Jewel – Pieces of You – vinyl edition (Craft Recordings)
Jewel’s path to success is so unique, they should make a movie out of it.
Released over 20 years ago, her debut, Pieces of You, was a slow-moving juggernaut. At first, it bombed, yet eventually it sold over 12 million copies, yielding three huge singles. Craft Recordings has taken this landmark album, long out of print on vinyl, and reissued it with bonus tracks.
Jewel was just 18 when she moved from her native Alaska to Southern California to try and break into the music business. Famously, she was living out of her van when Atlantic Records saw a live performance and gave her a record contract. Pieces of You was issued in February of 1995 to little fanfare.
The album sold poorly at first. While most labels would have given up on this struggling artist, something kept them going. A year and a half later, “Who Will Save Your Soul” peaked at #11, and the parent album started to catch fire. An opening slot for Bob Dylan helped, and TV appearances started to happen. Then, she re-recorded “You Were Meant For Me,” and the more polished version struck a chord with radio and the record-buying public alike, eventually peaking at #2.
Tucked away on the b-side of “You Were Meant For Me” was another ballad, “Foolish Games.” As the former song fell off the chart, the latter picked up steam, sending the now-two-sided single back up the list. Eventually, both songs racked up a combined
(and largely unheard of) 65 weeks on the singles’ chart. The parent album, originally a flop, became one of the biggest-selling albums of all-time.
Listening back to these recordings after over two decades, there’s an innocence to all of it. This is the world seen through the eyes of a girl barely out of high school. Our treatment of people less beautiful, or of minorities hasn’t changed much in 20 years, so “Pieces of You” still rings true, even if its approach is a little blunt. The cloying “Adrian,” a song about a boy in a coma, wears out its welcome at over seven minutes when its point was made at about 3 1/2.
The slick hit singles notwithstanding, the remainder of her debut is largely under-produced. A lot of these are acoustic, in-concert renditions. While there’s an immediacy to the these tracks, her voice would benefit greatly from the better production she would receive on later albums. Yet, there is still plenty that still stands up here too. “Amen” sounds like it was sung by a much-older and wiser woman and is a gorgeous ballad.
There’s a sassy tone to the original version of “You Were Meant For Me” that isn’t present on the redone one. “Who Will Save Your Soul” is Jewel backed by Neil Young’s Stray Gators, and it still packs a whollop.
The vinyl format is perfect for the acoustic tunes. There’s a warmness to “Morning Song” (another great ballad) that just oozes from the grooves of the record. This does not sound like a teenagers’ romance.
There were a lot of non-LP and b-side material recorded around this time, and side 4 of the vinyl grabs five of the best (although “God’s Gift to Women” is surprisingly absent). “Rocker Girl” and “Cold Song” are both quaint, but “Everything Breaks” is phenomenal, and one wonders why it was never included on a Jewel album.
One of the benefits of the vinyl format is that you get all the photos and lyrics that originally came with the CD, but they’re much larger, so they’re legible! The gatefold cover opens with additional credits and a photo too.
Pieces of You might be the most-unassuming best-selling album of all-time (it ranks at #45 all time). Yet, it blazed a trail for the many female performers that followed, and the album’s blend of coffee-house folk and teenage sass still stands up today. —Tony Peters