"With her latest release, the artsy, introspective "Wildflower," singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow has cemented her status as a legendary talent of our time and created the defining album of her career. A fast-moving collection of musings on the trials and tribulations of life, love and coming of age - as well as pondering one's purpose in this life - the record is ideal accompaniment for cold, lonely nights.
Despite the rather downcast state of the album's subject matter, which will furrow the eyebrows of listeners who know even a tidbit of the fortunate circumstances that surround Crow's life as of late, it nevertheless contains savory melodies and instantly accessible yet probing lyrics that not only entertain, but prompt listeners to think and care. That means that it embodies the core characteristics that Crow is known for. Just don't expect Geronimo's rifle, Marilyn's shampoo or Benny Goodman's corset and pen to show up. And if all you wanna do is have some fun, you had best wait for the new Madonna record.
Lead single "Good Is Good" is a fine indicator of the bulk of the material on "Wildflower." While the lyrics are sung over a buoyant, radio-friendly melody, they tell a story of a character that takes so much for granted until all the most important things are suddenly missing from his life.
"When the day is done/And the world is sleeping/And the moon is on its way to shine/When your friends are gone/You thought were so worth keeping/You feel you don't belong/And you don't know why."
On the other hand, Crow maintains on "I Don't Wanna Know" that ignorance is bliss, reasoning "everything I know makes me feel so low," while on the invigorating opener "I Know Why" she examines insecure souls who have endured such heartbreak they find it difficult to open up to love again.
"I know why the heart gets lonely/Every time you give your love away/But if you think that you are only/A shadow in the wind/Blowin' 'round but when/You let somebody in/They might fade away."
The most overwhelming moment of the disc is "Chances Are," a harrowing epic that examines humanity at its very core and is sonically reminiscent of "Weather Channel," the outstanding conclusion of 2002's "C'mon, C'mon" album. Meanwhile, the sweeping "Perfect Lie" and the sparse title track examine co-dependency and its emotional repercussions, both full of intense pain and beauty.
By no means is the album devoid of levity, however. "Always On Your Side" waxes on unconditional love, as she sails through outstanding lyrics with achingly beautiful vocals, while also finding time to tip her hat to Sir Elton John. Also, "Live It Up" is as radio-ready as past hits like "Soak Up the Sun" or "Steve McQueen." Nevertheless, the former leaves the listener to question whether her love was finally returned, while the latter conveys the bittersweet message that life is an elusive gift, and so we had best "live it up like there's no time left."
The ultimate in spine-tingling can be found on "Letter to God," an easy-going protest of the war in Iraq that finds Crow more contemplative and confused than angry or bitter, asking "what do you do when you look to the left and to the right and find no clues?" The concluding selection, "Where Has All the Love Gone?," however, raises the most important question of all.
"And even though I'm trying to smile/With everything I see/It could take a while/I've been looking/Everywhere I go/Where has all the love gone?"
Without a doubt, "Wildflower" is the most solid record of Crow's career. Although she has always been a fine musician, her salad days hardly hinted that she would reach such dizzying creative heights as this. If listeners could slow down their everyday lives and allow themselves to be pulled in by this record, they'd stand a lot to gain on more than one level."
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 09/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sheryl Crow has every reason to be happy. She's at the peak of her musical game and she's engaged to Lance Armstrong. One would think that her next album would be full of songs dedicated to the happiness of life and love. Wildflower is not that record. It is a string-laden and filled with lovelorn ballads. The orchestration is beautiful and the lyrics contain Ms. Crow's usual sharp incites. The album isn't as immediate as her other works, the songs are deeper and darker. There is one exception, the ultra-catchy and upbeat "Live It Up" which has a great chorus and vocal. "Chances Are" has a pretty melody build around an acoustic guitar and tabla, "Perfect Lie" has a torch song feel and the title track has a folk vibe. "Lifetimes" has a rock edge, though it is not a rocker. The best track on the album is the gorgeous "Always On Your Side". It has an achingly beautiful melody with a sparse arrangement and maybe the bets vocal of Ms. Crow's career."
