From 1988-1993, Melissa Etheridge put out four LPs, three of which were masterpieces. Her self-titled debut is the kind of album you’d come up with if you were Melissa Etheridge and you had 20 years of unreleased songs to choose from. Every track is solid and rocks hard. Her fourth album, Yes I Am, has a maturity you’d only realize was lacking in Melissa Etheridge once you heard Yes I Am. It includes three great songs: “I’m the Only One,” “Come to My Window,” and probably her best track, “I Will Never Be the Same,” four if you’re generous and include “Yes I Am,” but it also includes some duds.
Her sophomore album, Brave and Crazy, is one of my favorite records ever. There’s not a drop in song quality from the “Hello, hello” of “No Souvenirs” to the raucous harmonica that plays out “Royal Station 4/16.” It’s cohesive in a way that Melissa Etheridge isn’t–the latter feels more like a greatest hits album than Brave and Crazy does, because that’s really what Melissa Etheridge was, probably, a twenty-year (I’m making the number up) retrospective on the artist’s pre-record-deal career. Brave and Crazy has an energy borne of confidence and buoyed by success but isn’t weighed down by years and years as a Major Recording Artist spoiled and made cynical by the hitmaking grind. A great rock and roll record turns you on, makes you joyful and angry and contemplative and excited and lets it all pour out of you like water from a faucet. That’s what Brave and Crazy does.