You, dear reader, have no idea how deep my love for you runs. You think it's all fun and games over here at the offices of Pratt Songs, but we suffer for you. (That's offices, plural, mind you. Tonight, for instance, we're working from our office at the window table at the Panera Bread in Rosedale, mostly because our staff feels like shit and really needs some hot soup. And don't even get us started about how we're referring to ourselves in the plural. Just because you don't hear voices in your head doesn't mean you need to spoil our fun.)
Anyway. As I was saying, I suffer. To prove it, I'm listening to The Very Best of Sheryl Crow, a hits package from my third-most-despised artist in the history of rock music. (The list goes something like 1: Steely Dan; 2: Joni Mitchell; 3: Sheryl Crow; 4: Carly Simon; 5: Steely Dan.) But I'm listening, and I'm doing everything in my power to listen objectively, so I can give you the Fair And Balanced™ review that you've come to expect from Pratt Songs.
There's really nothing wrong with Sheryl Crow. Her songs are all memorable, her bands are made up of top-notch session musicians, and she's not a bad storyteller. The problem is, her music sounds like Los Angeles.
A writer named Michael Ventura wrote the most insightful thing I've ever read about Los Angeles. He wrote that the city has no innate personality. You can move to New York and become loud and obnoxious, or move to New Orleans and listen to jazz, or move to Baltimore and snort heroin while you call everyone "hon." But you can't move to LA with the expectation that the city's personality will supplement what you're lacking.
Every song on this album sounds like Los Angeles. These are songs whose personalities are so vague that you can dump your own experiences into them and let them become your personal soundtrack. These are musicians who can play anything under the sun, but who never succeed at developing their own unique sound. These are stories whose characters and plots are more than willing to step aside and let someone else's life story take over.
My problem is I love songs with personality. I love musicians who put emotion before proficiency. And while I love stories that have a universal appeal, I really love stories that are best told by the person who lived them.
I don't believe that Sheryl Crow lived a single one of the songs on this album. And if I don't believe in the truth of a song, there's nothing it can offer to make up for what it lacks.
This is a good package, particularly considering the lackluster inserts given to most best-of collections. There's an essay that talks about how Sheryl Crow possesses a truly unique and passionate voice (I'd take it more seriously if it weren't written by a guy who lists The Teen Choice Awards 2005 and Christina Aguilera: My Reflection among his TV writing credits) and about 8,000 photos of Crow. There are no lyrics, which is disappointing, but the overall design of the package holds together well and compliments the music.
Listen if you like: The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Melissa Etheridge, Los Angeles
If it were food, it'd be: A late-night sandwich at "Rock and Roll Denny's" on Sunset and Vista in Hollywood. The place seemed exciting and genuine on the surface, but it was really just bad food and dull people, both claiming to be far greater than they really were. As far as I can tell, the place has closed down, and I can't say I feel one bit of nostalgia for it.