Monday, January 14, 2013

So She Is, So What?! Melissa Etheridge’s Yes I Am

The Good: Good voice, Some nice lyrics, Some good instrumentals
The Bad: Outside the known singles, none of the songs "pop."
The Basics: While a solid rock and roll album, the best tracks on Yes I Am are all on The Road Less Traveled, making it hard to recommend this work.

I'm instituting a new standard for myself and my reviews; any artist who I like, especially enough to own their Greatest Hits album, will no longer have a "recommend" from me for any album prior to their "Greatest Hits" (if I own or have listened to it) if the best song(s) on the album I am reviewing appears on their "Greatest Hits." The short of this review is that while Yes I Am is a decent - if average - Melissa Etheridge album, all of the songs that are essential are on The Road Less Traveled - Melissa Etheridge's Greatest Hits.

Released in 1993 after Melissa Etheridge had publicly come out of the closet as a lesbian, the title Yes I Am openly acknowledges Etheridge as Out. Good for her. I mean that; it's nice for people to be free to be who they are without being afraid or ashamed of that. We salute you, Melissa Etheridge. Yes I Am was also probably Etheridge's most commercially successful album - especially on the singles level - with the first three tracks, "I'm The Only One," "If I Wanted To," and "Come To My Window" all being released as singles and charting well.

The problem is, if you've heard these three songs, you've heard the best material on the album. In fact, the only other song of note is Yes I Am. The other six tracks are distinctly Melissa Etheridge, but indistinct for anything else. In short, if you heard them, you might say "Oh, that sounds like Melissa Etheridge." None of them resonate with the vocal force, passion and guitars of "I'm The Only One."

For those unfamiliar with Melissa Etheridge, Etheridge is one of the few distinct female rockers who has never deviated from her rock and roll passions. She is an able lyricist, writing all ten tracks on Yes I Am. She is a musician, writing the music for all ten songs as well as playing playing electric guitar or acoustic guitar on tracks on the album. As well, she co-produced Yes I Am, once again defining herself as a true artist in control of her craft.

On the lyrics, Melissa Etheridge once again focuses on angst, longing and a lot of nervous jealousy. On her hit "If I Wanted To," for example, she cries out, "I could smoke drink swear and I would never grow old / I wouldn't have to be in love with you / If I only wanted to . . ." which is torturous, the way her narrator torments herself. Even fidelity is a trap for Etheridge's poetic representations, "You don't know how much I'd give / Or how much I can take / Just to reach you . . ." ("Come To My Window").

Etheridge is a great poet, often using unpredictable rhymes and expressive lines that perfectly characterize the emotion or theme she is exploring. And for a rock artist, she manages to tell a number of stories in her songs. "All American Girl," for example, could easily be covered by a folk artist.

Because Etheridge creates so many aspects of her own music, it is easy to postulate why it sounds so good. She is not singing another person's lyrics, so she creates songs that sound like she wants them to. The songs present an articulate concept of the lyrics and that is an achievement of its own these days.

The real gem of Yes I Am, which admittedly is not on The Road Less Traveled, is the full version of "Come To My Window." For those familiar with the song as it was played on the radio or from The Road Less Traveled - or the music video - Yes I Am has a full version which opens with a haunting, vocal version of the chorus. Etheridge sings the chorus a cappella and it's astonishing the effect. From the opening, the song (which in other version starts with the guitars) is even more longing and wrenching for it. It's worth a listen.

But it's hard to sell the album on it.

If you don't own a Melissa Etheridge album and you want to and cannot find her essential hits on The Road Less Traveled and want something less dark than Breakdown, Yes I Am is the next logical choice. It has three hit songs and is good, but it's not her best. And the best from this album is available on a better compilation.

The best song is the haunting rendition of "Come To My Window," I was underwhelmed by "Ruin."

For other works by Melissa Etheridge, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Melissa Etheridge
Brave And Crazy
Never Enough
Nowhere To Go (single)
The Road Less Traveled: The Best Of Melissa Etheridge
The Awakening
A New Thought For Christmas
Fearless Love

7/10 (Not recommended)

For other music reviews, be sure to visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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