Shiver, by Jamie O’Neal
As someone who is not very familiar with Australian country music, it has only been recently since I was made familiar with the body of work of this singer at all. In looking a bit at her life history, it is all the more remarkable that she was able to carve out a place in country music despite a lot of factors going against her–including beginning her mainstream country career in the United States when she was already in her 30s, although the album cover certainly plays her up as being youthful more so than she really was. This particular album has five singles which I have heard and generally like, and so I thought it would be worthwhile to listen to the entire album and see if it is worthwhile to the same extent that the hit singles on this album were. If Jamie O’Neal is definitely someone whose history as a short-lived hitmaker has largely been forgotten by many mainstream country music fans, there are at least five good songs here.
The album begins with “When I Think About Angels,” a lovely song that manages to combine humorous thoughts about love as well as heaven, with some excellent instrumentation. “There Is No Arizona,” the big hit here, has some excellent production, but it is not a song I like as much as many other people do because of its tone and mood. “Where We Belong” provides a gorgeous adult contemporary ballad of the kind that was being sung by other country artists of her time, but it’s still lovely even if it’s not necessarily very original. “No More Protecting My Heart” has upbeat musical production with its mood of optimism towards a relationship, which has the tone of pop music rather than country, and seems like an opportunity for a crossover hit that wasn’t taken. “She Hasn’t Heard It Yet,” offers a somewhat minimalistic guitar ballad with some excellent picking to go along with a message of a relationship that is full of problems but most of all with a struggle to communicate. “You Rescued Me” gives a lovely if not necessarily very original ballad about how a loved one rescued her from lonely wandering. The title track, “Shiver,” offers a very basic track of rapturous love. “The Only Thing Wrong” offers a smooth jazz song with a hint of moodiness and minor key dissatisfaction about loneliness, a relatable song with some excellent production. “I’m Still Waiting” is another moody and somewhat basic song about waiting for a partner to come back. “I’m Not Going To Do Anything Without You” is a love ballad that sounds pleasant enough but has basic instrumentation and not very much chemistry between the singers. “Sanctuary” offers some mid-tempo adult contemporary production about finding a refuge with a lover that sounds like it could have been a Peter Cetera album track instrumental, in the best way, even if the chorus is a bit crowded. “Frantic” offers a slice of manic Celtic-pop that sounds like what the Corrs would be if Andrea were a country singer instead of an Irish pop princess. “To Be With You” offers a passionate song that contains some lovely strings and Spanish guitar to add that sense of passion and offers a strong close to a strong album.
In listening to this album I was struck by how that my fondness for the songs on this album depended largely on the production that was behind the songs, except in those cases where I was irritated by the lyrics or the lack of chemistry in the songs. Generally speaking, varied production Jamie O’Neal is a lot more enjoyable to me than basic country ballad Jamie O’Neal. Seven of the thirteen songs here feature strong production elements, and those are not surprisingly my favorite tracks on the album, while three of the singles were boring country ballads with minimalistic instrumentation that even if they became hits, don’t really showcase her strongest suit, and that is to sing songs about ordinary life, seeking a refuge in love from the problems of life, and the ups and downs of love to instrumentation that ranges from pop to country. This album offers a lot more pop music than one would expect, and paradoxically this is what makes this album a surprising pleasure for me.