Jewel - Spirit (1998)

Spirit
1 Deep Water
2 What's Simple Is True
3 Hands
4 Kiss The Flame
5 Down So Long
6 Innocence Maintained
7 Jupiter
8 Fat Boy
9 Enter From The East
10 Barcelona
11 Life Uncommon
12 Do You
13 Absence Of Fear

Introduction

When Jewel released Pieces of You in 1995 she became everyone's darling with her Singer/Songwriter songs that seemed too authentic to be fake. And indeed, there was much of Jewel herself in those songs. Being homeless for quite a while and singing in cheap pubs to earn a few cents, while not having any contact with her family - that was Jewel's life back then. That street credibility made her real. She refused a big check for her record deal and tried to be herself. Success came quickly - to everyone's surprise in a time when the endtimes of Grunge and the rising of Britpop dominated the music scene. Infact Jewel became so succesful that the big Bob Dylan asked her to go on tour with him. As the story goes Bob has told her to remain exactly the way she was. "Don't play their game - be yourself" Jewel quoted him on a Howard Stern interview. She did not listen to him and on her second album "Sprit" one could hear quite some Pop/Rock influences. Did that hurt her music? Not yet...

The Sound

No, quite the contrary. While "Pieces of You" might have been Jewel's most (and probably only) personal record, "Spirit" earns a lot from some of the best Songwriting the 90s had to offer.

All in all this is an album in the vein of Sarah McLachlan, maybe a bit more quiet at most times. But where Sarah made pure Rock/Pop in her greatest days, there is something on this album that is different. An essence of the record reaches out and tries to remind you why this album is indeed special. The irony: While being far more commercial than its predecessor this album is once again influenced by a dying music scene, by incorperating elements of the Seattle style.
No, this is not a Rock album, but the overall mood and the guitar playing always make me picture images of "Singles".

Her style of singing hasn't changed from the debut album, but all seems more polished and tighter produced. Some called it overproduced, but I don't agree, the production of this album fits the music just perfectly.

So let's recap. Melancholy songs driven by some of the nicest guitar picking with a voice that can actually sing. But what about the songs?

The album could be categorized into two parts: Radio friendly songs, Rock songs, if you like and those down-to-the-minum songs that made her debut great already. "Deep Water", "Hands", "Down So Long" fall into the first category and the last two had been released as singles - "Hands" being one of her most prominent songs. By the way, the video for "Down So Long" proves the Seattle influence being a very typical video for that particular time period.

The majority of the album is compiled from those other songs, the quiet ones that you overhear easily on first listen. "Kiss the Flame" is a prime example for such a song. Nothing special going on. A very minimal acoustic guitar is played to some ambient Keyboard floor. And Ms. Kilcher sings. Then suddenly she forms a melody with nothing more than those three words that define the title. And once this new creation finds the listener, it won't be forgotten.

And that's in a nutshell, what describes this album best: Small gems hidden in small melodies and guitar licks. It never sounds special. But it is, once those gems have found a place in your memory. Which they will. Not on first listen. Maybe not on second either.

But as we all know the best albums are not those sticking from the start, but those that need to be worked on.

"Spirit" needed a few years for me and from then on it never left.

And from the moment it arrived it was clear, this is one for the island, a close friend that deserves to have a spot in my personal list of classics.

10/10

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