Thursday, August 4, 2011

The #6 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--"Jagged Little Pill" by Alanis Morissette

In review, #10 of All-Time was the thunderous Back in Black from AC/DC, the great concept album The Dark Side of the Moon from Pink Floyd was #9, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the masterpiece from the Beatles, came in at #8 and Carole King's beautifully-woven Tapestry was #7.

The next album in this summer spectacular is a bit of an unlikely story.  Alanis Morissette had released two albums prior to this one, but none outside of her native Canada.  The album's success can probably be attributed to a number of factors--a mediocre music scene in which the quality of music had gone down tremendously in the previous decade, a talented, hungry woman with a lot to say, and no less than six hit songs that attracted immediate attention.  There really is no other album like it.

After two albums, Morissette moved from Ottawa to Toronto, Ontario but that city, as well as Nashville, Tennessee proved void of help for her music career.  So she went to Los Angeles and it was there that she hooked up with Glen Ballard.  Ballard co-wrote all of the songs on this amazing album, played guitar and keyboards, and engineered, mixed and produced the album.

While in Los Angeles, Morissette was robbed and long afterward, she had panic attacks from the incident.  Thus, she poured all the angst and inner emotions into this album as a way of dealing with her mental health.  According to Alanis, Ballard was the first musical collaborator that encouraged her to express her emotions.  And boy did she.

Executives at the record company expected the album to sell about 250,000 copies.  Those low expectations changed when KROQ in Los Angeles began playing "You Oughta' Know".  Word soon spread and the song became a national hit.  

Jagged Little Pill first entered the Top 10 on August 5, 1995 and hung around until it took over #1 from Cracked Rear View by Hootie & the Blowfish on October 7.  It logged a couple weeks of the top before Mariah Carey's Daydream knocked it off.  Morissette's album again hung around the Top 10 and in January, moved back up.  It was behind Daydream and now the "Waiting to Exhale" Soundtrack.  But in February, this amazing album rose to #1 in again in its 35th week of release.  A 2Pac album replaced it for a couple weeks, but Jagged Little Pill again climbed to the top and spent three more weeks at #1.  The Beatles' Anthology 2 replaced it in April but again, the album regained the #1 spot, this time in its 42nd week. 

Jagged Little Pill charted three more weeks at #1.  It was still there when a second album from Hootie & the Blowfish, Fairweather Johnson, came in to topple it!  Once again, Morissette's album hung near the top, then, miraculously, 16 weeks and five other #1 albums later, Jagged Little Pill returned to #1 on August 24, 1996.  The album had been released 61 weeks previously, truly an amazing chart statistic.  By now, the whole world pretty much knew that this was not just a great album; it was something special.  Jagged Little Pill remained at #1 for three more weeks after that.  All told, it posted 12 weeks at #12, 14 weeks at #2 and an incredible 20 weeks at #3.  That's 46 weeks as being one of the top three albums in the country.  It was a Top 10 fixture for 72 weeks and on the album chart for 113 (over two years). 

In just 16 years, this album has sold 16 million copies and has an outstanding Track Rating* of 9.08.  Worldwide, the total has topped 30 million, which no doubt will help it when Inside the Rock Era presents The Top 100 Albums in the World*.  The album was also #1 in the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"You Oughta Know", "Ironic", "You Learn", "Hand in My Pocket", "Head over Feet" and "All I Really Want" served to lure listeners in to what Morissette had to say.  That's a lifetime of achievement for many artists (and it essentially proved to be for her as well), but all the tracks were recorded at one time and can be found on this outstanding album.  You may think that with six hits, there couldn't be much else on the album.  And you would be wrong.  "Not the Doctor" and "Mary Jane" are superb cuts, both among The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

So, even though the longevity of Tapesty is higher, the overall chart performance of Jagged Little Pill is better--46 weeks in the Top Three to 19 for Carole King.  And, while the Track Rating* is a notch below, Morissette more than made up for it in chalking up 16 million in sales in the short time the album has been out to 10 million for Tapestry.  Don't get me wrong; I love them both, but I think it helpful that you understand that no album is going to be ranked #1 in every statistic and that you have to look at the big picture when ranking albums.  Plus, there's this:

Jagged Little Pill was nominated for eight Grammy Awards, winning for Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance (for "You Oughta' Know").  "Ironic", isn't it, that she did all that but didn't win for Best New Artist.  Song of the Year and Record of the Year & Best Music Video Short Form (the latter two for "Ironic") were the other categories in which MorissetteMorissette was the youngest person to ever win the prestigious Album of the Year category (21 years old).  

Morissette was nominated for Favorite Female Artist in 1996 and won in that category in 1997 at the American Music Awards and also won a statue for Favorite Pop Album.  Jagged Little Pill was named Album of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards.  The album won Album of the Year and Best Rock Album at the Juno Awards and earned Alanis Songwriter of the Year Honors, Female Vocalist of the Year and Single of the Year Awards for "You Oughta' Know" in 1996 and "Ironic" in 1997.  Morissette was also given an International Achievement Award at the Juno's in recognition of the historic performance of the album.  

Morissette was also nominated for Favorite Female Artist and Favorite New Artist at the American Music Awards.  Morissette won Best International Newcomer at the Brit Awards, Best New Artist and Best Female Video (for "Ironic") at the MTV Video Music Awards and she was nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the Juno Awards.  The album garnered further attention when it was nominated for Best Direction, Video of the Year and Viewer's Choice at the MTV Video Music Awards (all for "Ironic").

Jagged Little Pill
(All lyrics by Alanis Morissette, all music by Morissette and Glen Ballard)

1.    "All I Really Want" --4:45
2.    "You Oughta' Know" --4:09
3.    "Perfect" --3:08
4.    "Hand in My Pocket" --3:42
5.    "Right Through You" --2:56
6.    "Forgiven" --5:00
7.    "You Learn" --4:00
8.    "Head over Feet" --4:27
9.    "Mary Jane" --4:41
10.  "Ironic" -- 3:50
11.  "Not the Doctor" --3:48
12.  "Wake Up" --4:54

Morissette played harmonica on the album as well; as mentioned, Glen Ballard played guitar and keyboards and handled programming.  Basil Fung, the great session musician Michael Landau  and Joel Shearer played guitar while Dave Navarro played guitar on "You Oughta' Know".  Lance Morrison  and Flea played bass, Michael Thompson and Benmont Tench played organ, Matt Laug was the drummer and Rob Ladd added percussion and drums.  

Jagged Little Pill was recorded between 1994 and 1995 at two Hollywood, California studios--Westlake and Signet Sound.  Ballard served as the engineer, mixer and producer on this monumental release.  Ted Blaisdell, David Schiffman, Victor McCoy and Rich Weingart assisted with engineering and Chris Fogel helped engineer and mix the project.  Chris Bellman mastered the album.  Tom Recchion was in charge of art direction and design and John Patrick Salisbury provided photography.  The album was released on June 13, 1995 on Maverick Records and on Reprise, a division of Warner Brothers.

There are only five albums better in the Rock Era--Jagged Little Pill grabs #6 All-Time*.

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