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Definitely NOT 'Mule Variations'...
on 21 November 2009
Norah apparently chose Tom Waits and Kings of Leon producer Jacquire King to produce this record because she is such a fan of Tom's `Mule Variations' CD. Unfortunately `The Fall' doesn't sound like `Mule Variations', rather it retains the smoothness of Norah's previous record `Not too late' - without any of the rawness or quirkiness of Mr. Waits. Although much has been made of her break with her former partner and bass player Lee Alexander and the Handsome Band in truth the overall sound here isn't that different from her previous records, perhaps a little less jazzy with less piano. Mark Ribot on guitar is very restrained, with none of the edge and weirdness I usually associate with him.
We do get off to a great start with "Chasing Pirates" (with its nice electric piano) closely followed by "Light as a feather" (co-written by Ryan Adams), which sounds like an out-take from `Feels like home' and then the provocative "I wouldn't need you. However, as the record progresses some of the songs' openings like "Waiting", "It's gonna be" and "Stuck" suggest something different, something earthier but as soon as Norah's voice comes in she seems to calm everything down and smooth everything out.
I think that Norah does need a change of sound but for me this record isn't it and I certainly don't see this as the radical change that others have commented on. This is a very professional, mature record but for me just a little too restrained and too bland. Her various side projects have shown that Norah can do very different material and therefore I'm afraid that I feel this is a missed opportunity to achieve a radically different sound.