Joan Osborne: One Of Us
It's hard to fit a whole band inside a radio station soundbooth. As such, in-studio covers often provide a chance to hear the heart of a song, stripped down to its singer-songwriter essentials. And the result can be startling, revealing a song for what it should have been, before some producer decided to make it...well, a production.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Los Angeles-based KSCA fm101.9's Live From The Music Hall series, a multi-part "best of" compilation series released in the early and mid nineties which I picked up randomly along the way, and have since reveled in for its hushed, intimate takes on everything from Howard Jones' No One Ever Is To Blame to my favorite version of Bruce Cockburn's Wondering Where The Lions Are, from Jeffrey Gaines' infamous acoustic cover of Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes to an acoustic folk-rock take on early b-side Alternative Girlfriend from Barenaked Ladies. But this Joan Osborne song takes the cake, eradicating all traces of the bombast found in her biggest radio hit, and replacing it with something redemptive: a song worth saving and savoring.
Happily, although long out of print, the first volume of this series was recently posted in its entirety on Popdose. It doesn't have the Howard Jones, sadly - but it has all the other songs named above, plus Dave Alvin, Dar Williams, Willy Porter, and much, much more. Click the "purchase" link above to snag it.