There's an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm from 2002 where Alanis Morissette is performing at a benefit concert that's eventually held at Larry David's home, where she sings a stripped-down acoustic arrangement of "You Oughta Know" with guitarist David Levita for an audience of wealthy Hollywood liberals. This may not have been the genesis of her 2005 album Jagged Little Pill Acoustic -- initially for sale only in Starbucks stores, but released to mass retail in late July -- but that performance not only offers a clue to the sound of this acoustic-based reinterpretation of her blockbuster breakthrough, but also to its target audience. Unlike the 1995 original, this is not a dense, glossy pop album that slyly co-opts and repackages ideas from the musical fringe for a mass audience, nor is this akin to her 1999 acoustic album Alanis Unplugged, where Morissette was still sorting out exactly which direction to take in the aftermath of her phenomenal success. Jagged Little Pill Acoustic is the sound of an artist who is comfortable and settled, fondly reminiscing about her crazy past for an audience that is also comfortable and settled. This is sepia-toned music (which is appropriate, since the cover itself is a sepia-toned replication of the original's artwork), with all of the excesses and eccentricities of youth either romanticized or dismissed with a soft chuckle. Alanis marvels at how crazy she was back then, as she and her audience both congratulate themselves on surviving ten years while reflecting on how much they've personally grown in that decade. All of this is captured in the lone lyrical change: "Ironic" now concludes with Alanis meeting the man of her dreams and meeting not his beautiful wife, but his beautiful husband (she's no longer pronouncing "figures" as "figgers," either). This doesn't change the song or its intent, but it does signal that Morissette has a slightly different perspective, one that is self-congratulatory, more tolerant, and more self-consciously urbane. And that pretty much summarizes the music here, too: it's deliberately mature and certainly more tasteful than the original Jagged Little Pill, the kind of music that would sound good playing in, well, the background of a coffee shop. While there are acoustic guitars at the foundation of each of the 12 tracks here (plus the unlisted 13th bonus track), this isn't strictly acoustic, at least by most standards: with original JLP producer Glen Ballard, who never met a production he couldn't overdub a few more times than necessary, on board as well, it's not surprising that Acoustic winds up being a subdued adult alternative pop album filled with strings, keyboards, and production instead of a stark acoustic record. Since Ballard is a pro and since Alanis has lived with these songs long enough to find different, yet comfortable, ways to rephrase these familiar melodies, it's a pleasant enough listen, but it's hard to see the point of the album. That is, unless it is really for the kind of crowd she serenaded in that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm -- a very satisfied, very comfortable audience that prefers to see the past only through rose-colored glasses that present their history in terms that are more acceptable to who they are now than who they were back then.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine