Corinne Bailey Rae: The Sea

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Amid personal tragedy, the UK singer is revived with spunk and musical ambition on new record

“Turn Your Records On” was a gold record, if one knew it or not. The UK singer-songwriter earned her share of accolades for the song after nabbing three Grammy nods and even securing the highly-coveted New Artist of the Year award. Remarkably even with its pop melody, it skyrocketed to #1 on UK’s R&B charts; putting Corinne Bailey Rae in between a rock and a hard place in the U.S. Should EMI groom her as a R&B singer and call it a day? Her style, mixed with Brit soul and a relaxed Norah Jones swag, didn’t make her an easy fit in the diva-hardcore layouts of urban R&B radio. Still, with a notable debut, a successful international single and some guest appearances with superstars like Herbie Hancock, John Legend and Al Green gave her all the room to expound from her humble beginnings.

Three years since her self-titled entry and after rebounding from the tragedy of losing her husband Jason Rae, she comes back with a collection of new songs on The Sea. It’s a more relaxed, tranquil record slapped with a bundle of neat surprises. It doesn’t sound like an album birth out of grief, but a woman willing to immerse herself into her work using spirited dedication. There’s a lot of longing and beautified reminiscing in the mix like on the Memphis soul-styled “Are You Here” and the “break-up-to-make-up” lyrics of “I’d Do It All Again.” And the album proves Rae’s far from a R&B novice as some were quick to force upon her. “Feels Like the First Time” works out a smart Alicia Keys piano opening and dangles on the street beats of inner city neo-soul. And “Closer,” a bad sexy track that marches with such a unignorable, seductive charm, gives Me’lissa Morgan’s “Do Me Baby” some major competition. But it’s when she jumps into a fiery Rolling Stones territory (“The Blackest Lily”) and the Hawaii Five-O cool ‘60s rock (“Paper Dolls,” “Paris Night”) where Rae takes on new dimensions and adds new textures to her secured soulful entity.

Thankfully, on this record, she isn’t allowing the lyrics and music to outshine her vocal enthusiasm. She simmers longer in her coos, even tossing out more brighter notes than before. Certainly listeners will lump her quickly into a posh coffeeshop bracket, particularly after the first three or four songs. But it’s seasoned with more ups than downs. It’s a mystery on how she was able to get through a project after enduring a tragic love lost. But maybe the album title is enough revelation power for us to understand her personal look on love. Where else can you find a good place to reminiscence, to experience bliss and to cast the ashes of the past but at the coastal lines of the sea. Using strong metamorphic twists and a sensible musical brightness underneath her honey-coated pipes, Rae has both baffled and entertained us with this one.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 28 Jan 2010
  • Label: Capitol/EMI
  • Producers: Steve Brown, Steve Chrisanthou, Corinne Bailey Rae
  • Track Favs: Closer, Feels Like the First Time, The Blackest Lily, Paper Dolls, Are You Here

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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