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I have been having a bit of a purchasing spree on itunes (just for a change), and had forgotten how much I like/liked Sinead O'Connor, so I have just bought the album (cheaper than individual tunes), please note that the running order on iTunes is slightly different from the bought CD.
Sinead O'Connor is a somewhat enigmatic character that sometimes gets much more press for her behaviour and antics than she does/has for her music. I did a review of Amy Winehouse recently and for me there are similarities, however, I find too many reviews focus on too much that has little to do with the product reviewed, so I intend to focus on the album and the music therein. There is no doubt however that without her background and life experiences she would not have made some of the songs that she has, nor put the feeling into them which is the 'signature' of her work.
1. Nothing compares 2 U
The first track on the album, predictably as it is iconic, one of the best selling singles of all time and a video which has become an absolute classic, who can forget the tear rolling down the cheek? Originally written by Prince, or the artist formerly known as uphisass, it is a haunting, melancholic melody that has lyrics that tend to remind anyone of any break up in their lives. I would have started the album with an earlier track however.
Without doubt, the song that launched Sineads career, an absolute stormer of a track, full of anger, energy and an unbelievable vocal range used to it's limits. For my mind Sineads greatest song, punky, yet kind of new age too, fab.
3. The emperors new clothes
A kind of 'autobiographical' song of her rise to fame, much to self indulgent for my liking though the tune is very catchy and I find myself liking it in spite of the lyrics.
4. The last day of our acquaintance
More angst, the story of a break up. I once heard Sinead say that all her heartbreak was terrible for her but great for the record companies, how true. This for me is one of those you love it or don't tracks, I don't.
5. Fire on Babylon
Very reggae inspired bass lines, and surprise, surprise, quite 'tortured', certainly one to make one sit up and listen, I never liked this when it first came out, it has grown on me. A story about her relationship with her mother which sounds awful, great use of the voice as melody to compliment the bass and harmonies.
Very 'scratchy' use of her voice, I love this, the only thing I can liken it to is Skunk Anansie if anyone remembers her, you really have to listen to this track and get taken in to the haunting song.
7. I am stretched on your grave
I love this song, especially the Irish jig in the middle of the track, the dominant drum beat over the whole of this track reminds me of festivals and late nights with people 'doing' percussion with whatever comes to hand, very Earthy, new age, yet quite primeval too, probably my 2nd favourite Sinead track.
8. Success has made a failure of our home
One of Sineads tracks from the 'Am I not your girl?' album, a journey into 40's, 50's and 60's music, great album, not the best song featured here though, I would have included 'Scarlet ribbons'. That being said it is a great rendition that showpieces her voice well. I would love to hear Sinead sing some more jazz standards.
9. John I love you
Bit self indulgent for me. A song to one of her children, very sweet, very sickly, I hate it, it obviously means a lot to her, yuk.
10. Empire - Bomb the Bass (featuring Benjamin Zephaniah)
Benjamin Zephiniah is a legend, so the fact that he collaborates with Sinead is a real recognition of her talents in my opinion. A kind of Jah Wobble like electronic, Bass/trance/ambient thing that should only ever be played at 4 am in a field with people off their heads on Ecstacy, not that i would know of course.
11. I want (your hands on me)
Like Mandinka and Troy, from Sineads first album, great catchy, Earthy sexy song in a 'punky' way. Love this, has a very 'raw' feel.
12. Heroine (theme from Captive)
Just don't get this, never saw the film, maybe that's why.
13. Don't cry for me Argentina
Also from the 'Am I not your girl?' album. A famous song, that I have to say, she does great justice to, there is a silkiness to her voice and a level of 'soul' that makes you believe what she sings, very, very competent.
14. You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart
No, not more angst, only this is a pale imitation of her better songs, more like pop angst.
15. Just like you said it would be
Another from the first album, fantastic, in fact the more I write this review, the more I realise that the first album, Lion and Cobra is a classic, this album isn't.
There are some fantastic songs that are, for some reason not included; 'Black boys on mopeds' for one.
So to sum up, not the best so far in my opinion, but not far off. What the album does show well is the depth of her talent and the versatility of styles that she has in her repetoire from punk, to reggae, to jazz to almost classical singing.
There is no doubt that she can sing, boy can she sing. I would give the album a 7/10, nothing to bad, but not a 'blow away' album either, though a couple of songs are amazing. In retrospect, it would have been more cost effective to download a few tracks , not the album.
This is an updated version of a review that I previously posted on Ciao.com.
