CD Review: Songwriter Sheryl Crow’s New Music is Personal on “Detours”

Originally posted 2008-02-10 21:44:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  2 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

As an album, Detours is certainly not what its title would imply. If anything, this is a further return to form for Sheryl Crow – equal parts acoustic and electric, serious and carefree. At every turn, it surprises and engages and, above all, denies the listener the opportunity to get too comfortable. She is concerned about a series of social issues, yet she does not stop there—she shares some advice for getting back on the right track and, of course, some relevant personal tales.

The songs on this album can essentially be divided into three main categories—topical songs, songs about love and peace, and personal songs. The album kicks off with a selection from the first category, the acoustic-only “God Bless This Mess.” With lines like, “The president…led us as a nation into a war based on lies,” Crow establishes early on that she will not be pulling any punches. Then, if there was any question in the listener’s mind as to whether or not this album would be too simple, she thunders into “Shine Over Babylon,” spewing lines about teachers’ hands being “overrun,” cities “drowning under boiling fountains,” and scavengers handing us “all the junk that should have damned” us. Upon a first listen, I was happy to hear that someone else is very much unhappy with the state of affairs in our nation and in our world. She goes on to address, as the title implies, “Gasoline” and the priorities that some place in parties, reality-TV, and the like in “Motivation.”

If this was her only focus, then Detours may have been quite a downer indeed. However, true to form, Crow compliments her darker songs with an equal helping of tunes calling for us to embrace peace and love. In an almost hippie-esque fashion, she declares “Everybody’s making love ‘cause love is free” and later calls upon us to invoke the refrain, “Peace Be Upon Us” At times, these songs can end in a repetitive manner or come across as too simple, but overall they seem sincere and not so out of place on an album that asks us to strip everything down to the surface, from social issues to romantic relationships. And, if the protest song-undertones of songs like “Out of Our Heads” isn’t your cup of tea, then it is hard to ignore a catchy and upbeat rocker like “Love Is All There Is.” Ringo Starr would be proud.

What really brings this album home for me is the final category of songs, namely the personal tales that inhabit this release. Both the title track and “Make It Go Away (The Radiation Song)” come across as deeply personal and, again, very sincere. Coming on the heels of her recent treatments for cancer, these songs translate as authentic glimpses into her mindset as an individual. For instance, as she explained in a recent interview, detours is a term she uses to describe experiences that force us to reevaluate our priorities and our lives. Physical health isn’t her only concern; on the contrary, the emotions of new love shine through on “Drunk With the Thought of You” and the gloom of love gone wrong can be heard in every breath of “Diamond Ring.” I thought it very fitting of her to put “Lullaby for Wyatt” last in the track listing. After an album’s worth of sorting through the world’s problems and both advocating the importance of and considering the realities of love, she ends with the realization that she loves her son, but “love is letting go.”

When she released C’mon, C’mon in 2002, I had difficulty finding merit in its pop-based sound and mentality, and I wondered what her future albums would be like. It only took a few guitar strums and the first line of track one, “I Know Why,” from her subsequent 2005 album Wildflower to put any concerns out of my mind entirely. Now, Detours has reaffirmed my interest in Crow’s music, if only for its ability to cover so much ground—political, social, interpersonal—in such a sincere manner.

** EDITOR’S NOTE **

The 2 star rating (out of five) was added after the review was written.  This is an album that had very little staying power, and I was admittedly much more enthusiastic about the release than I should have been, most likely due to events in my personal life — i.e. the decision to buy more CD’s in 2008 to really experience a broader range of new music.  I hope you enjoy the album, as I did when I first wrote this review.  However, the rating should act as a warning from a wiser listener.  :-)

“Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2008-02-11 19:45:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Welcome to Monday’s Laptop Session, and I’m back with another Pearl Jam song, this time going back to their 2nd album “Vs.”

This song also earns the title “Longest Song Title ever”, as I couldn’t even fit it into the Title field on YouTube (however, here it’s fine).

The song is “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”, and is a song that Scott & I have played for a long time. Usually, we’ll swap instruments and he’ll play the bass to it while I do my half-ass guitar part (well, compared to him. He is the guitarist in the band after all).

This song is very sweet and easy to listen too. I hope you enjoy it.

Stay tuned for Jim’s new session tomorrow, and see what Chris brings out of the woodwork for Original Wednesday.

Oh, and I’m ever so close to the 3,000 view mark! Thank you everybody for making the Laptop Sessions such a success.

Please visit http://laptopsessions.com/ for a new session per day in 2008. Also, remember my new EP “Greenlight” will debut on February 24th.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

“Indifference” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2009-10-22 22:34:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff:

Welcome to Thumpin’ Thursday!  My first as a 29 year old.

I decided tonight, after much deliberation, that I would record a song from a band that has seen plenty of exposure on this site.   That band of course is Pearl Jam.

My friend Marc from high school had introduced me to most of the songs by Pearl Jam from their first two albums.  Him and his brother were huge fans and had even saw them in concert.  I found out my own brother was also a fan and let me listen to “Ten”.  I loved it and it set me off on a Pearl Jam kick that I think i’m still on – at least for the albums I have currently.

