17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
...returns to her roots with belated Relish follow-up...,
This review is from: Little Wild One (Audio CD)
I'm probably the wrong person to be writing this. Why? Well, for me, Joan Osborne is the greatest female voice of the last twenty years. It's been an interesting, sometimes infuriating journey as I've followed her career, never knowing where she's going to end up next, but every trip has had something memorable to file away in my box of memories.
It's been 13 years since Relish hit the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic, spawning the huge hit single "One of Us", written by written by Eric Bazilian of The Hooters fame, and later covered by Prince on his Emancipation album. At that point it seemed that Ms Osborne was heading for the mainstream, with the minor hits "Right Hand Man" and "St. Teresa", also being culled from the album.
But Ms Osborne was no star struck teenager, having waited a long time for wider recognition, and she had her own path she wanted to follow. It took five years of banging heads with her record company before the follow up, Righteous Love, arrived, and it was clear that Joan had a muse she needed to follow. This was to include singing in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, touring with the Funk Brothers, and appearing with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead after the passing of Jerry Garcia.
There was a soul album to release, How Sweet It Is, and a Christmas collection in the shape of Christmas Means Love. Not forgetting a country album, Pretty Little Stranger and a return to soul with Breakfast in Bed. That's when she wasn't touring with Phil Lesh & Friends, appearing at Celtic Connections festivals, or collaborating with people as varied as Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell and Spearhead.
But now, she's returned to the heady days of Relish, reuniting with producers / writers Rob Hyman, Eric Bazilian, and Rick Chertoff for an album of new material. And it's glorious. But I would say that! Joan still has a voice that can break your heart with ease, or lift your spirits high. She's that good. It helps that the new material, mostly co-writes with a combination of Hyman / Bazilian / Chertoff, is straight out of the top drawer. I shudder at the phrase "adult contemporary", but it is proper, grown up music, carefully arranged, well played and with an emotional depth not often seen nowadays with a number of the songs thematically linked, paeans to her adopted hometown of New York.
It's very much a return to the roots rock approach of her earlier material, drawing in country, blues, and world influences. Although sometimes, as on "Can't Say No", there is a touch of the kitchen sink, with just too much going on, resulting in an overwhelmed song. Something that makes the sparse "Light of the World" shine even more. Vocally, Ms Osbornes voice has matured over the years, and there is an aura of world weariness creeping in here and there, as on "To the One I Love", which flirts with jazz, and on the spartan title track, "Little Wild One".
However, it really is a fabulous album, one full of great songs, which stand up to repeat plays. With songs and arrangements rich in nuances, emotion and passion, it's one to savour, and probably my album of the year so far.