Nineteen years ago, at the age of just 22, Norah Jones released her stunning debut album Come Away With Me to a largely unsuspecting audience of listeners. The daughter of world renowned musician Ravi Shankar and concert producer Sue Jones took the world by storm in March 2002 with an album that was both not of it’s time and certainly not like anything else in the contemporary mainstream at the turn of the century.
Released on the legendary Blue Note label, Come Away With Me saw Jones introduce herself as a fully fledged singer-songwriter and musician. Jones’ fourteen track masterpiece is still the album she is remembered for to this day despite having produced some very good records in the intervening years. Come Away With Me, it could be argued, is akin to hearing Kate Bush’s debut album, The Kick Inside, Patti Smith’s debut Horses or more similarly Amy Winehouse’s debut Frank which came out a year later. Each of these releases, as well as Jones’ debut album, are remarkable, game changing records that not only enhanced and advanced popular music they came to define a moment in time.
Norah Jones won countless awards for Come Away With Me including Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. The album’s lead track and lead single, Don’t Know Why, also won Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Jones. Quite a haul for native New Yorker!.
The plethora of influences and styles that are incorporated on Come Away With Me are mixed together with such a lightness of touch so that most of the time you don’t even know they’re being employed. The subtlety of the production and arrangement on this album is one of it’s major qualities. Norah Jones manages to fuse Jazz, Country, Soul, Blues and Pop together in a seamless mix that is both timeless and contemporary in the same breathe.
The jazzy inflections of the pianos, the deep double bass and Jones’ beautiful, crystal clear vocal make for such an easy listen that you are left transfixed within the atmosphere that has been created. To say it is easy listening is to some how undermine it’s credibility as a record, although at the time of it’s release detractors were quick to find fault with the album’s lack of purity to any one genre. However, Jones’ effortless interpretation of her own songs doesn’t require her to stick to a script and the album is all the better for it. Had she been inclined to go down a purely Jazz route I dare say that she would not have enjoyed anywhere near the success that she did.
Come Away With Me was the huge success it was, selling more than 27 million copies, because it is true to Norah Jones, how she writes and how she performs. There are no moments that jar or grate on Come Away With Me only moments of incredible, sublime creativity; her playful vocal on Cold, Cold Heart, the soft Country lilt on The Long Day Is Over and the reflective, retro Parisian Jazz of Painter Song being just a few.
Beside’s the award winning lead single, Don’t Know Why, Jones’ debut album also gave rise to four other singles including it’s title track. The soft shuffle rhythm and romantic overtures were a winning combination on the single Come Away With Me and showcased Norah’s ability to so expertly express the sentiment of the song. Feelin’ The Same Way was a less intense release but very radio friendly, although not obviously commercial where as Turn Me On, the final single release from the album grabbed you from the off and took you on a journey with it’s tenderly provocative lyrics and magnificent Gospel organ.
As debut album’s go, Come Away With Me by Norah Jones ranks pretty highly by anyone’s standards, it was like nothing before it and set the template for a lot that was to follow.