There is no denying Crow's knack for the post-Eagles radio hit, but you can't discount her as a mere singles act. In the past, that was because the best cuts on her albums remained stuck in the syrup from which songs such as "All I Wanna Do" managed to crawl. On her new album, it's because the single sucks. "Soak up the Sun" starts with sproingy programmed squiggles and politely distorted guitar, then slips quickly into Crow's typical first-person I don't have diddly squat ... I've got a crummy job persona. But the ring around her halter top's blue collar isn't one of truth; former blow-job queen Liz Phair sits in for background vocals, negating her remaining credibility before Crow further buries it by letting Gwyneth Paltrow contribute weak singing to another track.
The other guests on Crow's pedestrian, mostly midtempo disc include Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Nicks. (Kravitz shows up on "You're an Original," the irony of which has been remarked upon elsewhere but cannot be overstated.) Even more than on her desperate-sounding 1999 live disc, such walk-ons are conspicuous enough to make the songs feel unstable yet so impotent that guest and Crow cancel each other out. C'Mon, C'Mon's duet with Don Henley, whose already teeny-tiny scrotum apparently has completely retracted into his bloated body, isn't the only thing that puts Crow in Glenn Frey's league. Few successful (a term defined here only in terms of the soon-to-fly-again Eagles) singers since Frey have so thoroughly conned listeners with such a gratingly limited voice, and Crow insists on hitting Alpine heights on plenty of C'Mon's numbers.
The stuff that makes Crow seem like the picture of sangfroid remains on C'Mon in enough bulk to reassure the faithful. Guitar hooks scattered on the surfaces of some songs compensate for much of the murkiness meant to make Crow seem artfully gloomy rather than dull. The lyrics reveal a break-up album, but one of little emotional heft and less depth. Still, thanks to a spectral vocal from Emmylou Harris, "Weather Channel" manages to end the disc with an unsettling ambiguity Crow's lyrics (Because I got lab coats/Who will bring me a panacea?) can't manage alone. On the increasingly rare occasions Crow communicates distress with something other than histrionics, she's everything you want in a middle-of-the-road aspirant -- and more.