corinne bailey rae, the sea (virgin)

session musicians removes salt from the sea!

At the core of this record lie some gentle picked guitar and some lovely sweet and sad vocals from Corinne Bailey Rae. Unfortunately the record is elsewhere over-run with session musicians. Technically proficient but too often unburdened by human souls, session musicians spent much of the twentieth century digesting the ‘hard bits’ of pop before regurgitating it all in music that didn’t need hard bits in the first place. This phenomenon might be described as the ‘plague’ of session musicians.

I was under the impression that this disease had been effectively eradicated by all-powerful programmers come producers come multi-instruments who don’t really need the dreaded SMs to do their work. But apparently there’s still a place for these throwbacks in the musical ecosystem, making records safe for – well, for dinner parties. On The Sea, their excessive tastefulness is swept aside on occasion by string sections, choirs and the interventions of the producer (‘Are You Here’, ‘Love Is On Its Way’ and ‘Diving For Hearts’ and ‘The Sea’ are genuinely lovely) but elsewhere if there’s an edge to blunt or a rawness to overcook, a man with an instrument strapped too high on his chest, an inappropriate expression on his face (they generally are blokes) and a 1980s tour jacket to show for his experience is there to do it.

Genius pop music is often the product of hunger and pain (literal and metaphorical) and you can hear that hunger in the voice of Corinne Bailey Rae. The accompanying guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, however, all sound indecently well fed.

Patrick Freyne

Key Track: ‘Love Is On Its Way’

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