The fact of the matter is this: no matter what kind of phenomenon Jagged
Little Pill was upon its release, in no way, shape, or fashion has Alanis
Morissette ever produced an adequate follow-up. Not to dismiss her post-Pill
work altogether, you understand; certainly, the occasional song has emerged –
usually one or two per album – that rivals the material from her breakthrough
album…but none of her full-length releases have come anywhere close to the
overall effect of her Maverick Records debut.
One would think, then, that The Collection – the first compilation of
Morissette’s work on Maverick – would actually be pretty solid listening, since,
ostensibly, it should cover only the best of the best.
Yeah, not so fast, pal.
Sure, the stuff from Pill that you’d expect is right here, spread out across the
album so it isn’t so obvious that there are five tracks taken from that album
(no other album gets more than two), and “Head Over Feet,” “Ironic,” “You
Learn,” “You Oughta Know,” and “Hand in My Pocket” were so played to death on
the radio and on MTV upon their initial release that you’ll find that you still
know them backwards and forwards. The proceedings open, however, with “Thank
You,” which has undergone a title adjustment since its initial release on
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (otherwise known as “the difficult
follow-up”), where it was known as “Thank U.” Meanwhile, somewhere in Canada, an
image consultant is cashing a check for services rendered, having offered Alanis
the surprisingly expensive advice that “if you change the ‘U’ back to ‘You,’
it’ll make you seem less like a crazy hippie girl.” (Let’s hope she kept her
receipt.) Also from Junkie is “That I Would Be Good,” but it’s a
decidedly less memorable souvenir from the disc.
Morissette also includes two back-to-back tracks from her 2004 album,
So-Called Chaos, which, despite receiving critical acclaim, didn’t exactly
set the Billboard charts afire for an extended period of time; “8 Easy Steps” is
an enjoyable 3-minute burst of female angst, while “Everything,” is a sweetly
romantic sentiment, inspired by the throes of love. (Alanis was in those throes
with Ryan Reynolds, who is now her fiancé, at the time she wrote the album.)
Strangely, however, only one song is included from 2002’s Under Rug Swept;
sure, the track that’s included – “Hands Clean” – is arguably the single
catchiest song Morissette has ever recorded, but surely room could have been
made for “Precious Illusions” as well…?
It’s hard to know where to point the finger of blame, but someone decided that
the line between a best-of collection and a rarities set was easily blurred. It
is not. While it’s to be expected that this set would be Pill-heavy, a
compilation of all of Morissette’s singles is passed over in favor of soundtrack
recordings, many of which aren’t exactly the stuff that brings crowds to their
feet…except possibly to leave en masse. (In point of fact, there is a three-song
sequence – “Mercy,” “Still,” and “Uninvited” – that would put almost anyone to
sleep, fan or not.) There’s also a track from her MTV Unplugged
performance, as well as two songs from Feast on Scraps, a collection of
tracks recorded during the Under Rug Swept sessions that didn’t make the
cut for that album. Nice enough stuff if you’re a fan, but it’s clear that
there’s enough material to be had for both a best-of and a rarities disc,
so why try to force the two together and make one really inconsistent
amalgamation that will ultimately please no one?
The obligatory new track – a cover of Seal's "Crazy" – doesn't do the memory of
the original version any lasting damage, but given that Alanis is coming off the
recycling of Jagged Little Pill into an acoustic form (ostensibly to
celebrate the album's 10th anniversary, but probably just because she figured
she'd get more sales out of doing that than by recording a brand new album),
you'd think the least she could offer her fans is a new composition of her own.
This might be a collection, but it most certainly is not THE collection.
Cynics are no doubt already anticipating a so-called “definitive collection” in
time for Christmas 2006. Bet on them being right.