On her later albums, Laurie Anderson had moved from her earlier spoken word-plus-effects style to a more overtly musical approach, with less effective results. The Ugly One With the Jewels, a recording of a live performance of readings from her book Stories From the Nerve Bible, returned her to speaking instead of singing, and it was her best album since Big Science. The 18 stories reflected Anderson's extensive travels, including forays into the Third World and to convents, although she made Los Angeles and Houston sound just as exotic. In fact, telling her stories over sounds from birds, guitars, and electronic beeps, she seemed an anthropologist from another world, always finding the natives friendly but strange. And she didn't fail to recognize that she could appear just as odd to them: "The Ugly One With the Jewels" was a name used by one of her subjects to describe her.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann