Friday, March 16, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1117: Sheryl Crow

Today I completed my latest tattoo - three sessions and 11 hours later. I’m pretty knackered (I just took a two hour nap), but I love how it turned out. As always, props to Leroy Valentine at Union Tattoo. You are the best, my friend.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to finally share some photos of it. For now, I’ll share my latest thoughts on music instead.

Disc 1117 is… Tuesday Night Music Club
Artist: Sheryl Crow

Year of Release: 1993

What’s up with the Cover? Behold the toothy beauty of Sheryl Crow, partially obscured by a very unfortunate decision to throw a bunch of photo squares all over the place.

How I Came To Know It: Back in 1993 music video channels still played music videos, and a number of songs from this album were in heavy rotation. I liked what I heard so I bought the album.

How It Stacks Up:  Despite always appreciating her music over the years, I only have this one Sheryl Crow album. I used to own “C’Mon, C’Mon” (reviewed back at Dis 911) but I gave it away, which tells you all you need to know.

Ratings: 3 stars but almost 4

My first take on Sheryl Crow wasn’t a favourable one. The first video I saw was “All I Wanna Do” felt like too many styles crammed into one song, with lyrics that were a bit too clever. The nineties fashions didn’t help either. However, as the album grew in popularity and more and more singles got released I began to appreciate and better understand what she was doing.

This was not some new pop star wanting to have some vacuous fun, this was a talented vocalist and songwriter with a unique sound that draws on multiple musical traditions. Once my ear adjusted to that reality, I even came to like “All I Wanna Do”. I never came to like nineties fashion.

“Tuesday Night Music Club” starts slow, with the meandering half-sung, half-spoken “Run, Baby, Run”. Despite understanding what Crow is going for, the song still feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be – blues, pop or folk. However, Crow has a powerhouse voice and her delivery helps find a path through the centre of the song for your ear to follow.

Then things take off, with “Leaving Las Vegas,” a song featuring a brilliant backdrop of bass line, hand claps and just the right amount of jangle on top of the mix. If you don’t want to tap your foot to this song then I feel sorry for how you hear the world.

Crow follows that toe tapper with the album’s best song, the quietly powerful “Strong Enough.” One of the “Tuesday Night Music Club’s” strengths is the paradox between Crow strong, playful and filled with groove, and other songs where she is vulnerable and introspective. “Strong Enough” is the best of the latter, and the song’s understated guitar strum makes the whole experience feel intimate and intensely private.

When the album gets funky and bothered it loses me a little. Those songs are thoughtful explorations of syncopation and style, but while Bill Bottrell’s production is sharp throughout, songs like “Solidify” feel a bit over-arranged.

However, those explorations also set the goalposts for what the record is all about, and give you an appreciation for the songs like “All I Wanna Do” working to bring it all together. Yeah it is a little all over the place, but now I could feel the groove better and while Crow’s lyrics feel a bit crowded into the bars in places, I now understood it was deliberate, not rushed. Even the lyrics started to win me over. I find that image of a bunch of people in suits washing their cars at lunch hour really appealing for reasons I can’t explain and who hasn’t reveled in the joy of “a good beer buzz early in the morning”?

The worst thing about “All I Wanna Do” (and for the record, more generally) is just how insanely popular it was, in an era where saturation of a relatively small number of albums on the airwaves was at an all-time high. In 1993 there was no Youtube and no streaming services, so if I wanted to hear music I played one of the maybe 40 CDs I owned or watched MuchMusic. In both places, “Tuesday Night Music Club” was omnipresent.

As a result, I don’t put this record on that often these days, but it has been great rediscovering it this week. This is a record that creeps up on you from multiple directions and proves that pop music can be thoughtful, and innovative and still joyful to listen to.

Best tracks: Leaving Las Vegas, Strong Enough, Can’t Cry Anymore, All I Wanna Do, I Shall Believe

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