Whether she’s ripping up a picture of the Pope on American television, declaring her lesbianism or becoming a priest, Sinead O’Connor is never too far away from the headlines. This is despite the fact that most people can only name one of her singles (which incidentally was the only one to date ever to breach the UK Top 10). However, her 1997 collection ‘So Far The Best Of…’ indicates that her work was often just as interesting as her antics in the media. Her biggie, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, is undoubtedly one of the finest cover versions of all time. Originally written by Prince for one of his proteges, O’Connor made it her own with a scintillating emotional vocal that seemed to be 20-something years of bottled-up pain released in 4 minutes. Helped by a memorable video which saw a spontaneous tear roll down her cheek (allegedly caused by the lyric ‘all the flowers that you planted mama’, which was particularly poignant given her mother’s death just weeks before the shoot), it rose to number one on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite that song giving the public a the image of her being a weeping willow, the rest of this album demonstrates that whilst she is vulnerable and fragile, she also has her moments where she can be angry and feisty too. Her debut, largely forgotten in the wake of her future fame, was the Top 20 hit ‘Mandinka’. A young shaven-headed Irish girl with her guitar and grimace, she was the polar opposite to her musical peers. Whilst perhaps this put some people off, ‘Mandinka’ was a fantastically hummable track which made the most of her rangy vocal. Like ‘Mandinka’, another passionately sung track with more of a rock edge is ‘Fire In Babylon’, where she wails for her life. Her follow-up to ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, ‘The Emporer’s New Clothes’ is also included and is more ene
rgised than some of the more sedate and emotional songs. One of the most interesting tracks is ‘Thankyou For Hearing Me’, which is unusual in that it lacks a chorus. Almost psalm-like in its structure, it’s a minimalist song with some slightly Eastern-instrumentation and is packed with emotion as she documents the end of the relationship that meant the world to her. Whilst O’Connor is not a big-voiced diva, but there is a sharpness and clarity to her voice which is refreshing to listen to and has never sounded better than on this song. Equally intriguing was her choice to cover Julie Covington’s ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ from the film ‘Evita’. Pre-dating Madonna’s version, it maintains the theatricals of the original, and seems surprisingly apt for the tenderness of Sinead’s voice. Possibly the most under-rated track on here is ‘Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home’. Whilst moderately successful in the singles chart, it is an epic that deserved much more acclaim. Very stage-like with its sweeping strings and complex orchestral arrangements, it starts off gently before building up to an amazing climax where O’Connor sings with an awesome passion and intensity. Absolutely beautiful and impossible to imagine anyone else singing. Some of the other interesting songs include ‘Empire’, which was her experimental electronic collaboration with dance-pioneer Tim Simenon (Bomb The Bass) whilst ‘I Am Stretched On Your Grave’ is a million miles away, but just as interesting and listenable. The late 90’s and early 00’s say Sinead mellow out somewhat, and is now happily married. After releasing a couple of more solo albums such as ‘Universal Mother’ and the Irish-folk cover collection ‘Sean Nos Nua’, she collaborated on Massive Attack’s comeback single ’Special Case
s’ before announcing her retirement from music, although on past form this is unlikely to be permanent. Aside from the more recent ‘Jealous’, her best work is on display here, and is an excellent place to investigate her sound. Whilst her minimalism is undoubtedly not for everyone, and some may still fail to shed her baggage and listen to her music objectively, O’Connor possesses one of the more intricate voices in modern times, and on these songs, the song-writing ability to match it.
What can I say / not say about Sinead O'Connor? For years I have found her magical music haunting, fragile, beautiful and, put rather simply (as opposed to commonplace diva ‘artistes’ like Tina Turner), the best. Yet sometimes I find myself unique in my views. I don’t know if it’s a female versus male thing here but many of the men who have come into contact with me playing this music seem to hate it along with then hating me for playing it. When I was playing this album last week one of my dear, male mates said, “turn that crap off!” A few years ago when I was planning to see the film ‘The Butcher Boy’ in which O’Connor plays a tiny cameo as the Virgin Mary, another male friend said “I’m not going to see that bloody film if SHE’S in it!” So what’s the problem with Sinéad O’Connor; what’s wrong with the music, the voice or the person? To presume in advance on her music and persona, could it be that people can’t forgive her honesty, and at that, her femininity? Talking music now, this fifteen track collection starts with Nothing Compares 2 U which, in spite of its popularity, is something I would not credit as her best piece. This song, popularly penned by Prince, is sparse in melody and rhythm but can’t help seeming like a qualified downer to start the collection. If you like the song but not the vibe, check out Prince’s slightly more upbeat version. However, the tone changes as Mandinka follows with its mad, moronic but again very musical energy. The Emperor’s New Clothes follows this dusky vibe and from here O’Connor’s album, and her quest for identity, really does start to set off. I could go on to quote every piece that follows as a classic piece (and they are!) but in particular (the dramatic) Troy, (the regretful) Success Has Made a Failure Of Our Home, (the lilting) You Made Me The Thie
f Of Your Heart (listen to the Irish vibes here) and (the sheer musical) Just Like You Said It Would Be - showcase O'Connor's unique spellbinding talents and her need for exquisite if again feminine, drama. At first you can wonder why the musical Rice/Webber ‘clanger’ of a song ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ appears on this collection (which could and should possibly be kept just for ‘originals’) – but if anything this piece does illustrate what can be described as the delicate beauty of the singer’s voice. The secret, in fact, to enjoying this album does come with each song and, within this, finding a hidden purity in both the music and the lyrics. O'Connor's voice proves to be continuous mixture of soft and sharp as she sings her tome of everything from sensual vulnerability to isolation. As a music fan, I know that O'Connor has come into a lot of criticism for her beliefs and her inbuilt, shameless sense of extreme and sometimes admittedly melodramatic drama. At the same time all I can say is thank goodness that there is an artist around who is so original. It is hard for most music to be like this collection, a fact that makes this album so rare and so plainly ‘good’ that it surely has to be treasured. Whatever your preconceptions of O’Connor may be (men take note here!), I would ask you in your heart of hearts to give her a chance. Get hold of a copy of this, close your eyes, look out the window and wait for the storm to come over the sea. PS. If any there are actually any males out there who DO like this album – please let me know! You may just be a rare breed – something I’ve never come across before! Track listing: Nothing Compares 2 U, Mandinka, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Last Day of Our Acquaintance, Fire On Babylon, Troy, I Am Stretched On Your Grave, Success Has Made A Failu
re of Our Home, John I Love You, Empire, I Want Your (Hands On Me), Heroine, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, You Made Me The Thief of Your Heart, Just Like U Said It Would B
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Nothing compares 2 U
3 Thank you for hearing me
5 The last day of our acquaintance
6 Fire on Babylon
8 I am stretched on your grave
10 Success has made a failure of our home
11 John I love you
12 Empire - Bomb the Bass (featuring Benjamin Zephanian & Sinead O'Connor)
13 Don't cry for me argentina
14 You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart
15 This is a rebel song