Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Out of Our Heads

Song: Out of Our Heads
Artist: Sheryl Crow
Album: Detours

There are some artists that, despite their genre, seem to be able to create any type of music that fits within the marketplace and their own aesthetic. Madonna comes to mind when I think of this because she pretty much has consistently had success but commercially and artistically. Back in the 90’s she had the 1 – 2 punch of the sort of mediocre “Erotica” and “Bedtime Stories” but then wowed everyone with “Ray of Light.” Everyone thought she sank with “American Life” but then came back with “Confessions on a Dancefloor,” an incredibly successful record that garnered her most successful tour ever. I think “American Life” was a personal record, and one that she did, by Madonna terms, very little marketing and promotion for. With “Confessions,” she basically said… “I’m Madonna, if I want you all to buy my records and see my shows, I will have it done.” And we did.

I’ve been a Sheryl Crow fan since her debut “Tuesday Night Music Club” back in 1993. When that record came out, and she had the super hit “All I Wanna Do” many of the collaborators on the record thought she took too much credit, including the albums main producer Bill Bottrell. In response, Sheryl created her sophomore album, “Sheryl Crow” in 1996 which was better, and had more hits. She then released “The Globe Sessions” which happened to be even better, and also garnered a slew of hits. She was proving herself all right, letting go of the criticism, and doing it for herself. It seemed to me, since each record was better than the one before, that she was unstoppable. And while “C’mon, C’mon” wasn’t to me, as good as the albums before, it was still really solid, and the most pop of her records. After a successful Greatest Hits package she finally slipped a bit, with 2005’s “Wildflower.” I just couldn’t get into the record and it was something no other Sheryl Crow record had been before… boring.

So I am pretty thrilled to report that Crow’s new album “Detours,” to be released next month is a return… and pretty excellent. The big surprise, and maybe the thing Crow needed to get the spark back is the return of Bill Bottrell as producer. They have buried the hatchet, and these old friends have crafted a truly incredible album. Like Madonna, after Crow had the disappointing “Wildflower,” she returns with one of her best albums. “Take that! I can do anything!” To be fair, “Wildflower” was to be a very personal record and one she said she “thought she deserved.” Agreed, but thankfully she’s back writing for us.

And for us I mean Crow is writing for the United States, the world, and humankind. This is her most political album to date, but brings everything in a catchy, sunny, Sheryl Crow package. Current single “Love is Free” recalls some pretty tough living and down and out situations in Katrina ravaged New Orleans, but delivers it in a bouncy “All I Wanna Do” style sing-a-long. Despite what I’ve read about the song, the dichotomy of subject matter and tempo is neither odd nor offensive. Crow simply sees the strength within people have lost so much, and carry on. It deserves to be a hit.

Elsewhere on the album Crow touches on failed romance as on “Diamond Ring” (Why’d you run Lance? “Diamond ring… fucks up everything.”) and the fuel crisis (“Gasoline.”) “Out of Our Heads” is an arena worthy sing-a-long that calls for peace over war, love over conflict. Again, super catchy yet meaningful. This is simply some of Crow’s best material to date. I’m still getting into it, but almost immediately I heard the return to the Sheryl I remember, and it’s some return. “Detours” is the album we need right now, one that Sheryl needed right now, and one that further brings her along the road to being one of our most important singer-songwriters we have.


Love is Free

Shine Over Babylon

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