Sinéad O’Connor: ‘Collaborations’

‘Collaborations’ is the latest release from troubled Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor, whose only true commercial hit ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ left an indelible mark on the masses 15 years ago.

Sadly, after many years of personal struggles in the public eye, her star has dimmed considerably: where her name was once on everyone’s lips, it is now barely muttered. But, unbeknownst to most, she has kept very busy over the years (in spite of a self-imposed sabbatical/retirement); because, if her own catalogue hasn’t grown immeasurably, her contribution to others’ works has been remarkable.

From associations with U2’s Bono and The Edge, to Moby, to Peter Gabriel and countless others, O’Connor has recorded with some of the greatest or most creative artists of her time – in a line-up that is rather impressive, all things considered. In fact, not only has she recorded enough material to fill this CD to the brim, but it could have benefitted from a companion disc – to include all the ones that are sorely missed.

Purists be warned, though: for the sake of cramming as much material as possible into an 80-minute set, this innumerable output has sometimes necessitated the editing of a few tracks. While it is unfortunate, as in the absolutely divine “Guide Me God” (with a mantra-like refrain that could probably convert even a die-hard atheist), it is wholly understandable – the select few that were cropped were jams whose basic essence could be captured in shorter form, albeit to lesser effect.

Among those are the sexy first track, “Special Cases”, by Massive Attack, and the tremendous “Release” by Afro Celt Sound System. Those who are turned on by them should most definitely seek out the originals, including the albums from wence they came; missing out on such music would be an absolute loss.

Meanwhile, Bomb The Bass offers the politically-charged “Empire”, in which O’Connor’s pipes carry the anthem “vampire, you suck the life of goodness” to a powerful climax. Mental note: an artist to discover, no doubt. “Wake Up And Make Love With Me”, which features The Blockheads, is charged with an intimacy not everyone will enjoy in their lifetime. Mental note: check them out too. Conjure One delivers a beautiful number with “Tears From The Moon” which is breathtaking in melody and texture. Mental note: pile another artist on that list (hey, if they can write a song like this one, what else are they up to?).

The disc is a clear must for fans; from the political to the lustful, a variety of styles, themes and vocal ranges are spotlighted to great effect. Sinead’s voice, forever an irresistible force, mutates from one track to the next, caressing the one moment and then sharply attacking soon after. And while the heart-renching passion that permeates her first album may never see the light of day again, Sinead’s craft is well-honed and surpasses that of most of her peers. To put it mildly: to ignore her artistry is to purposely deprive one’s self of a vibrancy hardly found anywhere else.

Evidently, the problem with compilations is that they generally don’t flow very well; the complications that arise in breaching the gap between integrity and musical flow are multiplied when stretched over an artist’s whole career or over multiple artists. Meshing disparate tracks seemlessly works best when limiting one’s self to a particular genre – hence why a ‘best of’ every three albums might seem like a good idea to a label (if not for the more immediate returns on a ‘flavour of the week’).

‘Collaborations’ tries to walk that fine line and does so relatively well; the artists that O’Connor has laboured with are often in the same vein, or sufficiently so that they blend well. But there are moments that don’t work, like “Wake Up And Make Love With Me”, which comes out of nowhere after a string of world music-flavoured creations, to plainly wake you up out of your aural dreamtime. Perhaps it was intentionally placed there for that very reason, but it should also be noted that it would not have fit anywhere anyway – it’s such an odd-man out on this set, that it would have best been left off of it if only for the sake of the mix.

Rare are the truly successful compilations, but this one fares well. It may not garner any awards or go down in history, but it is memorable enough to get a lot of playtime (and to deserve mention here). And although, with such a self-evident title, it’s clear that this is a money-making scheme (something very conflicting with this artist’s nature), it is a worthy one – if not a note-worthy one.

We give it a 7.5 out of 10

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