Joan Osborne continues on her musical journey by looking back as she moves forward. Breakfast in Bed combines her influences of soul music and R&B, which she predominantly explored with her 2002 covers album How Sweet It Is, with songs of yearning and heartbreak, which she gave the Nashville treatment on last year’s Pretty Little Strangers. She is a bold, gifted singer not afraid to tackle classics or mix her own songs alongside.
The album’s title brings to mind a sweet Sunday morning with a loved one, but the title song is emotionally brutal. Previously recorded by Baby Washington and Dusty Springfield, it’s about a woman whose former beau has left for someone else. The narrator loves him and is there to comfort him with “a kiss or three” when he shows up at her door crying. Unfortunately, she can’t see he just uses her to get through the night. In the morning he’s off to go back to his love, while the narrator tries to stop hers from running out the door. She pleads, “What’s your hurry?/ Please don’t eat and run,” but it’s no to avail.
Breakfast in Bed contains songs about the struggles of making a relationship work. They deal with a lover not wanting to stay whether in a location, like Gladys Knight & the Pips “Midnight Train to Georgia,” or, as is usually the case, with a person. On Bill Withers all-time classic “Ain’t No Sunshine,” the narrator wonders and hopes her man comes back this time because the “house just ain’t a home/any time he goes away.” The song has a great organ solo. Hall & Oates “Sara Smile” finds the narrator okay with the break-up, just looking for one more night, “If you feel like leaving you know you can go/ But why don't you stay until tomorrow?”
Two originals find her as different sides of a love triangle.
On “Eliminate the Night” her intense passion finds her willing to be the other woman even though she knows it’s wrong. “No other man in this room tonight/ no other man in this town/ make me say these wicked words/ make me lay my conscience down./ Oh, honey, when it comes to you/ I ain’t got no shame/ you can have me anyway you like/ you can call me by her name.”
Damn, it would be tough to be faithful hearing those words, but Osborne reminds you of the woman you would hurt with the self-explanatory “I Know What’s Going On.” The moment the relationship ends is captured, from the smack in the face when the guy tells her she’s not the one, “Heart of Stone,” to hearing a guy end an affair on The Manhattans “Kiss and Say Goodbye.” He explains, “I won't be able to see you anymore/ Because of my obligations, and the ties that you have.”
The album concludes with two songs from Standing in the Shadows of Motown, a documentary about the session musicians known as The Funk Brothers, who played on the backing tracks to most Motown Records until 1972, when the company moved to Los Angeles. Osborne performs live with the band on Martha and the Vandellas “Heat Wave” and Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” both of which have been previously released on the film’s soundtrack album.
Discussing her creative process for this album, Osborne explains, “When writing songs in soul and R&B, a lot of it is about love and relationships and you have to go into your own relationship to make the writing ring true. I drew on a lot of personal experience for Breakfast in Bed, probably more than ever before.”
It’s too bad for her that she’s gone through all this, but lucky for all of us that we have this album to help us when we do.