In the fall of 1993 I happened to catch a late night talk show. I think it was Letterman, or one of them. Who cares, right? But on this particular night I got to witness the one and only MELISSA ETHERIDGE get up there and set the night on fire. I was so entranced that I went out and bought her new CD Yes I Am a few days later.Oddly enough, I was dating a girl named Melissa at the time. Now, roughly a year earlier my friend Sean was telling me about her previous record Never Enough, and he was like, “She’s a star, but she’s gonna be a Superstar!” So I filed that away. But man, oh man, was he right. And with this new album she had honed her craft to a fine polish.
The minute I put this disc on after a walk home from The Art Institute of Philadelphia I realized just how powerful this thing was both musically and lyrically. This is a record that hits you in the chest repeatedly over and over again. Opener “I’m the Only One” is a sexy, seductive number that screams from a jilted lover’s standpoint, yet it beckons with a magnetic pull. “If I Wanted To” is the quintessential second song on an album because it’s got such a versatile groove. The fact that “Come to My Window” was a monster hit should come as no surprise to anyone. Let’s face it, this is Songwriting Perfection 101.
“Silent Legacy” is one of those songs that, you know how powerful it is, and yet when the hook comes around, you duck and cover because this tune is larger than life. And on the subject of powerful, listen to “I Will Never Be the Same” and come away unaffected, I dare you. This is the moment when we all realized that MELISSA ETHERIDGE was more than a Superstar…she was a Supernova!! My girl Melissa and I used to sit in my dorm room and/or her apartment and listen to this one a lot. “All American Girl” is one of those tunes I loved to and still love to blare as I’m headed down the highway on any given day. And when RED DOWN BELOW was still together, our singer Chris, she did a bang-up job on this one as well as “I’m the Only One.”
Title track “Yes I Am” has this smouldering, teasing feel to it. It is a musical seduction, and I can remember walking the streets of Philly as I used to do a lot, and thinking, “This song is HOT!” Bear in mind I also thought MELISSA ETHERIDGE herself was hot, despite her not being on my team. The acoustic-tinged rocker “Resist” is a good time groove with a bit of a smirk to it, while “Ruins” is another one of my all-time favorites from her. The lyrics, the music, the everything…it all comes together beautifully in a song that is 100% empowering. “I will crawl through my past, Over stones, blood, and glass, in the ruins” is some serious stuff, people. This one got rewound quite a bit on my many jaunts through the City of Brotherly Love, trust me.
And now we come to closer “Talking to My Angel”…and here’s where I start crying…again. In 1993, when I first got this album I already knew it was something special, but this song really cemented it. I know I talk about my Father a lot. Hell, some of you are probably sick of hearing about him. But he was gone six years at this time. And when she sings, “I’ve been talking to my angel, and he says that it’s alright.” that hit me like a two-ton heavy thing. The arrangement of this number, Gods it’s beautiful. First time I listened I broke down in tears, and I still do to this day, even as I type this. This is one of my favorite songs for this very reason. I miss him.
I know many of you were expecting more personal anecdotes as is usually the case with Classic Albums, but there just aren’t that many to tell this time around. Just know that when Yes I Am came out it was a life-changing album for me, and a breath of fresh air musically. This record has so many themes that we can all identify with, no matter our race, gender, or sexual orientation. Because with this monumental statement, MELISSA ETHERIDGE took the world by storm, and I’m so glad I was there when it happened.
As an aside, on the 2005 Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled, there was another song that hit me like a ton of bricks, “I Run For Life.” It hit home because of my Mom Rita, who was a two-time breast cancer survivor. She loved this song, and ultimately lost her life to this horrible disease, as did my Dad. But when I listen to it, through my tears I still have hope that one day we will banish this monster forever. So there you have it, my take on MELISSA ETHERIDGE’S landmark Yes I Am. And while it may not be what you’re into, which is fine, it will forever and always be my Classic Album. ~dc
-IN LOVING MEMORY OF RONNIE AND RITA