Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea

If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would you think the boy is strange? Ain't he strange?


Four years after the stunning global success of her debut album Corinne Bailey Rae is back to spill her heart over the stage. Only it seems that Mick was wrong, it isn’t only rock n roll after all, it is real life and desperate tragedy that bears the listener safely across The Sea. This is an album for anyone who has a heart, and serves as a wake-up call to appreciate the time that you have for, as Corinne laments we didn’t know...

The we, of course, being Corinne and husband Jason Rae and what they didn’t know was that he’d die tragically young. Somehow Bailey Rae has summoned the strength to turn tragedy into art and has, with the considered assistance of Steve Brown, crafted a sumptuous, organic album which has the timeless elegance, style and beauty of Marvin Gaye in his prime. A Sunday morning record then but, as you might imagine, there’s nothing easy about this Sunday morning. Tempering the raw pain, Bailey is blessed with an impossibly soulful voice which puts the sword to Duffy and the gaggle of Karaoke pretenders who’ve arrived on the scene in Bailey Rae’s absence. This, however, is the real deal. This is what it sounds like when turtledoves cry. What Brown brings to the album is an atmosphere of temperance, strings occasionally swirl and raise Bailey Rae up to the heavens but there’s no place here for unseemly guitar histrionics.

The Sea may be saturated with a sense of grief and loss but it is striking to note that the reflective ‘I’d Do It All Again’ was written a few months before the loss of her husband and deals not with mortality but with domestic squabbles. The fact that it is released in a week where the phrase ‘I’d do it all again’ has been headline news, due to a defiant Tony Blair performance, is bizarre serendipity.

This is an album which truly does undulate like the sea and ‘The Blackest Lily’ belies its maudlin title to form a swell which edges Bailey Rae back towards the dancefloor with a driving Motown bassline. It proves to be a fleeting moment of hope and by the time we arrive at ‘I Would Like To Call It Beauty’ the album has slowed to a sedate pace; this tender, soulful ballad appearing to herald an initial coming to terms with tragedy. Certainly it is a low water mark and from here the tide comes rushing back in with the stylised pop rush of ‘Paris Nights/New York Mornings’, which is as evocative as a Truffaut poster and has an effervescent groove as essential as anything the Style Council ever released. ‘Paper Dolls’ struggles to maintain the upbeat mood but the tide is already rushing back out, disturbing the rumbling rocks and exposing new shore to the elements.

Closing track ‘The Sea’ is where we part, and it appears to represent a tender, public farewell to her lost love. Corinne Bailey Rae has come a long way though and doesn’t give in that easily; the whole album, she tells us, was made to try and impress Jason Bruce Rae. It can’t fail.



out of 10

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