Sheryl Crow: C'Mon, C'Mon

4 stars (out of 5).

I have mixed feelings about Sheryl Crow. On the upside, she's a great songwriter and musician, and to my mind, she is the exemplar of great pop music. (I wouldn't call it rock -- her median stuff would need to be a little rowdier, a little less polished, to fit that bill.) On the downside, her voice, while lovely, is underpowered and often overwhelmed by her arrangements. Like Michael McDonald, she may be more naturally a backup singer than a lead vocalist.

Nonetheless, on this album, she does a bang-up job, and really earned her stars. Partly because the tunes are great, partly because the album is consistently well-arranged and well-mixed, so she doesn't get lost in it, and partly because she's gotten herself some big name backup talent, most of whom really complement her singing. I particularly enjoy her duets with Lenny Kravitz on "You're An Original" and with Natalie Maines (of the Dixie Chicks) on "Abilene"; Liz Phair, whose voice is so much like Crow's that it's almost a (great) sound effect, really spices up the summer anthem, "Soak Up the Sun". Rounding out the duets, Don Henley, I thought, made "It's So Easy" kind of sappy, and I was unimpressed with Stevie Nicks's contributions to "Diamond Road" and the title track. Gwyneth Paltrow actually does a credible job on "It's Only Love", though I enjoyed her much more teamed up with Huey Lewis on "Cruisin'", where she really stood out.

The liveliest tracks on the album are "Steve McQueen", "Soak Up The Sun", "You're An Original", and "Abilene". (I really enjoyed the latter.) But the best songs, to my mind, are "Safe and Sound", which I will forever associate with 9/11 and the "America - A Tribute to Heroes" concert, and -- backed brilliantly by Emmylou Harris -- the mournful, haunting "Weather Channel":

Can you make it better for me
Can you make me see the light of day
Because I got no one
Who will bring me a
Big umbrella
So I'm watching the weather channel
And waiting for the storm

The words alone don't do it justice; together with the music, it's heart-breaking perfection. And it is in this essentially acoustic arrangement that Crow's voice just shines. C'Mon, C'Mon, Sheryl, give us more like this one!

[GET IT]

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