Thank heavens for Amazon recommendations, or I would never have heard of Corinne Bailey Rae. Of course, after I first saw her name there, I found other music sites recommending her to me, and eventually started searching for clips of her music. After hearing selections on the Internet, as well as on the radio, and then saw her in one episode of “Studio 60”, I realized I had to have this debut album, and what a little charmer it is, with a collection of songs that is surprisingly refreshing.
Corinne’s genre is mostly soul music, but she never really stops at that. Inclusion of jazz elements, R&B/Blues, some light rock, and even a touch of rap, with the story-telling qualities of a good folk singer, make this a unique album indeed. That, combined with a vocal quality that has so much innocence its almost childlike, but with a clarity that proves she’s no newcomer and someone we’re not quickly going to forget. What really surprised me is that Soul, Blues and R&B are mostly the genres of American singers, but Rae’s a British artist from Leeds!
It’s not really easy to discuss the songs here, since there’s so much in each of them. But to talk about each song separately might give you the wrong impression of this album. For instance, the rap-like passage in “Enchantment” is a stark contrast to an otherwise smooth sounding blues song with orchestral strings accompaniment. This happens again in “I’d Like To” which brings in real R&B overtones with its snare drum keeping beat, and true Soul brass instrumentals with a funky vocal – just amazing. Another upbeat song is the hit “Put your Records on” that uses much of this same combination. Then she brings in acoustic guitar sounding almost like a harp in “Like a Star”, and what sounds like a gospel background vocals in “Till it Happens to You”. That orchestra comes back again giving a slightly 80s feel to “Call Me When You Get This” which sounds like it borders on disco.
Her story-telling ability comes through in the lyrics of her songs. In general her lyrics aren’t overly poetic, and in some spots, first listening might make you wonder how creative she is. For instance, “Breathless” tells of a woman who is secretly in love with her best friend. This isn’t a topic that’s never been sung about before, and while her lyrics aren’t veiled in metaphor, she also doesn’t totally say it straight. Certainly in “Butterfly” the idea of someone leaving like a butterfly isn’t a terribly original, but there’s an honesty there that overcomes the cliche. And then you get songs like (my personal favourite) “I’d Like To” which describes a neighbourhood scene that evokes pictures of a hot summer in some typical American inner city, lower class section of New York. She also has some lovely images in songs like “Like a Star” with lines such as “Just like a star across my sky/ Just like an angel off the page/ … Just like oil on my hands/ honour to love you”. No, it isn’t Shakespeare, but her words certainly set the proper mood for the tales she tells.
The overall mood of this CD is a very consistently laid-back one. While mostly Corinne sings heartfelt songs that are on the quiet side, there’s a nice mixture of more up-beat songs to keep this collection from feeling monotone or boring. This isn’t a record you’re going to want to get up and dance to, but it is interesting enough to keep your attention and not remain in the background. I personally find it perfect for listening to in the car, especially when I don’t want something blaring at me, that can also get me to sing along. Bailey Rae’s special voice quality has something to do with this. While her soprano range is fairly on the thin side, her lower register is very earthy, but without being rough. Here again, she shows two sides of her ability with the lighter side of her voice sounding sweet, and almost angelic, while her deeper tones give a sexy edge to other songs.
You can probably tell that I’ve really grown very fond of this album. Corinne’s voice is a pleasure to listen to, her genres are eclectic without clashing, her lyrics are evocative and her arrangements are interesting. Try as I may I cannot think of any reason not to highly recommend this album and give it a full five stars, and can’t wait for her next albums to come out.