For almost everyone, Joan Osborne will be best remembered for her mid nineties hit ‘One of Us’, but her long career has thrown up so many other gems along the way. Even that mega-hit’s parent album, 1995’s ‘Relish’ featured far superior tracks: with ‘Spider Web’, she introduced the world to her sassy blend of blues and soul via an insatiable groove and sultry vocal and her cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Man In The Long Black Coat’, slowed down to a spooky crawl, ran rings around Zimmerman’s rather jerky original recording. Across several other far more neglected albums, Joan’s vocal talents continued to shine. ‘Dead Roses’, a particular highlight from her 2006 release ‘Pretty Little Stranger’, suggested she could rival Bonnie Raitt in the bluesy stakes; various cuts from 2012’s ‘Bring It On Home’ demonstrated her husky take on various R&B standards to great effect and 2017’s ‘Songs of Bob Dylan’ had plenty to offer anyone with a keen interest in different takes on a familiar back-catalogue. Wherever you choose to dip into Joan’s work, there’s something to enjoy…and always a nagging feeling that she should have been bigger. Perhaps her over reliance on other people’s material has hindered her being a star on a global scale, but there’s no questioning her vocal talent. However, none of her previous highlights are a match for her 2020 release ‘Trouble and Strife’.
Maybe as a reaction to the previous year, though maybe just coincidence, 1974 didn’t have the all round focus of it’s forebears. Whereas 1973 had been a home to various albums that have spanned generations, ’74’s best strengths were in the singles market.
Bowie’s escalating drug habit left him with ideas of an unfinished musical and an album that’s arguably his most unfocused of the decade. ‘Rebel Rebel’, however, remains a great and enduring single cut, brimming with the last vestiges of glam. Lulu did an excellent job of covering ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and ‘Watch That Man’, filling both sides of an essential 7″, Ace’s ‘How Long’ – while easily dismissed as soft radio filler has stood the test of time and now sounds like a near perfect piece of songcraft, while everyone’s favourite ragamuffin, David Essex, topped the UK chart with a smart and disposable single about making disposable pop music.