Joan Osborne grabbed the music world's attention in the mid-'90s with her single "(What If God Was) One of Us," and since then she has been a bit of a musical gadfly, making a country record, working on a children's CD, and now releasing a disc of R&B/soul covers and originals that pay tribute to the genre.
Though consistently enjoyable, as so often is the case with covers, some are distinctly more successful than others. While her version of "Sara Smile" isn't a patch on the original, her rather low-key vocals and the empathetic arrangement work well on a soulful and understated reading of "Midnight Train To Georgia," and a fine version of "Ain't No Sunshine" with a smooth and cool arrangement.
The originals mesh well with the covers - a good sign that Osborne is in synch with the sound to which she is paying homage. Highlights are the soulful "Eliminate The Night" and orchestrated "I Know What's Goin' On."
The disc ends with a couple of cuts from the movie Standing In The Shadows of Motown - a fitting conclusion to a disc that is respectful of the past while at the same time giving it a modern sheen.
- RICHARD PATON
Hiroshima, a solid and innovative modern jazz group founded more than three decades ago in east Los Angeles, offers a distinctive blend of Asian, African, and Latin American sounds. One minute, there are stringed Japanese folk sounds from the Far East. The next, there's soulful sax reminiscent of American jazz, or delightful chops on an electronic keyboard.
The music - jazz, rock, and even hints of Middle Eastern at times - ebbs and flows in an invigorating way, providing the listener a soothing multicultural mix without all the political correctness or brow beating.
The album's title is a reference to a neighborhood in southern California known for its diversity.
- TOM HENRY
Cuban jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, who played in Toledo recently, cooks on his new album. The four-time Grammy winner swings with a fresh blend of 10 original Latin jazz numbers that bring out a serious urge for dancing. On three songs, he's backed on vocals by Cheito Quinones, Sr., a singer known for his work with Gloria Estefan. T.H