Jarboe's Sacrificial offering is not as emotionally raw and tragic as Gira's opus, even if similarly nightmarish visions sweep the listener into a hypnotic haze of keyboards and synthetic beats. Too often, the vocals assume an affected vibe that renders the production sterile and sometimes silly. The strained sensuality and whispered didacticism of tunes like "Not Logical" ("Open your mind/ Sensational, metaphysical, insatiable ... Open your mind/ Heterosexual, astrological") come off as ambient rhymes for the black-light crowd. Jarboe's quasi-steamy lyrics on "Surgical Savior" may get a rise out of a suburban 13-year-old, but they leave me cold: "I will open you/ Make you feel/ Through me you know/ Desire is real." Yeah, right.

-- Sam Prestianni
M. Gira and Jarboe play Fri, Aug. 11, at the Great American Music Hall in S.F.; call 885-0750.

The Ennio Morricone Anthology
A Fistful of Film Music
(Rhino)

The masters of reissue at Rhino have taken on a daunting challenge in encapsulating the career of Ennio Morricone, il maestro of the film soundtrack. According to the liner notes, a "ballpark estimate" of his body of work would include some 400 wildly divergent scores written over the course of 35 years. Anthologizing such abundance runs the risk of sounding arbitrary and incomplete, which is exactly what happened to Virgin's rather uninspired mid-'80s "samplers" Ennio Morricone Film Music Vols. I and II.

A Fistful of Music is much more cohesive and comprehensive, closely tying the 45 tracks to the revealing interviews and analyses in the extensive accompanying booklet. We learn about Morricone's musical background, his shaky early days with spaghetti western director Sergio Leone, and, most notably, the enormous contribution made by childhood friend and untrained musician Alessandro Alessandroni, who provided the famous whistles, wails, surf guitar, and choral shouting (with his Cantori Moderni) on Morricone's archetypal themes like "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Main Title)."

While including all the western highlights and Oscar nominees from the Virgin collections, Fistful also captures Morricone's rocking kitsch lunacy with numerous horror, crime, and sex comedy backdrops. Notable are "Magic and Ecstasy" from The Exorcist II, a trashy guitar rampage complete with whip sound effects, and a funky track from Dedicated to the Aegean Sea featuring none other than porn star/parliamentarian La Cicciolina giggling à la Shonen Knife. Not only is this collection ideal for party or parlor listening, it makes a convincing argument for Morricone's recently rediscovered versatility as a modern composer. You can't ask for much more than that from an anthology.

-- C. Kenyon Silvey

Alanis Morissette
Jagged Little Pill
(Maverick/Reprise)

Every so often, the record industry finds some introspective woman with a distinctive voice and a lot on her mind who can't play a lick. A label throws a ton of money at her, hooks her up with a studio geek, and releases an overproduced album of songs that were probably welling up inside her since she was a little girl. MTV overplays the single, critics scream about the remarkable and unique new discovery -- and the woman eventually fades into obscurity. Think Tracy Chapman, Jane Siberry, Lisa Germano ...

It's a damn shame, because they're usually talented, provocative artists with unique personae and promises of bright futures. Twenty-one-year-old Alanis Morissette (and why do women like her always have names like "Alanis Morissette"?) is no exception. So what goes wrong? I have an idea, but I'm already pushing 200 words.

Jagged Little Pill isn't the greatest album in the world, but the music is decent enough and even its slickness has an appeal (lo-fi, let's remember, is a reaction). The single you've heard 600 times ("You Oughta Know") features Flea and Dave Navarro of the Chili Peppers; the rest of the songs are mostly producer Glen Ballard (whom Morissette claims as her "spiritual brother") programming drums or directing session pros behind Morissette's heavily affected voice. The songs are tight and flow easily, only one of them sounds like Fleetwood Mac, and the lyrics take on cliched subjects with sophistication. "Forgiven" is about the confusion being raised Catholic engenders, while "You Oughta Know" is remarkable for its brutal confrontation of an ex-lover: "Is she perverted like me/ Would she go down on you in a theater?"; "It was a slap in the face/ How quickly I was replaced/ Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?"

The video may be annoying as hell, but let's not blame Morissette for seeing her chance and taking it, and let's hope she can shed the handlers at Madonna's record company to find her own way, because MCA bought the rights to all of her songs when she was 14.

-- Paul Tullis

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