Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Decade Of Crowing: The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow Pretty Much Is!

The Good: Good songs, Decent mix, Good liner notes
The Bad: "Picture," Inconsistent vocals
The Basics: A nice mix of Sheryl's singles as well as the best - previously unrecognized - tracks from her albums, The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow delivers.

It's surprising, considering Sheryl Crow had only four studio albums (plus her Live From Central Park endeavor) at the time, that she produced a "greatest hits" album. Perhaps even more surprising, almost every song on The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow is recognizable and worthy of being on her "best of" album.

In fact, one of the nicest aspects of The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow is that in addition to the obvious recognizable singles, like "All I Wanna Do," "If It Makes You Happy," and "Soak Up the Sun," the album contains some of Crow's best songs that were never released as singles. Most notable of this category is "I Shall Believe," arguably the best track on Crow's debut Tuesday Night Music Club (reviewed here!), which is the penultimate song of the collection.

If you haven't heard Sheryl Crow, she is a rocker who has been on the airwaves for a little over a decade. While her style is immutably rock and roll, as evidenced by "My Favorite Mistake," "Everyday Is A Winding Road," "Leaving Las Vegas" (her first single), and "There Goes The Neighborhood," Crow does not limit herself in her expression. She shows her softer side with slower tracks like "Strong Enough" and "I Shall Believe," goes pure pop for her smashes "All I Wanna Do" and "Soak Up The Sun," and dabbles in country with "The First Cut Is The Deepest" (either mix - this album has the standard version and the country version as a bonus track). "Light In Your Eyes" even borders on religious rock.

And, unfortunately, Crow also produces some crap. On this album it's limited to "Picture," a terrible duet she did with Kid Rock. Fortunately, he takes top billing on that piece of musical garbage. The space "Picture" takes up on the album could easily (and better) been filled by "Can't Cry Anymore," Crow's cover of "Sweet Child of Mine," or even her lesser-known duet with Michelle Branch, "Love Me Like That." Any of these would have fit Crow's greatest hits far better.

Forgiving her that for the moment, The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow does reveal the singer/songwriter's other major problem. Vocally, Crow seems to be rather hit or miss. That is, she is either on, completely and convincingly, as she is with her penetratingly sincere longing on "Strong Enough" or kinda' harpy-ish as her voice cracks through "The Difficult Kind" and shouts out "If It Makes You Happy." In contrast to her musical diversity, which seems to illustrate her range and ability across a musical spectrum, her vocals seem less refined. Less consistently maintaining quality.

But even there, Crow survives and is entertaining. Her songs are well-written, to be sure. Crow almost never falls into predictable rhyme schemes, especially in the songs she herself wrote. And given that (out of sixteen - I'm not counting "The First Cut Is The Deepest" twice) fifteen of the tracks are written or co-written by Crow, it is evident that she had quite a bit of creative control over her career thus far.

The result is a pretty diverse array of songs by an artist who many people wrote off as a one-hit wonder following the success of "All I Wanna Do." Given that she once was a background singer for Michael Jackson, I think it not an inapt analogy to say that writing Crow off after "All I Wanna Do" would be like writing Michael Jackson off after Out Of Control. No, like Jackson's debut album, the success of "All I Wanna Do" served as a springboard to an extensive career, not an explosion before the sudden death of instant stardom.

Who will enjoy this album? Anyone who likes a strong rock presence, especially when it comes from a gutsy, artistic woman. This is music designed to get you to dance, think or rage (in an adult way). Who won't like it? Those who have no patience for a woman's sensibilities in rock. Those who expect just the pop sensibilities of "All I Wanna Do." I suspect those who will enjoy the album would well outnumber the potential detractors.

The best track is hard to pin down, but if forced, I'd say "I Shall Believe." The worst track is easily "Picture," a syrupy duet with Kid Rock.

For other former female Artist Of The Month reviews, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Any Day Now - Joan Baez
My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection - Celine Dion
Beginnings - Shania Twain


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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