Norah Jones – Not Too Late (2007): Review

Nottoolate

Produced by Lee Alexander
Label – Blue Note/EMI

If gentle under statement were the method of furthering a successful career, then Norah Jones has wrapped herself in it like a warm quilt. Granted, her 20 million selling Grammy award winning debut from 2002 “Come Away With Me” was hardly high octane, with its coffee house jazz, filled every dinner party conversation pause. In essence “Not Too Late” verges on a quiet adventure into the unknown. The signature Norah Jones lush production and soulful tunes created alongside the late Arif Mardin have been replaced by sparse acoustics, baring down the melodies to a more earthy and personal flavour. There’s no nostalgia for those wishing for the more familiar sound of Norah Jones, with exception to the sweet languid vocal performance. In addition, every composition is her own as she transparently asks the listener to judge the material on its own merits. There’s a pervading sense of melancholia not witnessed in any previous recording, which oddly adds an unusual intrigue.

norah-jones-6

With Mardin’s passing Jones retrenched to her home studio with boyfriend musician Lee Alexander and the album opens with the superb orchestral arrangement that envelopes “Wish I Could”. Its a story of a friend’s love for an Iraq bound soldier and Norah’s offer of support to the woman whilst she’s unable to tell her that she also holds a torch for the very same man. It’s one of the few war stories that is apolitical, but Jones isn’t afraid to let the U.S. administration off the hook, as her passionate Piano ballad “My Dear Country” shows a unusually lyrically angered Norah as she asks “who knows, maybe he’s not deranged”. Her voice however retains its burnished beauty. That’s just not the way the very professional Ms. Jones show her ire, for after all she’s a self assured performer, unlikely to let the veil slip. The stripped down sounds work well on the whole, bearing more resemblance to country than jazz, barring the burlesque shuffle “Sinkin’ Soon”. There are moments however where the almost skeletal emptiness leads to a lack of instrumental drive and assertiveness which creates a “wishy washy” empty effect, particularly on “Not My Friend”, “Broken”, “Wake Me Up” and “Little Room”.

“Not Too Late” may come as a shock to many of her legions, and in many respects the complete change in musical emphasis and sound could cause a fall. It’s highly doubtful, because Jones plays her high profile role perfectly. She’s the coy boho who steers well away from the pandering of the teen based pop media and there’s enough here to keep her somewhere around the top of the charts.

7/10

Track Listing
1. “Wish I Could” 4:17
2. “Sinkin’ Soon” 4:37
3. “The Sun Doesn’t Like You” 2:59
4. “Until the End” 3:55
5. “Not My Friend” 2:54
6. “Thinking About You” 3:20
7. “Broken” 3:20
8. “My Dear Country” 3:24
9. “Wake Me Up” 2:46
10. “Be My Somebody” 3:36
11. “Little Room” 2:43
12. “Rosie’s Lullaby” 3:56
13. “Not Too Late” 3:31

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