I witnessed Joan Osborne in bars, not just singing, but creating sweat-filled houses of worship years before her first record was released. She's graced stages in the East Village, Tribeca, and even a thankless slot as the opener on Queen guitarist Brian May's first solo tour at NYC's Beacon Theatre and at each performance, Miss Osborne, as the expression goes, threw down. So when her major label debut hit, I had mixed feelings. "Relish" was all over MTV and I dug it. But live, Joan Osborne had balls as big as Dan Blocker's. The record did not. Well, except for this:
Many hear Joan Osborne's name and immediately go here--
Not a bad place. As a matter of fact, it's the best place. It's the place that Osborne seems to go every time...except on her records. This is a good time to point out, Joan Osborne hasn't made a bad record. That's because she sings on all of them. But, Joan Osborne has never made a great record, and that's because of everyone else.
Her follow-up to "Relish" was tossed back at her, and what eventually became "Righteous Love" was marred by label screw-ups. So what else is new? Her return was a record of R&B covers which should have been amazing, but wasn't. I blame producer John Leventhal. Usually reliable, Leventhal just didn't get it, as the record sounded more like something James Taylor would put out and just didn't feel dirty enough for Joan's voice.
Four years later, Osborne returns with a country record. At this point I'm thinking, "Why is the best Joan Osborne record a Holmes Brothers record?" In 2001, Osborne produced "Speaking In Tongues" for the brothers, a band that played in the same East Village clubs as she did. She got it. She understood. SHE should have been producing her own records.
Check out their version of The O'Jays "Love Train." It is a thing of beauty.
Another record of covers and a not bad record of originals followed in 2006 and 2008 respectively. Both seemed to be the best work of Joan's career to this point, though, as I said, there has always been a great disparity to what's been put on record versus what she really can do...until now.
"Bring It On Home," Osborne's just released collection of blues covers is Joan, circa 1992. This record feels like what I witnessed at the aformentioned sweaty, beer-soaked downtown clubs. This is the record that translates the guts and the soul that everyone knows Miss Osborne possesses, but somehow always gets left outside of the recording studio.
She delivers big time, with versions of songs by Ray Charles, John Mayall, Al Green, Sonny Boy Williamson and Allen Toussaint.
See for yourself over HERE.
It's not just about the songs. It's about the feel of the record, and I give credit to the producers, Jack Petruzzelli and...Joan Osborne.
Check this one out. Please.