Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Before She Was Famous- Norah Jones

I noticed Norah Jones has a new album (CD) out called, The Fall. The reviews are somewhat mixed and I heard it is a bit of a departure from her first three albums as she experiments with different sounds and collaborators with a more, "rock-oriented" sound. I haven't heard the new album yet, but I wasn't as crazy for her last album, Not Too Late, than her first two. I probably will buy the CD as a Christmas gift for someone (possibly in my household?), and I'll be sure to buy the deluxe edition that features a bonus disc of 6 songs performed live at the Living Room in New York City. It includes three Jones' originals as well as some juicy covers by Johnny Cash, Wilco and the Kinks.

Before Norah Jones released her first album, Come Away With Me, she put out a EP in 2001 called First Sessions. First Sessions was limited to about 5,000-10,000 copies and was actually a demo recording for the first album as 5 of the 6 songs were re-recorded and sometimes re-arranged for Come Away. For a more detailed analysis about this hard-to-find recording, I've posted a submitted review from a listener:

Although it was extremely hectic to come across for a non-staggering price during Jones' initial burst of hype and is still locatable solely on the expensive side, the "First Sessions" EP is a true treasure; a mirror of sorts that reflects what was to become "Come Away With Me," which went on to become the #7-selling female recording of the Soundscan (1991-present) Era at 9.2 million copies in the US alone. The arrangements of the songs here that went on to make "Come Away With Me"'s final cut, while not as sharp as what they would splendidly evolve to be, are certainly worthy of any ears who've come to appreciate Jones' music to a higher degree than the majority of her CD buyers. The only such track that does not follow that is "Turn Me On," which is near-indistinguishable from the "Come Away With Me" version. Like "Turn Me On," Jones' vocals on "Don't Know Why" are the same as they are on the version included on the mega-hit debut album, with an obviously differed arrangement. The bass and piano are distinctively less poignant and on-the-money than they would eventually become, but still shine brightly. "Come Away With Me" and "Lonestar," meanwhile, could very well have been included as 'Softer Version' alternative takes on CD singles or side projects. Indeed, these predecessors sound much more languid and laid-back than their 2002 counterparts would end up being, much to the chagrin of detractors of Jones' mellow sound. For listeners with the keen sense to sit back and savor the subtle beauty of the sound of Jones and her band, however, these two particular recordings are essentials. "Something Is Calling You," a splendid Jesse Harris-penned track that, while obviously out of place with the overall landscape of "Come Away With Me," matches the album's material in overall quality. The instrumentation, which begins with a consistent guitar solo that absolutely grabs hold of the heart with its profound beauty, along with cacophonous drum brushes, marries with Harris' stream-of-conscious lyrics and Jones' dreamy interpretation to produce an underrated gem in her catalog: "What difference/Do you think that it makes/If you give/Or if its you who takes?/I know it/I feel it/You do too/Just listen/You'll hear it calling you." The best kept secret, all things considered, of her catalog, however, is her cover of jazz legend Horace Silver's "Peace." Recorded solely with Jones introspective interpretation of Silver's lyrics, accompanied only by her passionate, flawless piano-playing, this is for certain the best track the legend-in-the-making has recorded thus far in her young career: "When you find peace of mind/Leave your worries behind/Don't say that it can't be done/With a new point of view/Life's true meaning comes to you/And the freedom you seek is won/Peace is for everyone." Overall, "First Sessions," while only existent among a limited pressing of 5,000 copies, is positively worth attaining if you are a bonafide appreciator of Jones and her music. One listen to this will make such fans wonder why the hype that surrounded her didn't come all the more soon than it did.
Rudy Palma "The Writing Fiend" (NJ) - See all my reviews

First Sessions (2001)
  1. "Don't Know Why" (Harris) – 3:11
  2. "Come Away with Me" (Jones) – 3:06
  3. "Something Is Calling You" (Harris) – 3:25
  4. "Turn Me On" (Loudermilk) – 2:37
  5. "Lonestar" (Alexander) – 3:07
  6. "Peace" (Silver) – 3:51
Edit note: Sorry, I had to remove the offending download links.

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