up the beginning of the album and the end (only if you have the bonus edition!) to basically makes something that rocks at the beginning and makes more than an adequate comeback at the end. As it is, without the bonus tracks, "City" and the album's title track are barely enough to break even.
Finally, there is a rather impressive gap between "City" and "Left of the Middle," something on the order of four minutes. It's like the engineers left the room and kept the track running!
In conclusion, Imbruglia manages to do what few others are actually able to accomplish; she takes herself, being of pretty average vocal, instrumental, and lyrical talent and surrounds herself with people who can write and make music and together they create an album that is better than 90% of the stuff that's out there today. The strongest tracks are "Smoke" (which is even better than the amazing "Torn") and "Tomorrow Morning" (which is easily the best song on the album, if only you have the bonus version!) and the weakest link is "Impressed."
For other music reviews of mine, please check out my index page!
© 2010, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.