Sunday, April 11, 2010

Corinne Bailey Rae: Love's Ebb and Flow

Although the album cover depicts Corinne Bailey Rae lying in the middle of a forest, surprisingly, her sophomore effort, The Sea, is aptly titled. The overall theme of The Sea is the ebb and flow of love. This album is a deeply emotional exploration of love--its ups and downs, ins and outs, and perhaps most evident, its "before and afters." Rae wrote songs for The Sea both prior to and after the death of her husband, saxophonist Jason Rae, in March 2008. On the surface, it's Rae's way of coping with the loss of her husband and trying to move forward. But after a close listen, The Sea is a wonderfully soulful hybrid of Rae's musical inspirations. The influence of the 1960s is evident on "Paper Dolls," from Leonard Cohen's instrumentation, the playful go-go sound of the British rock invasion and the rhythmic beat of Motown. "Closer" conjures up spirit of Marvin Gaye's I Want You and Let's Get It On respectively, in that she recreates his signature hallow, intimate sound with flourishes of keys, strings and horns. Lyrically (like Gaye), Rae wants to go to a deeper place with her lover, a place of intimacy not yet discovered: "I want you to journey with me/explore all the innocence/I don't mind us to build tension/but we've got to move in the same direction." Perhaps the most fleshed out work on The Sea is "I'd Do It All Again." It starts off gently with the calm sound of Rae's guitar, but then slowly turns into a lush, loud and soulful crescendo of her vocals, strings and drums (reminiscent of a Curtis Mayfield song) that will stir different emotions in you all at once. Lyrically, Rae also achieves a similar ebb and flow by first depicting love's hardships ("It's terrifying, life, through the darkness") and then ultimately proclaiming with pride that she would "do it all again." Alfred Lord Tennyson once said in a poem,"'Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all." Unsure if Rae fully agrees with Tennyson's now infamous words, but The Sea proves that despite a love lost, Corinne Bailey Rae is not afraid to fully explore it's ambiguities.

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