Record Review - 4 November 11 2000

Considering the well-publicized difficult birth of Joan Osborne's sophomore major label effort, Righteous Love is remarkable only in how unremarkable it actually is. Tossed off her previous label for submitting a follow-up to 1995's multi-platinum Relish that was apparently not commercial enough, this sounds like the likely successor that should have appeared a year later, not five. The Beatles took less time to progress from their debut to Sgt. Pepper, and even though Osborne clearly isn't in the same league, her audience should expect more from this workmanlike and mundane disc.
Righteous Love explores similar musical ground as its predecessor. Osborne's husky, soul-drenched voice sounds as confident pounding out the bubbling, easy funk of "Running Out of Time" as the gospel-lite of "Angel Face," and a subtle, restrained reworking of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love." The songs — most co-composed by Osborne in conjunction with three other writers — are adequate pop-soul-rock workouts, but her clunky cover of Gary Wright's '70s radio hit "Love Is Alive" seems forced, awkward and best saved for a live encore. The rest of the performances are emotionally charged, yet Osborne seldom lets go and belts out a tune with the raw passion and unbridled enthusiasm that may have been squashed through one too many record label marketing meetings. Producer Mitchell Froom does his typically professional job by adding intricate touches, but like the singer, it seems he's trying too hard to milk gold from copper songs.
Far from a disaster, Righteous Love is competent but ultimately disappointing. After a five-year wait, the album is most frustrating because of what it's not, as opposed to what it is.