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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

An Effort to Crow About . . . in a Way

* * SHERYL CROW, "Sheryl Crow," A&M

September 22, 1996|Natalie Nichols

Sheryl Crow's music remains a bland amalgam of classic rock, Memphis soul and stoner country-rock. But give her credit for taking the initiative. When Bill Bottrell, producer of her smash 1993 debut, "Tuesday Night Music Club," opted out after one day's work on her second album, the Grammy winner took over. The result is surprisingly sophisticated.

The production is crisper, and the extra instrumentation--including a touch of strings on "The Book"--adds dimension without overwhelming the songs. Working with a new band, Crow plays more instruments here: guitar and bass, along with keyboards. She and her various co-writers more smoothly integrate her influences, making this album more musically focused than her debut.

Despite these improvements, though, Crow continues to emulate her nostalgic idols more than follow her own musical vision. She closely imitates Bob Dylan in sketching odd, tragic characters ("Oh Marie," "Sweet Rosalyn"), liberally borrows Beatles licks and even pens a protest song ("Redemption Day," written after she visited U.S. troops in Bosnia).

"Everyday Is a Winding Road" is a rollicking hair-flipper in the spirit of her hit "All I Wanna Do," but the marginally funky neo-hippie anthem "Love Is a Good Thing" is marred more by her strangled attempt at a soul scream than by her swipe at Wal-Mart.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good), four stars (excellent).

*

TimesLine 808-8463

To hear excerpts from the albums reviewed, call TimesLine and press * and the artist's corresponding four-digit code. Sheryl Crow *5712

In 805 area code, call (818) 808-8463.

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