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With Theology, Sinéad re-invigorates the ancient genre of the hymn in her own inimitable way, and brings it back to a contemporary public.

Rating: 9 / 10

Adrienne Murphy, 21 Jun 2007

I first heard about Theology, Sinéad O’Connor’s new double album, two years ago in Jamaica, where I had the good fortune to hang with and interview her for a couple of days while she promoted Throw Down Your Arms, her 2005 reggae excursion. We had a long chat about the whole concept of Theology, for which Sinéad had only as yet written a couple of ‘hymns’ (“though I prefer to call them ‘hers’,” she said).

I found this part of our Jamaican conversation hugely enjoyable. Sinéad is the real deal when it comes to the spirit, and has a deeply erudite knowledge of our world’s sacred texts. I’ve been waiting with eager anticipation for Theology since, and after letting it sink deep over the last few days, I'm pleased to report it doesn't disappoint.

Fair play to Sinéad for re-invigorating the ancient genre of the hymn in her own inimitable way, and bringing it back to a contemporary public. So many of us frequently feel lost in the spiritual wilderness of this violent world; here is a record that can help heal this particular pain. Sinéad has explained: “Theology is an attempt to create a place of peace in a time of war and to provoke thought.” Well, the attempt bears rich fruit. The tracks here truly envelop this listener in a big warm hug of comfort, gentle courage, serenity, celebration, inspiration and an exquisitely pure joy.

The two records comprising Theology feature pretty much the same songs. The ‘Dublin Sessions’ side, produced by Steve Cooney, is minimalist and acoustic, while the tracks on ‘London Sessions’ are fleshed out with full band arrangements including strings, brass, flute and programming. With their very different moods, the ‘London’ and ‘Dublin Sessions’ respectively nourish two different aspects of spiritual longing: the soul’s yearning for a sense of reverence and awe, and its equal need for spiritual intimacy, comfort and familiarity.

During our time in Jamaica, Sinéad told me about a spiritual entity who visited her and comforted her in a moment of terrifying crisis when she was a young child. She promised this being at the time that she would alert others to its existence when she was older (a promise she alludes to in ‘Something Beautiful’, the opening track of Theology). Sinéad’s latest offering is a beautiful fulfillment of that promise made long ago.

Rating: 9 / 10

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