One of the fascinating things about Alanis Morissette is how intensely people react to her. Fans find her a goddess of truth and emotional accessibility; detractors view her as a stream-of-consciousness whiner. This unplugged effort (with six-piece band and strings) won’t likely convert anyone.
The mixed bag that is MTV Unplugged, combines songs from her last two albums with three new tracks. The pluses? The album starts with a rich version of her hit ”You Learn” and ends with the haunting West-meets-East sounds of ”Uninvited.” Morissette’s verbal tics (the hiccuping vocals, the occasional slushy, sibilant s’s) are mostly stifled. And it’s admirable that she follows her idiosyncratic muse instead of trying to recapture the stunning success of 1995’s ”Jagged Little Pill.”
But on the downside, the post-”Pill” material tends to be impenetrable – you’re left thinking, ”Is there a hook around here?” Of the new tunes, ”No Pressure Over Cappuccino,” a soothing blend of soaring voice, melody, and strings, is the loveliest. But ”These R the Thoughts” – Morissette’s list of what crosses her mind when ”I have the house to myself and I am not expending all the energy fighting with my boyfriend” – sounds like something Phoebe on ”Friends” would sing.
And ultimately that’s what is so trying about Morissette’s denser songs: too much information. By telling us exactly what she’s thinking (”I Was Hoping” and ”Princes Familiar”), she leaves nothing to the imagination.
Still, Morissette is a compelling live performer – exuding intelligence, warmth, and a quirky combo of passion and Zen calm. She draws on these, and the gentler acoustic setting, for a powerful finish that includes ”Uninvited,” a tender cover of the Police’s ”King of Pain,” and her breakout megahit ”You Oughta Know,” which builds to impassioned, jilted-lover anthem. B-