Radio waves

Review: Joan Osborne digs through her archives on ‘Radio Waves’

Singer Joan Osborne has combed through a career of studio radio performances and picked out some of the best for her new album, “Radio Waves.”

“Radio Waves”, Joan Osborne (Womanly Hips Records)

Housebound during the pandemic, Joan Osborne began combing through dusty shoeboxes in her closets, and what she found was always in style, because good music never goes out of style.

The boxes contained recordings of at least 100 Osborne studio radio performances dating back to the 1990s, and she chose some of the best for “Radio Waves,” a stellar collection of 13 tracks notable for its variety.

Osborne has always been an astute performer, and her soulful, smoky alto is a compelling instrument, whether she sings blues (“Shake Your Hips”), R&B (“Everybody Is a Star”), Dylan (“Make You Feel My Love”) or the Great American Songbook (“Dream a Little Dream”).

With instrumental accompaniment ranging from acoustic guitar to a full rock band, Osborne is creative in reinventing familiar tunes. On the Motown standard “How Sweet It Is,” she extracts the sugar by recasting both the beat and the melody, and the result is something more sultry. A pared-down version of his unlikely hit “One of Us” conveys the wonder of everyday grace more directly, while Gary Wright’s 1970s hit “My Love Is Alive” goes downright funky.

Osborne creates moods to suit every broadcast quarter, from sunrise to signature, and seems to know it.

“Hello or evening, friends. Here’s your friendly speaker,” she sings to begin Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” a melody whose message is worth spreading around the clock.

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