Monday, June 20, 2022

"Similar Features" by Melissa Etheridge

Song#:  3856
Date:  04/08/1989
Debut:  94
Peak:  94
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This singer/songwriter from Kansas learned guitar at an early age and was playing in country bands during her teens. She would go on to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston and while there began to hone her songwriting and performance skills. After several semesters at the college, Etheridge would take a leap of faith and move out to L.A. in search of a music career. She eventually secured a manager and kept on performing at various venues. An Island Records exec caught one of her shows and got Etheridge signed to the label. A self-titled debut album got recorded and the scorching "Bring Me Some Water" was pushed as the first single. It would end up reaching #10 at Rock. A second single, "Like the Way I Do," would get to #28 Rock. Then this third single would be her best effort yet getting to #6 Rock while cracking the Pop chart for a short month. Despite not having a significant hit on the Pop chart, good airplay on rock radio and word of mouth helped Etheridge's debut album get to #22 and go gold (over time it would turn double-platinum). She would also earn her first Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female, for "Bring Me Some Water."

ReduxReview:  I remember walking into a used record shop and when going through their newer releases bin came across Melissa Etheridge. That red cover with Etheridge decked out in leather with spiky hair and a pose that looked both defiant and pleading got my attention. More than that was a sticker that the record shop put on it that said "new, different, and interesting." I had sort of heard about Etheridge, but hadn't heard her music yet. Obviously, it was something I was meant to get and I bought the album. "Similar Features" and its dark, slinky groove and awesome lyrics certainly set a mood and got my attention. By the time the third track "Like the Way I Do" ended, I was in full-on fan mode. The LP quickly became a favorite. It was intense, passionate, and really unlike anything that was coming out at the time. Etheridge would go on to do some great work and even finally break into the Pop Top 10, but for me she never really recaptured the spirit and brilliance of her debut.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  When work began on a debut album, the label had assigned Etheridge engineer/producer Jim Gains (Huey Lewis, Journey, Bruce Hornsby). Being her first big time recording project, Etheridge let Gains run things and he produced her tracks in a big, layered, arena rock way. His style perhaps wasn't what she thought of for her songs, but Gains had a track record of hits, so she went with it. When the LP was finished, it got handed over to the label the exec who found and signed Etheridge, Chris Blackwell. Unfortunately, he didn't like it at all. It didn't represent the artist he saw in the club. Etheridge thought she may have missed her shot, but then she and the musicians who had formed her studio band told Blackwell they could do better and find the more raw/live sound he wanted if they were give a chance to redo the record. Blackwell agreed and over a grueling four days, the team cut the album again, this time with engineer/producer Niko Bolas. The results were exactly what Blackwell and Island was looking for and the album was slated for release. The redo was a good choice as it would go on to sell over two million copies.


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