Norah Jones

Come Away With Me (Blue Note Recordings 02) Rating: B+
After slowly but steadily building up a solid fan base, Norah Jones, daughter of sitar legend Ravi Shankar, stole the show at the 2002 Grammy Awards, winning five of them. Snicker if you must, for the Academy's long and ignominious history deserves nothing less, but I can see why this album has appealed to so many people. I can see several of these songs appearing on "smooth jazz," "adult contemporary," or "modern pop" radio stations, and she has a pretty voice that she knows how to use (she knows the value of subtle restraint). In addition, the album (impeccably produced by the legendary Arif Mardin) exudes a calm warmth that makes it perfect for winding down to. Of course, these are the album's fatal flaws as well; too often the album is too restrained, causing it to fade into the background as pleasant but insubstantial mood music. A little more energy and variety would've done this album a lot of good, though there are subtle touches here and there to distinguish one piano-based ballad from the next (the cool percussion on "Seven Years," the mournful violin on "I've Got To See You Again," and the snazzy sax on "Painter Song, for example"). There are standout songs as well, with "Don't Know Why," "One Flight Down," and the stunning title track coming immediately to mind, while "Feelin' The Same Way," "Shoot The Moon," "You Turn Me On," and "Nightingale" are other high quality songs. That said, given the similar mood most of these smoky torch songs share, the album probably contains a few tracks too many of them (though it clocks in at very reasonable 45 minutes), as there are times throughout the album that you'll likely find yourself becoming bored and losing interest. Still, there's much to like on what is a classy, highly accomplished debut album, and it was good to see a pretty young woman make it big based solely on her musical accomplishments. I would suspect that even better musical happenings lie in Ms. Jones' future, though it's unlikely that she'll ever again command center stage quite like she did this past year.

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