Prime Cuts: "Getting Better All the Time" (with Olivia Newton-John). "Then There's You" (with Alex Boye), "Give Me a Good Song "(with Sisqo)
Marie Osmond's "Music is Medicine" is more than just an album, it's a manifesto. It's a deeply personal narrative of unadulterated wisdom garnered from a woman who have had experienced God's healing over bouts of depression, the suicide of her son, divorce and re-marriage. Moreover, "Music is Medicine" is Osmond's first country and much anticipated country album since 1989's "Steppin' Stones." Osmond has been making her own solo hits by 1973 when "Paper Roses" became a #1 country and a top 10 pop hit. Later, Osmond's career received a big boost when she was signed to Capitol/Curb Records. Her debut album for the imprint "There's No Stopping Your Heart" hits the bull's eye with 2 #1 hits and 2 more top 10 hits. "Meet Me in Montana," her duet with the late Dan Seals, has immortalized her as one of the stalwarts of country music. 80s country has also found its identity in Osmond's songs such as "Read My Lips," "You're Still New to Me," and "I Only Wanted You."
Though her fame tapered by the late 80s, her songs of heartbreak and pain reached a new level of connection with fans. "Without a Trace," her 1988 single, still is one of the most definitive songs of heartbreak, so cardinal to country music. Her final album "Steppin' Stones" finds her returning to more traditional territory when Jerry Crutchfield (Tanya Tucker, Chris LeDoux) took over the reins. It was a move that was so in line with the influx of neotraditional country artists such as Clint Blck, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson. However, for some unbeknownst reasons, Osmond's more traditional move didn't translate into hits. After a few more attempts, including an aborted album, Osmond retired from the country rat race. Over the intermitting period, Osmond did release a hymns/Christian record and a duet album with her brother Donny.
Now, 27 years have passed. "Music is Medicine" doesn't find Osmond stymied in the 80s. Rather, this "country" record finds more affinity with Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett and Cam than her 80s peers such as Crystal Gayle and Tanya Tucker. Most obvious is that she has chosen to work with Jason Greene (Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town) as producer. And with a genre blurring list of duet partners including Olivia Newton-John, John Rich, Marty Roe (of Diamond Rio), Sisqo and Alex Boye, this album's country content is more fluid what traditionalists would have it. The title cut and lead single "Music is Medicine" is a tribute to the power of music nested in a busy percussion and banjo accentuated pop-country backing. Somehow recalling Reba's last #1 hit "Turn on the Radio," there's an inert drive and passion Osmond's been missing on her last "Steppin' Stones" album.
Osmond sounds distance and mechanical (perhaps due to the excessive auto-voicing touches) on the cliché-ridden "Unbreak This Break Up." When Diane Warren first coined the term "Unbreak My Heart" for Toni Braxton, it was a novelty. But after loads of songwriters jumped the same bandwagon, the word "unbreak" has definitely run its course in songs. Surprisingly, much better is Sisquo's duet with Osmond "Give Me a Good Song." What sounds like an odd combination actually works. Olivia Newton-John has the most country offering on the set. Her duet with Osmond "Getting Better All the Time" also underscores an indispensable message that God often uses trials to make us stronger. Marty Roe of Diamond Rio is in fine voice. But his duet with Osmond "I'd Love to Be Your Last" is one of those vanilla cringe-worthy love songs that Hallmark is noted for.
"Music is Medicine" does have lots of enjoyable moments. "Baby It's Crazy" is superbly catchy, "Wild and Sweet" is, as the titular says, sweet, and "Then There's You" is perfect. The latter finds Osmond dueting with actor and singer Alex Boye. Boye's gravelly vocal grit gorgeously complements Osmond's teary-sounding melisma. However, at the same time,many of the songs here don't have the immediacy and the immortal quality of Osmond's earlier hits. They are good, but maybe not immortal.