Sheryl Crow

The Globe Sessions

Originally released: 2004
Interscope Records

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On "The Globe Sessions," her third album, Sheryl Crow has written perhaps the finest rock song about home renovation. "It Don't Hurt" has a buoyant, bluesy groove with lively autoharp accents, and Crow sings about a woman changing wallpaper and laying carpet in an attempt to shake the memory of some guy she is now determined to forget. By the end, she just loses it and bulldozes the whole place. "I left no trace of you at all," Crow announces in a charged alto so intimate that it sounds like she's singing into your ear: "Now I can sing my song again." She's back in charge.

Since 1993, nobody has taken care of Sheryl Crow's business better than Sheryl Crow. Before she made her debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club, with Los Angeles studio swells like singer-songwriter David Baerwald and producer Bill Bottrell, Crow had already completed an album – an expensive mistake recorded with Sting's producer, Hugh Padgham – which she wisely shelved. Later, in the face of doubts about her musical skills and what exactly she had contributed to the making of Tuesday Night, Crow responded by producing on her own – brilliantly – 1996's Sheryl Crow. Last year, when she and Mitchell Froom collaborated on the theme song for the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, Crow even figured out how to make her way through the showbiz strains of Froom's arrangement, a clever Shirley Bassey update that Mariah Carey could have sung in her sleep.

As someone who grew up studying piano and composition, Crow is a fairly diligent formalist, and her favorite form is Sixties and Seventies English rock, the loose and riffy melodicism of classic Faces, Eric Clapton and Exile-style Stones. She is also an Anglophile with a down-home heart – she was born in Kennett, Missouri, just sixty miles from Memphis – who belongs to that long line of Southerners, from the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Alex Chilton and the Black Crowes, in love with the strength and cohesive flash of great British music. On Tuesday Night, Crow recast the early-Seventies jam aesthetic with a contemporary songwriting strategy and production sheen. On Sheryl Crow, she applied powerhouse riffs to intricate melodies, juicing the combination with vocal harmonies and Nineties alt-rock noise.

The Globe Sessions, on the other hand, is not a record married to a particular sound or concept. Crow deemphasizes stylistic consistency in favor of unrestrained emotion. The songs often concern broken romances and the extremes to which Crow's characters will go to fix them or just let go. "I bring you everything that floats into your mind," Crow claims in "Anything but Down," then explains how little she gets for her efforts: "But you don't bring me anything but down." Sometimes the anger spirals down into deep hurt. In "Crash and Burn," a song about a woman in flight from her feelings, Crow sings, "In case you ever wanted to track me down/I take my cell phone to bed."

Even when she's knee-deep in personal woes, Crow doesn't forget to dance. "Anything but Down" may find her distraught, but she lays it out with a confident, strutting tempo, an insidiously catchy tune and a royal power-chord chorus. "Crash and Burn" is dream pop with shades of Ennio Morricone in the guitars but rendered with unflinching melodic clarity. She opens the album with "My Favorite Mistake," a seamless mix of white soul and sweet pop that is such an obvious rip of Elvis Costello that it's a tribute. In "There Goes the Neighborhood" – a fast-moving mind movie with the vibe of Peter Sellers presiding over a night at Andy Warhol's Factory – and "Members Only," Crow funks things up in the playfully focused way of her big Tuesday Night hits, "Leaving Las Vegas" and "All I Wanna Do."

There are moments of experimental temper. "Maybe That's Something" (which begins, "We lay around just like gurus in borrowed robes") is an atmospheric, folky piece in which Crow plays with pop poetry like a young Carly Simon. The Gaelic-flavored verses of "Riverwide" and Crow's long, word-y fling through "Mississippi," a previously unreleased Bob Dylan song, don't play to her strengths. More effective is "Am I Getting Through (Part I and II)," which shifts on a dime from contemplative ballad mode to unhinged rock & roll.

For Crow, The Globe Sessions isn't a big pop record figured out within an inch of its life: "Here are just some things I recorded," the album title suggests. In the end, it is Crow's singing that unites the record and conveys its passionate thrust. In "The Difficult Kind," Crow pleads to a "ball-breaking moon and ridiculing stars" in an Anglo-Missourian fantasy of a country song where Tammy Wynette and Ronnie Van Zant and the Rolling Stones all meet in the posh twang of Crow's mile-long phrasing. It's a lot to get into one heartbroken screened-porch ballad. But for Sheryl Crow, it's no problem. (RS 797)


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