on 16 January 2015
Although it was "The Spirit Room" that bought Michelle Branch to the notice of the public, and "Hotel Paper" that won her a Grammy, thanks to the collaboration with Santana it contained, neither were her first attempt at fame. A year before "the Spirit Room", there was an independent release which, although not quite being enough to propel her to stardom, did bring her to the attention of Madonna's record label Maverick, and the course was set.
Many of the songs that were contained on "The Spirit Room" started life on this album, with around half the tracks having common ground between both albums. There's a stripped down feel to many of them, and the production was clearly better (and, more than likely, more expensive) on "The Spirit Room". But there is clearly talent behind the songs here and I suspect it is this promise as much as anything else that gained Branch the major label attention she was soon to receive. Whilst the album deserves to be judged on its own merits, making comparisons between it and "The Spirit Room" is all too easy.
As someone who is both a completist and quite a big fan of Michelle Branch's other two albums, I'm delighted to have a copy of this, particularly as it was never released in the UK and isn't available anywhere over here. However, that is really the only reason you'd want to buy this album - if you have her other two album releases, it's interesting to pick up this one just to prove that you're a fan.
There is very little else to recommend the album, though. For sure, there are some fairly decent pop tracks on here, but that's also true of "The Spirit Room", with several of the tracks being the same ones, and the ease of purchase and the better production values make that a far better buy.
On the plus side, for the committed fan, it's hugely interesting to see where Michelle Branch started from, and you can see how she has progressed through her career to date. With the deficits in the production values and the relative scarcity of other instruments this album gives a hint towards how a Michelle Branch MTV Unplugged might sound. But that, along with most of the positives about the album, is again something for no-one other than a fan to get excited about.
If you're dedicated to Branch, go for it. If you're not a fan at all, buy "The Spirit Room" instead, and you soon may well be. If you already own either that of "Hotel Paper", and aren't particularly impressed with them, I'd advise you to stay well clear of this one, as you'll likely be even less impressed.
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