I waited four years for this?
It’s not even that most of the album is filler. It’s that half the album is filler, and her last two albums have had absolutely none, with plenty of good b-sides to spare. In fact, I would have been happier if she tossed crap like “It’s So Easy” and put good b-sides like “Sad Sad World” and “You Always Get Your Way” on there.
“It’s So Easy” is the key example of what’s wrong with this album: Half-assed writing and pointless guest apperances.
Sheryl wrote this with her sister, which is nice, but I cannot for the life of me understand why her A&R people insisted on having this half-baked piece of crap song recorded for the album. Crow desperately tries to sweeten the deal by dragging Don Henley into the mess (she used to sing backup for him, now he sings backup for her, and we all laugh together), but it only succeeds in making the song even whinier.
The beginning and end of the album tell the story of what this album could have been had Crow decided to put more effort into it. “Steve McQueen” is a glorious revival of the Steve Miller Band sound of yesteryear, but other songs that try to revive Sounds of the 70’s fall flat (see: “Diamond Road”).
“Soak Up The Sun” is a nice little piece of piffle, ranking right up there with “All I Wanna Do” in Crow’s catalogue of Songs You Like At First Then Hear Seven Million Times And Get Really Fucking Sick Of.
Quality dips at “You’re An Original” (which I really hope Sheryl realizes the irony of Lenny Kravitz singing backup on, since he is one of the least original people on earth) and doesn’t come back up for air until track 11, the lovely ballad “Abilene”.
One song that could have been good is “Safe And Sound”, which she performed on the “Tribute To Heroes” telethon. The song is absolutely killed by the fact that the main note in the song is just barely out of Sheryl’s range, and you can really hear her voice strain on that note. If she had bothered to drop the song a step, it would have been in her range and it would have sounded great. Instead, it sounds like she’s deluded herself into thinking that her voice cracking makes her sound more emotional.
It doesn’t. It just sounds like she had already recorded all the instrumental parts (of which there are many) and decided to just say fuck it and keep the vocal line at the same pitch instead of trying to pitch-shift it.
The last two songs really make me angry, because they show how good this album really could have been. “Hole In My Pocket” and “Weather Channel” are two of the best songs Sheryl has written, but I fear that most people will have stopped listening before they get to them.
All in all, if you’re a serious Sheryl Crow fan (even one a good deal less serious than myself), this album is a disappointment, especially after the near perfection of The Globe Sessions.
If you’re either a casual fan or kind of know her from the radio, you’d probably like the album, because it’s got a good number of good songs, which is a lot more than can be said for most albums right now.