Got The Fever

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Joan Osborne

I’ve expounded time and again on this blog in one way or another, about how impressed and appreciative I am when an artist can melt down and recreate a song in such a way that makes me think of the reinterpretation as being creative and individualistic enough that I can now think of it as their own.

It’s not enough to simply speed it up, or give it a new middle eight, or mix the verses, or slow it down. On the other hand, it would be going too far when it’s made so completely different that it makes me squint my eyes, tilt my head and wonder why it’s so completely unrecognizable. It has to have new life breathed into it, evolve as new genesis, and become symbiotic art.

Joan Osborne is an artist who I respect not only for her ability to release quality output that has stayed beneath the radar while gathering a respectable and growing audience, but also for the choices she has made in the music world. She’s had the obligatory hit, One Of Us (1995), she’s recorded with the Funk Brothers, toured with the Dixie Chicks and for a brief tenure joined the Grateful Dead. During all this time, she has released music that one can willing sit down to and be pleased about.

In 2002 Joan achieved what I look and listen for when taking on the task of covering someone else’s material when she released How Sweet It Is in 2002, a potent mix of soul and rock.

What added to my piqued interest was Joan’s choice of artists to cover. No middleweight choices here, she took on the heavy and holy – artists that would intimidate or become a gelatinous mess of a cover in lesser hands. She took on no less than Jimi Hendrix, Edwin Starr, Delaney and Bonnie, Sly Stone and the Band among others.

Straight ahead disgust with restrained determination. The rhythm section marches in unison with resolved and focused grit right alongside Joan while the background vocals urge the sinner to “let your mind go”.

I’ll Be Around
It was a far reach for me to think that anyone could cover effectively one of my favorite tracks of all time – one I had felt was unapproachable and blasphemous to even ponder covering. However, Joan handily won me over with her downy sincere surrender of devotion that swaddles the rendering with a patina of charm and feminine grace.

Whenever I have the urge to listen to the above tracks, it’s always a difficult decision to choose from either the original or covered version. Both choices for either track are going to be the winner.

Joan Osborne: Think
Joan Osborne: I'll Be Around
From: How Sweet It Is [2002]

Addendum: How lucky we are to be able to choose from hundreds of downloads each day in this blogsphere of ours. Some days the choices are so plentiful that I find myself a whore, downloading everything I see, or with so many choices, I am sometimes stultified into apathy. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to find a well-written verse, or a beautifully written rumination of life every so often. Either can move me deeply, and more so because I am so unprepared for the beauty enveloped within the prose.

Two such blogs have recently written passages that continue to move me. I apologize for late recognition.

One, among many exemplary pieces by ib on his
SbLINGSHOT ON THE BLEACHERS, is titled ‘the library ticket’.

The other, again among many others, is by whiteray on
Echoes In The Wind titled ‘A Halloween Tale’.

Prodigious writers both and towering examples of passages weaving tales that are worth reading.

Addendum 2: I continue to contribute to the great WNEW blog. My last week contribution was on the Association and Requiem For The Masses. Write a comment if you feel moved when I contribute.


  • Her debut "Relish" is an album I keep going back to. I don't know why but I haven't followed her since then. You've just changed that - just bought "How Sweet It Is" off Amazon Marketplace for the ridiculous sum of 15p (that's about 15c now the way the exchange rate is going!).

    I agree with what you say about "I'll Be Around" too.

    By Blogger Darcy, at 7:00 PM  

  • I am so happy that I found your website. I have been a huge fan since her Relish album and despite the fact that I dislike remakes, Joan Osborne does not disappoint with this album.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:53 PM  

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