Four years have passed since Corinne Bailey Rae’s phenomenal debut and it would be an understatement to say that much water has since passed under her metaphorical bridge. I mean – the album sold four million copies; there were special de-luxe editions; she’s won all kinds of awards and sold-out concerts world-wide; she’s feted everywhere and then … so, so tragically her husband was taken. You know, I’d guess that Ms Bailey Rae would sacrifice each and every one of those albums sold (special editions or not), give back every award, refund every concert ticket and roll back every single red carpet to have him back. It’s never going to happen, of course, so maybe, just maybe, Leeds’ finest has found some solace in making new music… and it would be easy to say that ‘The Sea’ is a tribute album – hugely influenced by the death of Jason. Tracks like ‘Are You Here’ and the title cut are languid and moody and have loss stamped all over them. Musically, though, they suggest that Ms. Bailey Rae’s sound hasn’t changed that much. Equally ‘Feels Like The First Time’ and the churchy ‘Love’s On Its Way’ could both have come from that debut and as such they’ll please the legions who bought the collection. Clearly they look back, but there’s a generous selection of cuts that take the music in newer direction and those who previously found the Corinne Bailey Rae sound a little too languidly bed-sit could do worse than investigate. ‘The Blackest Lily’ is a case in point. It’s stripped down, very bassy and almost rocky. Different again is the lovely ‘Closer’ -a tune that will appeal to nu-soul fans, the smarter R&B crew and tasteful in-between soulies. There’s a real edge to it. ‘Paper Dolls’ is a breezy pop tune with a crazy organ making it sound like a lost 60’s cult classic – but the catchiest and most “up” cut is ‘Paris Night/New York Mornings’. Coming in on a simple guitar riff, it will appeal right across the FM radio spectrum and prove a perfect launch pad for the album, which – despite the tragic circumstances that surround it – is a clever, beguiling and attractive sophomore set.
(BB) 4/5