It’s a thin line between love and hate,” sang the Persuaders in their undying 1971 hit.
More than 40 years later, Joan Osborne blurs that line completely. She treats love and hate not as distinct forces but as evil allies, conspiring against hapless humans.
“Love and Hate” goes for a more prim and erudite sound, complete with a string section and the unconventional melodies of art-song. The opening, “Where We Start,” sets a pastoral string arrangement over an acoustic guitar, creating ideal chamber-folk. “Train” pairs a jazz guitar with lush gypsy orchestrations, while the title song offers a piano etude. The album ends with “Raga,” mixing East with West. In rare places, the music rocks, as in “Mongrels” (her most open embrace of hate). Its ’70s-style clavinet injects a bit of Steve Wonder funk.
The control of the music mirrors the contemplative tone of the lyrics. Hate is never unbridled, and love underlies even the most disappointed, or confused, stories.
Tellingly, only one song takes an entirely positive view, “Up All Night,” which centers on eros. Osborne shades the rest with poetic finesse and great longing. “If I had known I would miss you like this/I would have made movies of every kiss,” she sings. In the end, Osborne treats her title subjects with a necessary shrug. “Love and I,” she sings, “we’re not too well acquainted.”