Little Wild One
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2011, Volume 18, #8
Written by John Metzger
Fri November 11, 2011, 05:30 AM CST
After spending several years unable to extricate herself from an artistic dispute with her label, Joan Osborne now seems to be trying her hand at everything under the sun in the hopes of finding something that sticks. Recently, she has oscillated from the country textures of Pretty Little Stranger to the soul-infused sounds of Breakfast in Bed, but the mixed results that she has achieved havenít come anywhere close to resurrecting her increasingly stagnant career.
With the exception of Rev. Gary Davisí Light of This World, Osborneís latest outing Little Wild One, which is now three years old, is filled with original material. Undeniably all of it was designed to roll the different avenues that she has explored into a neat and tidy package. Although it too has its flaws, the album also is the most focused and fully realized endeavor that she has made since Relish hit store shelves in 1995.
To craft Little Wild One, Osborne reunited with The Hootersí Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman as well as their longtime associate Rick Chertoff, the team of songwriters that had helped to shape Relish. Not surprisingly, then, there are plenty of similarities between the two endeavors, from the alt-rock infectiousness of Hallelujah in the City to the way in which Osborne and her collaborators intertwined spiritual and earthy themes to form the underlying foundation of the endeavor. Ultimately, though, Little Wild One serves as a love letter to New York City, her home for the past two decades. The concept is especially fitting, considering that Osborne hasnít sounded this relaxed, confident, and comfortable in quite some time.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue with Little Wild One is that none of its songs is quite as striking as One of Us, the tune that significantly boosted Relishís commercial appeal. Hallelujah in the City comes closest to capturing the same charming ambience, though its melody also is appropriated so blatantly from Leonard Cohen that the cut struggles to stand on its own merit. As Little Wild One continues, it settles into an ebb-and-flow that is as consistently pleasant as it is unremarkable. Byrds-ian guitars drive the Sheryl Crow-inspired Sweeter than the Rest; a Bo Diddley backbeat underscores Rodeo; and on the piano-led ballad Cathedral, Osborne strives for Joni Mitchell but barely moves beyond Karen Carpenter.
The good news, however, is that over the course of Little Wild One, Osborne slowly but surely rediscovers herself. She no longer sounds as if she is fighting her own intuition, and as a result, thereís an effortlessness to the endeavor that fully comes to fruition during its final two tracks ó a luminescent rendition of Light of This World and the beautifully, rustic gospel-folk of Bury Me on the Battery. There is no doubt that Little Wild One is the album that Osborne should have made in response to Relishís success. Although it came a decade too late, it also couldnít have been constructed without the scenic sojourns that Osborne has taken in her career. In any event, at least she is back on track.
Of Further Interest...
Little Wild One is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2011 The Music Box