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As good as ever

Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
By Jewel

Atlantic: 2006

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This review first appeared in the May 1, 2006 issue of the North County Times.

Former San Diegan Jewel has had a career trajectory running parallel to that of fellow folkie Tracy Chapman: Both scored huge radio hits on their debut albums, and have yet to match that success on subsequent releases.

It's probably not fair that both are criticized for, or at least regularly reminded of, their failure to again dominate the pop radio airwaves in the years since their first albums – especially in that it is radio that has changed far more than either singer has.

On her new album, Jewel shows she still has a flair for the accessible, pop-tinged folk song; can still sing with passion and urgency; that, in short, she still sounds like Jewel.

The songs here actually hearken back to her first album, 1995's "Pieces of You." They're bright, sunny, beach folk; even when the lyrics have darkness to them, the melodies sparkle and charm. The opening song, "Again and Again," sounds more than a little like "Who Will Save Your Soul" for the first few measures. Once it finds its own feet, it turns out to be every bit as charming as that first hit was for her. Other potential hits here are the endearingly anthemic "Good Day" and the rocking "Only One Too."

If her baker's dozen songs are as good as anything she's yet written, the addition of strings and/or synthesizers on many of the tracks is a bit distracting. It's her voice that, next to her songs, is the biggest attraction; Jewel and her guitar is all most of us want or need to hear.