Alright, I’ve given this a few listens actually, and I loved the album. I can totally see why, the Grammys for instance were head over heels for the album, once upon a time. It still holds up really well. I could listen to this album several times over and find something new in it. In fact, that’s something that’s really amazing, is the production. Paula Cole was famously the first female to get nominated for Producer of the Year despite having only produced her own album that year, but I totally get why. Cole has always been a really eclectic musically. There’s a lot of unique and unusual musical compositions here, especially for some of the album tracks that aren’t well-known. Although, even if you think about it for a second, think about how strange a song “Where Have All the Cowboys Are?” actually sounds. And I love that song, but it’s got a lot of vocal distortion, and an almost electronica beat,- that song in particular I’m really amazed isn’t more beloved now, because it’s so weird. There’s like classical jazz influences, there’s a lot of strange instrumentation,- She’s listed as playing nine different instruments for this album, including something called a Juno and a Tube Werlitzer, which I don’t even know what the hell those are.
Lyrically, she’s does jump to a lot of topics and has a lot of strange ideas. “Me” for instance, is almost this self-referential song that seems to literally be an inner monologue of Paula, while she’s singing something else. She has some really nostalgia lyrics, especially her most famous songs, she conjurs up some really distorted Norman Rockwell-like images there, but she also can be as angry and defiant as a Fiona Apple or Tori Amos at times, especially on “Throwing Stones”, which has some really evocative angry lyrics. I will say this, I had heard that she had become far more religious in her more recent albums and in her personal life,- I haven’t heard a lot of that work from her, so I can’t entirely judge that but there’s definitely seeds of that. “Tiger” for instance, uses Bethlehem as a symbolic starting point, and in “Road to Death” she literally compares herself emotionally to suffering like Jesus Christ. She also has a very direct sexual side with “Feelin’ Love”.
There’s a lot of ideas here, coming from a lot of different places emotionally and intellectually, both in the lyrics and the music. To give you an idea on the kind of album it is, and the kind of artist that Paula Cole seems be trying to emulate, there’s a guest vocal on the song “Hush, Hush, Hush” by Peter Gabriel. So, somebody who can jump a few different genres at random depending on the song and whatever instincts he has. It’s kind of like, the ideal album I want from this era and this mid-90s singer-songwriter era; I want a couple, wonderful, polished singles, I want very powerful, srrong, emotional lyrics, and I want an artist who uses the freedom of being a solo act to really experiment musically and lyrics with the deeper and more obscure tracks, to constantly keep you on your toes. I mean, a song like “Mississippi”, with all the dark, brooding piano and distorted guitars, I could see being a crowd favorite at a concert, especially for all the twist and turns it brings, even if that kind of extreme vocal shifts might be hard to pull off on stage. Reminds me a lot of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited” only with a chorus and a lot more righteous anger.
Yeah, I’ve playing this on a loop since I started writing this, and I suspect I’ll keep playing it for awhile. Great album, definitely going into my regular rotation of CDs, I highly recommend Paula Core’s “This Fire”. Good title, too, ‘caution no matter the subject or genre, there seems to be some kind of passion, all throughout the album, which is another aspect I really love of this era that I often feel is missing now, the passion in the songs and music.