Music

Sheryl Crow: The Very Best of Sheryl Crow

Adrien Begrand

Sheryl Crow

The Very Best of Sheryl Crow

Label: A&M;
US Release Date: 2003-11-04
UK Release Date: 2003-10-13
Amazon
iTunes

Sheryl Crow is one of those rock stars who can be likeable one minute, and absolutely annoying the next. For every "Strong Enough", there's a cornball cover of Led Zeppelin's "D'Yer Maker". For every "My Favorite Mistake", there's a cheesecake magazine cover. And for every Tuesday Night Music Club, there's a duet with Kid Rock. Crow's music is contrived and unoriginal, most of her albums have been inconsistent at best, and she's a shameless corporate shill, but you know what? Every so often, she puts out a song that just gets it right, and you can't help but forgive her more idiotic moments. Well, almost. That "Sweet Child O Mine" cover was inexcusable.

Crow specializes in the type of safe, wholesome, retro-rock that rock radio loves. She's like Tom Petty in a way, in that she keeps plugging away, following the same traditional rock formula, never daring to push the envelope too much, but the music, hopelessly formulaic as it is, is often pleasant. Even though she's barely a decade into her solo career, a best-of compilation has already been assembled, chronicling her rapid rise as one of the most prominent female artists in pop music today. Because she's only put out four albums in 10 years, it seems a bit odd to toss out a retrospective at this stage in her career, which is now as strong as it ever was, with no sign of stopping any time soon, but despite a bit of unnecessary filler, The Very Best of Sheryl Crow is a fine collection of tunes. If A&M had waited for a couple more albums, though, it probably would have been even better.

1994's Tuesday Night Music Club remains Crow's best album, with much of the credit going to her group of collaborators, including David Baerwald, Bill Bittrell, Kevin Gilbert, and Brian MacLeod. "Leaving Las Vegas", which Baerwald co-wrote, inspired by the John O'Brien book of the same name (though Crow would later claim otherwise, angering both Baerwald and O'Brien), is a nice roots-rock ode to the down and out, bolstered by the terrific verse," I'm standing in the middle of the desert/ Waiting for my ship to come in/ But now no joker, no jack, no king/ Can take this loser hand/ And make it win." Arguably the prettiest song Crow has ever recorded, "Strong Enough" is quintessential Sheryl Crow: easygoing, tender, and wistful. Even the otherwise syrupy ballad "I Shall Believe" wins you over, with Crow's understated vocal performance. And of course, there's the whimsical "All I Wanna Do", her biggest hit, a featuring Crow's sly vocals, her band's relaxed groove, and some great lyrics taken from Wyn Cooper's 1987 poem, "Fun".

After a bitter falling-out with both Baerwald and ex-boyfriend Gilbert (who died of autoerotic asphyxiation in 1996), Crow set out on her own, audaciously playing all instruments except horns and drums, and while her eponymous 1996 follow-up and 1998's The Globe Sessions have their share of moments, they just don't measure up to the charm of the first album. Still, singles like the breezy "Everyday is a Winding Road", the fun Stones rip-off "If it Makes You Happy", the languid "Home", and the bouncy "A Change Would Do You Good" maintained Crow's popularity. It was the lovely "My Favorite Mistake", though, that marked another career peak for Crow. With its nocturnal feel (thanks to the always cool Hammond organ) and Keith Richards-style lead riff, and Crow's sweet voice, it's the kind of song you'd wish she'd pull off more often. 2002's C'mon C'mon provides this compilation with a couple of guilty pleasures in the slick blues rock of "Steve McQueen" and the overproduced, shamelessly ebullient "Soak Up the Sun", which features, of all things, Liz Phair providing some of her typically charming, tone-deaf background vocals.

Two thirds of The Very Best of Sheryl Crow are excellent, but the album wears thin the longer it goes on, as it becomes muddled with filler like "Picture", her boring duet with Kid Rock, the maudlin "The Difficult Kind" (from The Globe Sessions), and not one, but two faithful renditions of Cat Stevens's "The First Cut is the Deepest" (one rock version, and one country version). Sadly, standout album cuts like "Run Baby Run", "Can't Cry Anymore", and her cover of Bob Dylan's brilliant "Mississippi" (which actually came out three years before Dylan's own version) are missing from this collection.

The now 40-something Crow is still doing very well for herself, as she's become a full-fledged corporate rocker; she went through a slick image makeover in 2002, a recent tour was sponsored by a shampoo company, and her 2002 song "You're an Original" has been used in a car commercial. Despite that, Crow has carried on, sounding as appealing as ever. She might get irritating at times (she's quickly becoming one of those artists who always appears at tribute concerts), but her best music never gets tiresome, and The Very Best of Sheryl Crow is an adequate collection of those songs.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image