The song I have chosen is the last track from their 2nd album “Vs.”   The best of these songs are ones that I wouldn’t want to play on acoustic guitar.  Even this one is meant for a softer electric guitar, but still works.  “Indifference” is the name of the song.  I’m not positive that I performed this song to the best I could.  But the nice thing is the people who would watch this either a) know the song, or b) are frequent visitors to this site and love what we do.

It’s business as usual on my end.  Still setting stuff up, and still teaching 4 classes instead of 3.  And while I love the extra money it’s bringing in, I will be looking forward to the 1 1/2 weeks off i’m going to take at some point next month.

Enjoy this song and keep checking back for more songs from the three and only – Chris, Jim, and I!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

The Deep Racks Report: “Binaural”

Originally posted 2009-03-01 16:00:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

I think we’ve all heard the term “deep track,” used to refer to songs that do not receive much (or any) commercial radio airplay.  This series is dedicated to brief but focused reports on ALBUMS that do not receive as much commercial or critical attention as they should.

RELATED LAPTOP SESSIONS: Chris – “Thin Air” (chords included!)

When Pearl Jam released Binaural in 2000, they were met with solid sales — #2 on Billboard in the first week of its release — and decent critical reception — Rolling Stone gave it the 3.5 out of 5 stars nod.  For any other band, this may have been exciting.  However, for Pearl Jam, #2 on the Billboard 200 could be considered a minimum expectation, as even their debut album had hit that position.  As for the critical reception, Rolling Stone had rated all of their previous albums (except their first two, which had not been rated) a full four stars.  This may seem a minor change from 4 to 3.5, but it is a significant one.  The subtext?  Binaural is somehow inferior to Pearl Jam’s previous releases.

Fast forward to 2009, and let’s talk dollar signs.  I’m not referring to album sales — although Binaural is infamously the first Pearl Jam album to fail to reach platinum status, never mind the 7x and 5x platinum statistics of Vs. and Vitalogy respectively or the 12x platinum(!) heights of Ten.  I’m referring to the sticker price.  The average retail value in stores like Best Buy and Circuit City — stores at which the average for CDs is largely in the $12.99 – $14.99 range — is $5.99.  Even on Amazon.com, the price is higher (albeit a measly $1) at $6.99.  What does that say about this album, a fully studio-produced main catalog Pearl Jam release, that its retail value is less than half of the average price one would expect?

While I can’t tell you why it is valued for so low, I can report that this is an excellent album!  Admittedly, I purchased it during Circuit City’s store closing sale for only $4.  I didn’t expect to like it.  Rather, I wanted to get my feet wet with a Pearl Jam record before listening to their debut Ten when it is remastered and re-released later this month.  After a couple listens — and contrary to my expectations — I’ve become hooked on this album.  Right out of the plastic, the packaging is a positive sign — a three-fold digipack with full lyrics reproduced as images of typewritten and handwritten notes.  From the breakneck pace of the first track “Breakerfall” to the sad, soothing sound of the final track “Parting Ways,” the sequence of this album is just right.  The first three tracks are among my favorites on the album (“Evacuation” is possibly the best, most rocking track on the album) and make me reconsider every time I want to take it out of my CD player after a full rotation.  “Light Years” slows it all down and (contrary to Rolling Stone‘s criticisms) unwinds into an excellent ballad of sorts.  The single “Nothing As It Seems” comes next, which I do like, although I couldn’t tell you why this particular track was chosen as the single when there were so many other excellent choices.

For three more tracks, the pace is heavy and slower, but these are some excellent tracks — “Thin Air” (see above for the link to the Laptop Session version), the show-stopping “Insignificance,” and “Of The Girl.”  Truth be told, the next trio of songs are the only sequence on the album that I could do without.  The energy of “Grievance” and “Rival” are undeniable — the latter won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance — and “Sleight of Hand” is a nice lead-up to the final two songs on the album, but I can see why one might have seen Pearl Jam treading water with these tracks.  Then again, taking the Grammy into consideration, perhaps my opinion is simply the opposite of all paid critics.

The album ends slowly with “Parting Ways,” but the final highlight of the album — the song that first made me perk up and pay attention lyrically — is the penultimate track “Soon Forget.”  It’s just Eddie Vedder and a ukulele, but it’s so much more.  The arrangement fits the song perfectly, as Vedder sings about a man who “trades his soul for a Corvette,” “trades his love for hi-rise rent,” and is ultimately “living a day he’ll soon forget.”  As the song concludes with his funeral scene, Vedder sings, “He’s stiffening.  We’re all whistling, a man we’ll soon forget…”

Granted this is my first Pearl Jam album experience, but if the other albums are so much better, then I can’t wait to hear them!  There’s nothing wrong with this album, and it certainly doesn’t deserve the drastically reduced retail price or ho-hum reviews (Rolling Stone was so distracted that the review is largely a commentary on late 90s pop music, framed by a comparison between Matchbox Twenty and Pearl Jam).  Based on the quality of individual tracks and on the thoughtful sequencing of the album as a whole, Binaural is more than worth your time!