A Career High
Busy Body | London, England | 09/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sheryl Crow is a crafty woman, this much I know is true. Crafty in the way she's surprised me a number of times over her career. Her last studio album, 2002's "C'mon C'mon," had its strong points but overall I felt it was a bit of a letdown. In late 2003 her "Very Best Of" collection arrived, and surprised me in just how successful it was, going almost triple platinum in the US alone. Two years have passed without much news from Sheryl, but she's returned with "Wildflower," which just might be her greatest album thus far.
This has surprised me, surprise surprise, because I wasn't expecting much from this new album. The only reason I bought it was because I have all her other albums, and it would seem a bit off-kilter not to buy this one to boost the collection. Which is rather bleak, but true. I settled down to do my college homework earlier this evening, and was completely *blown away* by the music I was hearing. Sheryl Crow has matured and evolved once again to become something totally unique to anyone else out there. Her vocals are huskier than before, and there are some really strong messages about life on here. If you've ever paid a visit to Sheryl's official website, you'll notice her concern about modern society and the issues we face in such a tumultuous world, particularly the war in Iraq and September 11th. These issues aren't quite addressed on this new album, which means the album maintains an uplifting mood.
The album opens with the fantastic "I Know Why." This song has a breezy intro with a melodic acoustic guitar and some great bongo work! The chorus is very harmonious and sways with a simplicity that is now standard in Sheryl's work. "Perfect Lie" manages to be an even better song than the opener, which is no mean feat. There's some very cool electric guitar work here creating a raw and rough sound. Sheryl's voice reflects this as she sings in a husky tone, before raising the pitch as the chorus approaches. The lyrics are very melancholy as Sheryl sings about her lover who she just doesn't know anymore. The album's first single is "Good Is Good." This is another very strong rocker that has a slight country twang to it. The chorus is bold and clear, and is quite unique in contrast to most of Sheryl's earlier works. One of my personal favourites, "Chances Are," is next. This is the longest song on the album and is quite the epic! It's an open-air, spacious song with some very atmospheric synths. I love this kind of music because it's very evocative of certain moods, and the gentle percussion has a very Oriental feel to it. Sheryl's vocals are relaxing and calm, never raised, resulting in "Home Part II."
The title track, "Wildflower," is another great song that is quite similar to its predecessor. It's a very simple, low-key arrangement that Sheryl controls wonderfully. She uses the image of a wildflower growing uncontrollably as a metaphor for her love contained within. This also reflects very well on Sheryl's position in the music industry. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel like some overambitious artists do, she's chosen to sprawl her sound like a rose bush over rocks of the female sound she pioneered throughout the Nineties. "Lifetimes" is a more upbeat song that features an evocative wurlitzer that controls the main beat of the song. Sheryl sings about how people are different personalities in different situations, and although this seems quite bland in terms of lyrical value, the sheer melodic joy of the chorus simply swings with free spirit. "Letter To God" is yet another brilliant song, and has a very atmospheric sound created by the electric guitars and echoing vocals from Sheryl. There's also a fine, smooth string section here that just opens this song up in the bright blue sky. The subject matter is more serious and speaks of how things happen on this planet and how, when we can't find answers, we turn to God to see the larger picture.
"Live It Up" is the most upbeat song on offer here, and goes down a storm. Sheryl is very sassy here both in terms of lyrical content and vocal style. This song is spiky and almost dangerous as opposed to the calm attitude she has projected on the previous seven songs. This song is almost like "Light In Your Eyes" speeded up, which is very good in my eyes! "I Don't Wanna Know" is a softer melodic ballad that signals the start of the album beginning to wind down. This is pure Crow at her trademark best and is quite similar to some of the mid-tempo numbers from her last studio album. "Always On Your Side" is a pure piano ballad and one of a kind on this album. It's soft and content with some great lyrics that are perhaps autobiographical. The album closes with the superb "Where Has All The Love Gone." This, as Amazon states, is very George Harrison in style and has a gentle piano riff that sounds quite dated and old fashioned. The chorus is very melodious as usual, something Sheryl can do with seemingly endless ease.
