First Impressions: Healing Through Music, Corinne Bailey Rae Shows You The Way

Monday, January 25, 2010

For anyone who has gone through a period of loss, whether it was the loss of a loved one or loss of sense of self, Corinne Bailey Rae has crafted an album that fits all those moods and more, breathing life into the mindset that music does indeed heal and console the human spirit.  

We know of the tragedy that occurred in Rae's life, that dealt with the death of her husband, saxophonist Jason Rae and we can understand why Rae stepped out of the spotlight. Three years Rae was silent, and now she has sliced through the quiet and is healing through music and what has come of it is her sonic sophomore effort, The Sea. Though it's unfair to quote Madonna in a review for a Rae record, but it comes to mind that The Sea is Rae's "Substitute For Love", a comfort of sorts, a blank journal that is now filled with words and emotions, used to bring peace of mind and to remain grounded. The album achieves this, and shows that Rae has evolved as a songwriter and as a performer.

It took a few listens, the right mood and just the right amount of acceptance, to understand that The Sea is not a typical foray into soul/folk territory, that there is more beneath the waves of its aquatic existence and that this is an album immersed in growth.


Flashback to 2006 when Corinne Bailey Rae sprinkled summery sunshine down with her debut single, "Put Your Records On". People stood up, took notice and started having an appreciation for that natural Soul sound again, mirroring what Tracy Chapman and Joan Amstrading achieved decades ago. Rae's self-titled debut was warm and inviting and purely showed off a promising talent. Now the talent that Rae possesses has swelled with The Sea, yet the laid-back afternoon sun experience of her debut is long gone, replaced with songs that resonate doubt, yearn, reflection and most importantly loss.

The slower, more pensive cuts are naturally the darkest moments, yet songs like the punk thrust of "Paper Dolls" wallows in angst and sorrow. The first single, "I'd Do It All Again" still rests heavy on the heart, as does the crying, "Diving for Hearts" which rock exterior echoes.

A chromatic piano intro sinisterly opens up "Feels Like The First Time", then it goes into a lush percussion driven coo. The tempo changes and Rae's tone variations in this song really add a unique flavor to the track.
"Blackest Lily", on the other hand, slinks its way in with the greatest of ease, as it rides on its gritty rock meets organ laden Blues with great force.
The boisterous "Closer" is perfect in all kinds of context, feeling like Marvin Gaye, yet stepping into something a bit more rawer and seductive. The surge of brass and strings gives the track a sleeker edge, and it's no doubt a highlight.
Rae through her pain, experimented thoroughly with the sounds on the record, as songs like "Feels Like The First Time" and the classic rock-a-billy sounds of "Paris Nights/New York Mornings" feel homegrown and the arrangements quite inventive. On first listen, this album seemed to not really resonate, as everything seemed to sound alike and everything gelled together, but multiple spins changed the mind to formulate that this isn't an instant like, it's an album that might not appeal to many but will have you coming back to hear something that wasn't heard the first time around. In a sense, The Sea is a tough pill to swallow, even with a glass of water, but once understood, it shows a blossoming artist at work.

Rating: 8.4/10
Release Date: January 25, 2010

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