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Jewel – Greatest Hits album review

The Alaskan singer-songwriter celebrates 18 years in the music industry.

Jewel
Credit: Wolfgang Ludes/Contour by Getty Images

Our love affair with Jewel has been going strong since she debuted on the music scene in 1995. Her debut album Pieces of You sold over 12 million copies in the US alone and became one of the biggest-selling debut albums by a female artist of all-time. Since that release Jewel has enjoyed varying degrees of success and has released a total of 10 albums, including the festive collection Joy: A Holiday Collection and two children’s albums Lullaby and Merry Goes Round. Now after 18 years as a recording artist, Jewel is releasing her first Greatest Hits collection.

Greatest Hits contains 13 of Jewel’s 27 singles along with newly recorded versions of Foolish Games (with Kelly Clarkson) and You Were Meant For Me (with The Pistol Annies), and new single Two Hearts Breaking. Sequenced in chronological order Greatest Hits open’s with Jewel’s 1995 debut single Who Will Save Your Soul. The track is still one of our favourite Jewel songs and offers the singer-songwriter’s insight into the state of society at the time.

Over the course of Greatest Hits you can see the musical journey that Jewel has travelled over the last 18 years. Starting out as a solely acoustic artist, her sound evolved taking in folk, rock, country and pop influences. Her label, no doubt, had a hand in the more radio-friendly mixes of her tracks which were released as singles. Foolish Games, one of Jewel’s finest songs to date, was re-recorded for its single release giving it a fuller and richer sound. Similarly 1999 release Jupiter (Swallow The Moon), from Spirit, got the pop treatment for its single release. For the record we preferred the original album versions of both tracks.

Jewel shines the brightest when she’s left to her own devices. An incredibly talented songwriter and a remarkably gifted vocalist, there’s nothing really that she can’t do. Her voice fits the poppier sound of 2003 single Intuition from 0304, which the critics simply didn’t get, as well as it fits the grittier rock-edged Good Day from 2006 album Goodbye Alice in Wonderland. Her beautifully simple and understated version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow is included here and showcases yet another side to her versatile vocal ability.

Standing Still from 2001 album This Way marked a progression to a fuller band sound that Jewel explored over the course of that record. Her move into a purer country sound, a genre she’s always been influenced by, in 2008 spawned the US radio hit Stronger Woman from Perfectly Clear and the gorgeous 2010 ballad Satisfied from Sweet and Wild.

Highlights on the album include the triple whammy of early singles Who Will Save Your Soul, You Were Meant For Me and Foolish Games. The trio remain the songs Jewel is yet to top and showcase her at her best. The beautiful simplicity of the tracks and Jewel’s honest lyrics are what made her so well-loved by fans and critics. We also have a soft spot for the haunting Break Me which is one of the most powerful songs Jewel has recorded to date.

Of the new tracks You Were Meant For Me with The Pistol Annies is injected with a little bit of country whilst Foolish Games with Kelly Clarkson works better than we expected. We wonder how long it will be before Kelly makes the move to a more country/folk sound too. New single Two Hearts Breaking marries classic acoustic Jewel with soft rock beats fitting nicely onto the release and rounding out the album perfectly.

There are a few omissions here that we would have liked to see on the tracklisting. This Way and Serve The Ego are glaringly missing from 2001 album This Way whilst Again and Again from 2006’s Goodbye Alice in Wonderland should have made the cut too. We were a little disappointed to see that more recent hits like I Do and Till It Feels Like Cheating were omitted too. We guess there just wasn’t enough space to fit everything on.

Jewel’s Greatest Hits showcases a singer-songwriter who has never let the quality of her music drop. She’s successfully navigated the murky waters of record company politics and retained her integrity whilst staying true to herself. Jewel is an artist who has taken risks during her career to date and we love her more for it. Her lack of commercial success in the UK is quite frankly baffling and it’s meant that we haven’t seen her perform live here for a decade. Hopefully with the release of Greatest Hits the UK will be back on her touring map later in the year.

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