OVERALL GRADE: 10/10
This album contains 11 solid songs, and there isn't a bad one amongst them. It may take a few listens for it to sink in, but I can promise this for sure: long-time Sheryl fans will not be disappointed! New listeners may also be drawn in by Sheryl's new music, which I personally feel is some of her best in her decade-long career. After three amazing albums, Sheryl stumbled a little on her fourth in 2002, but thankfully she's back on track with this wicked new record. I hope this album does well, and at least breaks into the Top 10 on the Billboard 200, because there has been virtually no promotion for it! At least that's been the case over here in England, where I expect this album to perform quite poorly come this weekend, which is a great shame. One thing's for sure though; Sheryl Crow is back to her rocking best, and with rumours that she could be packing the whole thing in to spend more time with her family, you should appreciate this album as a great piece of pop-rock to what could be the swansong of what has been an amazing career."
BEAUTIFUL Music by a GREAT Lady!
Shmama | WI United States | 05/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just because this cd is mellower than some of her past music, some have lowered thier review scores for Sheryl. HEY, this lady is 44 & has been through ALOT. This Lovely album is a bit more mature than previous recordings & is Terrific in all respects! I share the exact same birthday (& birthyear) as Ms. Crow so maybe we are on the same page in the big picture book, but in any case I think she is so talented & have so much respect for her & her work! Take a listen, it's thoughtful & lovely stuff! You GO Lady! I will be enjoying this (& all your past recordings as well) & anxiously awaiting the next! Rock on! "
Sheryl Channels her Inner Stevie Nicks
Neptunian Spirit | Dayton, OH USA | 03/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I always liked Sheryl Crow, because even though folks have tried to pigeonhole her sound, Sheryl is about making music that everyone can relate to & enjoy. My boyfriend got me more into Sheryl's music, which prior I used to only jam to on the radio. I purchased Sheryl's whole catalogue & fell in love with her recent release "Wildflower".
To me, "Wildflower" see's Sheryl channeling her idol/mentor, Stevie Nicks' mystical elements to great effect. She started this on 1998's "The Globe Sessions", another personal favorite.
Here, Sheryl spins lyrical tapestries about living in a modern world & doing your best to love yourself & others around you. Musically, the "Nicks" element comes in with the use of different studio effects, various percussion sounds, violins, & at times, quieter guitar work. These, amongst other elements, blend seamlessly to give Sheryl sonics that blend & form to her words rather than the other way around. Her words drive the songs.
"Chances Are" is probably one of the best songs here. In this cut, Sheryl talks about human evolution, "hybrid lives" specifically. In a fashion how she, and ourselves have all become disconnected from the world due to the fast pace in which we move. This is written in such a way that, it doesn't come off as pretetntious, but more of a warning or a call to show us what is happening.
Other songs deal with the complications of love, in it's various forms or another. The title track is a utterly beautiful, which finds Crow singing in a higher, yet hushed tone telling of a lover whose existence in her life, is that of (you guessed it) a rare wildflower. I found that euphenism to be rather simple & for me something I could relate to on a personal level with my current relationship. It captures that uniqueness that attracts us to individuals beyond what we see on the outside. Other highlights include the lead single "Good Is Good", the stomper "Live It Up" (really like this one), & "Lifetimes" amongst other.
Vocally, this is Crow's best record. She alternates between a lot of different takes, the "Wildflower" take being a favorite, gives her a very vulnerable feel. Her voice, like Nicks, has a specific character & it shines here.
The record is only eleven tracks, but I'm all for lean albums. Here, Crow picked the best songs & it shows because each song is good, & warrants a re-listening. I recommend this to anyone who wants an album they can listen to during a difficult time or even if they are having a good time, "Wildflower" is a very life-affirming record. With Crow's recent tribulations (my prayers to her) I'm sure she'll use them for engaging inspiration for the follow-up."