Sheryl Crow was already the wrong side of 30 when she released her debut album. After attending the University of Missouri with Brad Pitt, Crow spent her twenties working as a music teacher, writing advertising jingles, and performing as a backing singer for Michael Jackson and Don Henley.
When her 1993 debut album Tuesday Night Music Club emerged, spearheaded by the single ‘All I Wanna Do’, it was notable for Crow’s traditional approach. Ignoring the grunge prevalent at the time, Crow’s music instead drew on 1960s and 1970s classic rock, like The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and The Small Faces.
Sheryl Crow Album Reviews
Tuesday Night Music Club | Sheryl Crow | The Globe Sessions | (Sheryl Crow has released at least eight more studio albums but her first three are her most acclaimed so I’m not keen to venture any further….)
Tuesday Night Music Club
Sheryl Crow’s debut album is named for the group of musicians who convened every Tuesday night to work on her material. The first single, ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ wasn’t successful, but ‘All I Wanna Do’, belatedly released in April 1994, and based on Wyn Cooper’s poem ‘Fun’, propelled Crow into the big time.
Tuesday Night Music Club opens with a fascinating line – she singles out 22 November 1963 as the day that Aldous Huxley died, an interesting choice given that John F Kennedy and CS Lewis died on the same day. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from the great opening line; despite some competent songwriting, Tuesday Night Music Club suffers from long track running times and lack of originality. Song titles ‘What I Can Do For You’, ‘All I Wanna Do’ and ‘We Do What We Can’ all in a row raise questions. What is Crow doing? What can Crow do? I don’t know, but she does drop us a hint with her song title ‘No One Said It Would Be Easy’.
Tuesday Night Music Club successfully launched Sheryl Crow as a solo artist, but her next two records are much stronger.
As with her debut, Sheryl Crow is often derivative and its songs are overlong, but her writing is very solid here. Although she’s generally associated with the guitar, Crow largely plays keyboards and bass here and she does an excellent job. Unsurprisingly, given her degree in classical piano, Sheryl Crow features nice Wurlitzer and Hammond organ parts. Despite the keyboards, Sheryl Crow lives up to its dishevelled rock-chick cover art; it’s tangibly grungier and rougher than her other work.
‘Hard To Make A Stand’ is the best song here, a concise and universal declaration, while ‘Home’ uses Crow’s more pure upper register to good effect. ‘If It Makes You Happy’, ‘A Change Would Do You Good’ and ‘Everyday Is A Winding Road’ were all over the radio in 1996; Crowded House’s Neil Finn, with whom Sheryl Crow used to tour as a support act, contributes audible backing vocals in the latter.
It’s hardly surprising that Crow demonstrates a healthy appreciation of classic rock in ‘Ordinary Morning’, compressing snatches of Lennon, The Beatles and Pink Floyd into “But when I awoke/The dream didn’t end/Now everytime I turn around/I’m only sleeping, John/Is anybody out there?/Don’t the wounded birds still sing?” Aided by Mitchell Froom, ‘The Book’ features an unsettling orchestral arrangement that provides a respite from Crow’s usual retro rock and roll.
The long running time of Sheryl Crow, with its incessant monochromatic country-tinged, retro-rock makes it a chore to sit through. But there’s strong material here, and it’s a shame that Crow didn’t have a sympathetic producer to chop down her track’s running time and push for more variety.
The Globe Sessions
Sheryl Crow started writing on bass for The Globe Sessions, in an effort to place more emphasis on melody. The Globe Sessions benefits from a broader stylistic palette and a more relaxed sound. Guests include Lisa Germano on violin, Benmont Tench on keyboards, and Wendy Melvoin.
The Globe Sessions also features my favourite Crow song; opening track ‘My Favourite Mistake’ bursts out of the starting gate with a great guitar riff that’s Crow’s greatest contribution to musical posterity. Bob Dylan gave Crow the Time Out Of Mind outtake ‘Mississippi’ to cover and she does a great job – Dylan’s own version showed up on Love And Theft. Conversely, The Globe Sessions are less consistent than Sheryl Crow; songs like the repetitive riff of ‘Resuscitation’ and ‘Members Only’ aren’t among Crow’s best.
‘My Favourite Mistake’ is brilliant, but if you’re looking into Crow’s catalogue, a compilation is probably a good option.
Five Best Sheryl Crow Songs
My Favourite Mistake
Hard To Make A Stand
Everyday Is A Winding Road
Run Baby Run