Joan Osborne’s ‘Love and Hate’ is a welcome new solo album from this somewhat reluctant New York based singer. Osborne has never made any secret of the fact that she didn’t like the attention she got from her worldwide smash hit song One Of Us (1995).
Therefore she has subsequently plied her trade mainly in studio side projects and as backing singer/collaborator for various jam bands, including The Dead, Phil Lesh & Friends and Trigger-Happy.
All of those projects have informed the work she has now produced, and largely to good effect. Throughout the opening numbers of ‘Love and Hate’ we can see the jam-band influence, as the songs have a flexible quality making them amenable to being stretched out on stage with different arrangements.
The album starts with a lovely warm number appropriately called Where We Start, showcasing the strong beautiful voice we remember from her mid-90s heyday, backed with the sensitive studio skills of the likes of Nels Cline (Wilco) and her main current collaborator Jack Petruzelli.
There are various genres to be heard on the album, including quiet ‘builder’ Work On Me which brings in a Latino flavour. Generally speaking it is a subtle, solid album, with six or seven strong songs, two or three middling songs and a couple that could have been left off. Noticeably, there is not as much as much loud R’n’B or funk as we have seen on her previous work, notwithstanding the lively mid-tempo rocker Thirsty For My Tears.
One example of a weaker number is the final song Raga, which meanders somewhat and is too low-key, leaving the listener to feel she should have finished the album with the much stronger penultimate track Keep It Underground. That one is a nice slab of R’n’B, and is given some staccato vocal phrasing on the vocals.
Lyrically, the songs seem to focus on love and relationships, nothing extraordinary, but they mainly fit the mood of the music. And there are a few nice ballads, such as the pretty Train and the ruminative piano-based title track. One or two stray towards cliché, for example Don’t Leave Me out In The Cold, which is saved only by the voice and a good string arrangement.
Joan is not touring with any of her collaborations this year, but is doing some solo shows in the US later in the summer. Let’s hope we see her bring these new songs over for a European tour and an Irish show in the near future.