Review Summary: An enjoyable slab of female rock music that is among the best in its genre
Growing up in Oregon the young Meredith Brooks encountered a rough life to say the least, involving many heart breaks and her parents divorce at a young age. However of these horrible events one good thing happened-she began to learn guitar and write songs, eventually leading to a highly successful career. Many years later Meredith has one multi-platinum album and several other albums that have enjoyed good sales figures and has become a female icon for her world famous, highly optimistic song Bitch. Many a person would be content with the millions of sales the album that spawned that particular song enjoyed and then proceed to milk the sound for all it was worth, with each album becoming a carbon copy of the last six but devoid of any interesting characteristics. Meredith Brooks is not one of these people.
After an optimism-inspiring start by signing a deal with an independent record label, Meredith proceeded to write her finest album to date and released it in 2002 entitled Big Bad One. This album embraces more of a straightforward rock sound than the pop-rock infested tunes of previous material, and continues to show off Meredith's ability to string together a catchy song and an incredible chorus. Her voice on this album is her absolute strongest vocal performance, with songs such as Your Name best displaying the lower register she prefers to stick to but the chorus of Shine is also a great example of her higher pitched singing. Her voice perfectly matches the soft rock nature of the music here and it is all complimented by a crisp production job that one would expect from a mainstream rock artist.
The instrumental work for Big Bad One is really where the album excels however, with a strong emphasis on acoustic and slide guitar work, all provided by Meredith Brooks. The acoustic work that infests Your Name is one of the best pieces on the album which is both simplistic but also incredible effective. The song itself opens sounding rather sad but eventually morphs into one of the most beautiful songs in existence with some truly heart felt lyrics and vocals from Meredith. The drums and synthesizers are used perfectly for this album, being used sparingly and only where it would compliment the rest of the instrumental work. The instrumentals take a minimalistic approach so that there is rarely too much distracting the listener from Meredith Brooks' voice which is clearly the focus of the album, and this is exactly how it should be with an album of this variety.
The songs themselves retain a high standard of quality throughout, with the aforementioned Your Name and Shine being the best of the bunch. Songs like Pain, You Don't Know Me and the album closer Stand are three other marvelous songs, with Brooks' vocal performance on You Don't Know Me being among the best things about the album. She jumps between her low and high register brilliantly to make one of the best executed vocal performances on this record. Some of the songs feel a little too long and the album definitely does become grating when listened to all in one go but the songs are all quite strong individually. The only real filler here is Walk Away which features some cliche' heartbreak lyrics and a rather monotonous instrumental that distracts from the quality of Meredith's vocal work.
Big Bad One was later re-released on Brooks' next record label she joined under the title of Shine with a remixed version of Shine which is a decent listen but can't trump the original. Big Bad One is a great album in its own right but suffers from being a little generic and has one filler song. Shine and Your Name are definitely light years ahead of most rock music out there, and the conviction with which Meredith drives this album with her voice is something to marvel at. She truly is one of the most talented female vocalists in existence and this album shows why, but she is also multi-talented having written most of the album alone. Definitely consider listening to this.