Breakdown: Limited Edition

Strictly Limited to 20, 000 Copies this Digipak Format features Three Tracks and Enhanced Tracks featuring Exclusive Behind the Scenes Footage, Web Site Link, Photo’s, Lyrics and a Screen Saver.”There’s a place that we must go: into the soul, into the heart, into the dark” sings Melissa Etheridge in “Into the Dark”; it might serve as the refrain for the entire album, her first since 1995’s Your Little Secret. In Breakdown, the singer-songwriter returns to the studio recharged and with a newfound confessional maturity that is at once vulnerable and searingly direct. Despite her phenomenal successes, Etheridge confronts the insecurities of obsessive desire (“Angels Would Fall,” with its intricate overlay of religious imagery, touches a new level compared to the savage rawness of her classic “Like the Way I Do”), a bitter breakup (“Stronger than Me”), and an adolescent’s confused sexual identity (“Mama I’m Strange”). This journey into the heart of darkness comprises not only sharp-edged self-reflection but also the painful vision of “Scarecrow,” a drum & bass-anchored lament for gay murder victim Matthew Shepard. There’s a therapeutic sense of catharsis throughout that makes the serenity of “My Lover” and “Sleep” seem like a hard-earned conclusion. With her vocals steely, acid-washed, and forthright as ever, Etheridge and coproducer/lead guitarist John Shanks concoct a rich and tightly webbed acoustic-and-amplified soundscape. Several of the songs have a sameness of tone, but Etheridge’s passion never sounds fake, whether in the guitar-charged chorus of the title track or “Enough of Me”‘s gently rising chords. And in its total effect, Etheridge’s Breakdown sounds a lot more like a breakthrough to still a higher level. This limited-edition version of the album includes three tracks not found on the standard-issue version of Breakdown. –Tom May

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