December 20, 2007

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Joan Osborne, Christmas Means Love
Time/Life Records, Sept. 11
Now that Amber Tamblin’s abandoned talking with Gods Who’s Was One Of Us in favor of drowned 9-year-old spook-ghosts, Joanie Osborne couldn’t buy a break if she owned all the grammatical train wrecks in cyberspace. Even at Christmas time she lacks a producer who can commit her otherworldly live tones to tape and tell her when something she’s trying to do is generic and beneath her. As ho-ho-ho records go, this is a good-to-average one if you dream of opening presents in a New Orleans blues dive, and that goes double for the flagship tune, which is all about the ooh-waah gospel mama overdubs, her unique female-Ray Charles cool gaining little tread only, repeat only, because of the blandness of the engineering effects on her voice. “Santa Claus Baby” is irresistible owing to all the Andrews Sisters that goes on, and “Christmas Must Be Tonight” coughs up a little anesthetized Trisha Yearwood, but “Children Go Where I Send Thee” sounds like a grade-school music teacher’s American Idol demo. Note that this album was originally released in 2005, re-released here by, yes, that Time/Life, who’s been super cool to me, so keep it down. B- — E. W. S.