Similar artists

Albums

£10.99£17.49
£7.99£12.49

Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Recoils from fame usually aren't as subdued as Norah Jones' third album, Not Too Late, but such understatement is customary for this gentlest of singer/songwriters. Not Too Late may not be as barbed or alienating as either In Utero or Kid A -- it's not an ornery intensification of her sound nor a chilly exploration of its furthest limits -- but make no mistake, it is indeed a conscious abdication of her position as a comfortable coffeehouse crooner and a move toward art for art's sake. And, frankly, who can blame Jones for wanting to shake off the Starbucks stigmata? Although a large part of her appeal has always been that she sounds familiar, like a forgotten favorite from the early '70s, Jones is too young and too much of a New York bohemian to settle into a role as a nostalgia peddler, so it made sense that she started to stretch a little after her 2004 sophomore set, Feels Like Home, proved that her surprise blockbuster 2002 debut, Come Away with Me, was no fluke. First, there was the cabaret country of her Little Willies side band, then there was her appearance on gonzo art rocker Mike Patton's Peeping Tom project, and finally there's this hushed record, her first containing nothing but original compositions. It's also her first album recorded without legendary producer Arif Mardin, who helmed her first two albums, giving them a warm, burnished feel that was nearly as pivotal to Jones' success has her sweet, languid voice. Mardin died in the summer of 2006, and in his absence, Jones recorded Not Too Late at the home studio she shares with her collaborator, bassist and boyfriend Lee Alexander. Although it shares many of the same sonic characteristics as Jones' first two albums, Not Too Late boasts many subtle differences that add up to a distinctly different aesthetic. Jones and Alexander have stripped Norah's music to its core. Gone are any covers of pop standards, gone are the studio pros, gone is the enveloping lushness that made Come Away with Me so easy to embrace, something that Not Too Late is most decidedly not. While this might not have the rough edges of a four-track demo, Not Too Late is most certainly music that was made at home with little or no consideration of an audience much larger than Jones and Alexander. It's spare, sometimes skeletal, often sleepy and lackadaisical, wandering from tunes plucked out on acoustic guitars and pianos to those with richer full-band arrangements. Norah Jones has never exactly been lively -- part of her charm was her sultry slowness, ideal for both Sunday afternoons and late nights -- but the atmosphere here is stultifying even if it's not exactly unpleasant. After all, unpleasantness seems to run contrary to Jones' nature, and even if she dabbles in Tom Waits-ian carnivalesque stomps ("Sinkin' Soon") or tentatively stabs at politics ("My Dear Country"), it never feels out of place; often, the shift is so subtle that it's hard to notice. That subtlety is the biggest Achilles' heel on Not Too Late, as it manifests itself in songs that aren't particularly distinctive or performances that are particularly varied. There are exceptions to the rule and they all arrive with full-band arrangements, whether it's the lazy jazz shuffle of "Until the End," the country-tinged "Be My Somebody," or the wonderful laid-back soul of "Thinking About You." These are songs that not only sound full but they sound complete, songs that have a purposeful flow and are memorable for both their melody and sentiment. They would have been standouts on Feels Like Home, but here they are even more distinctive because the rest of the record plays like a sketchbook, capturing Jones and Alexander figuring out how to move forward after such great success. Instead of being the end result of those experiments, the completed painting after the sketch, Not Too Late captures their process, which is interesting if not quite compelling. But its very release is a clear statement of artistic purpose for Jones: its ragged, unfinished nature illustrates that she's more interested in pursuing her art than recycling Come Away with Me, and if this third album isn't as satisfying as that debut, it nevertheless is a welcome transitional effort that proves her artistic heart is in the right place. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
£17.49
£12.49

Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Hi-Res
£19.49
£13.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Hi-Res
It may be far too obvious to even mention that Norah Jones' follow-up to her 18-million-unit-selling, eight-Grammy-winning, genre-bending, super-smash album Come Away with Me has perhaps a bit too much to live up to. But that's probably the biggest conundrum for Jones: having to follow up the phenomenal success of an album that was never designed to be so hugely popular in the first place. Come Away with Me was a little album by an unknown pianist/vocalist who attempted to mix jazz, country, and folk in an acoustic setting -- who knew? Feels Like Home could be seen as "Come Away with Me Again" if not for that fact that it's actually better. Smartly following the template forged by Jones and producer Arif Mardin, there is the intimate single "Sunrise," some reworked cover tunes, some interesting originals, and one ostensible jazz standard. These are all good things, for also like its predecessor, Feels Like Home is a soft and amiable album that frames Jones' soft-focus Aretha Franklin voice with a group of songs that are as classy as they are quiet. Granted, not unlike the dippy albeit catchy hit "Don't Know Why," they often portend deep thoughts but come off in the end more like heartfelt daydreams. Of course, Jones could sing the phone book and make it sound deep, and that's what's going to keep listeners coming back. What's surprising here are the bluesy, more jaunty songs that really dig into the country stylings only hinted at on Come Away with Me. To these ends, the infectious shuffle of "What Am I to You?" finds Jones truly coming into her own as a blues singer as well as a writer. Her voice has developed a spine-tingling breathy scratch that pulls on your ear as she rises to the chorus. Similarly, "Toes" and "Carnival Town" -- co-written by bassist Lee Alexander and Jones -- are pure '70s singer/songwriting that call to mind a mix of Rickie Lee Jones and k.d. lang. Throw in covers of Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt along with Duke Ellington's "Melancholia," retitled here "Don't Miss You at All" and featuring lyrics by Jones, and you've got an album so blessed with superb songwriting that Jones' vocals almost push the line into too much of a good thing. Thankfully, there is also a rawness and organic soulfulness in the production that's refreshing. No digital pitch correction was employed in the studio and you can sometimes catch Jones hitting an endearingly sour note. She also seems to be making good on her stated desire to remain a part of a band. Most all of her sidemen, who've worked with the likes of Tom Waits and Cassandra Wilson, get writing credits. It's a "beauty and the beast" style partnership that harks back to the best Brill Building-style intentions and makes for a quietly experimental and well-balanced album. ~ Matt Collar
£19.49
£13.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Hi-Res

Artist

Norah Jones in the magazine
  • Qobuz: Exclusive Interview with Norah Jones
    Qobuz: Exclusive Interview with Norah Jones Ahead of her new album release this coming Friday, 7th October, Marc Zisman of Qobuz had the opportunity to sit with the world renowned jazz artist to chat about life, music, and more...