Tuesday Night Music Club

Sheryl Crow

A&M Records, 1993


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


To get anything approaching an accurate look at the album that introduced Sheryl Crow to the world, you have to first separate it from two major distractions.

Major distraction number one is The Hit Single, the one that put this otherwise rather unassuming album on the map, the somewhat lightweight and widely misunderstood "All I Wanna Do." It was slotted number nine in the run order for a reason… it's a relative throwaway of a song -- a slacker fantasia set to vibes, percussion, slide guitar and a simple, endlessly repeating bass figure -- that was never intended to characterize this album.

Major distraction number two is the controversy that dogged this album once it succeeded. The Tuesday Night Music Club was a group of musicians who hung out at producer Bill Bottrell's studio to compose and play together every (surprise) Tuesday night. While the songs all feature Crow on lead vocals and were all co-composed by her, the reality is she was part of a collective, yet only she got the record contract and therefore, the bulk of the credit for the resulting effort. TNMC member Kevin Gilbert's subsequent accidental death cast a pall over this entire album and cemented a rift between Crow and the other TNMCers that has never healed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The correct response to all this is: yeah, but what about the album?

From the very start -- the second line of this album references the day Aldous Huxley died -- it's obvious this is going to be a musical horse of a different color. Retro Hammond organ, slinky blues licks, nicely synchopated piano and Crow's keening vocals propel the steady-building "Run, Baby, Run." Some soaring slide work on the break and Crow's quirky lyrics embellish the song's classic verse-chorus-verse structure into something special.

In some ways the above description describes the bulk of this disc. Crow has a gift for taking familiar song structures that fit like a comfortable shoe and imbuing them with fresh twists. On the otherwise Joplinesque blues grind "Leaving Las Vegas," it's the way the muted electronic drums and laconic bass line counterpoint the chorus of background vocals surrounding Crow's impassioned lead voice. On "The Na-Na Song," it's the pure delirious rush of the chanted free-association lyrics; on "No One Said It Would Be Easy," it's both the dreamy lead guitar and the emotional charge Crows invests in a song about trying to salvage a troubled relationship.

In retrospect -- and in my humble opinion -- Crow's TNMC compatriots' complaints are not as well-founded as they might like. Yes, the ensemble playing is typically on the mark, loose and limber (love that pulsing rhythm on "Can't Cry Anymore"). But the group has a weakness for mid-tempo arrangements that don't always do justice to Crow's range; her later efforts branch out more into harder rock and slower, more intense ballads, to good effect.

The album is not without a clunker or two -- "Solidify" seems to want to channel Sly & the Family Stone, but the style just doesn't suit Crow at all. Her speak-singing on the verses of "What I Can Do For You" also doesn't come off well, and the chirpy background vocals ("you - you") grate. Fortunately, the disc finishes with "I Shall Believe," a strong cut that shows off Crow's burgeoning skills as a composer and singer of moving, contemplative ballads.

Overall, Tuesday Night Music Club is an occasionally spotty but generally solid debut. The fact that it came to be characterized in the mind of the public by one odd yet undeniably catchy single is one of those quirks of fate that artists just have to learn to live with. I don't think Jimmy Buffett regards "Margaritaville" as his finest moment as a songwriter, but it's paid a lot of bills over the years. "All I Wanna Do" might not be Hall of Fame material, but it was good enough to launch a career that later albums would prove more than worthy.

Rating: B

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© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A&M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.