Sinéad O’Connor – ‘Theology’ – A Review

TheologyAfter recently giving birth to Yeshua in December, the iconic Irish artist Sinéad O’Connor is about to release her new album. Recorded in London and Dublin, and due out 22 June, ‘Theology’ is a 2 CD collection of deeply moving reflections based on the Hebrew Scriptures – Samuel, Song of Songs, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah and numerous Psalms (33, 91, 130, 137) – songs which give voice to the passion, love, spirituality, rage and grace of these ancient prophets and address them to a new situation: Today. She says of the album, ‘I wanted to create a place of peace in a time of strife and conflict. ”Theology” is my own personal response to the times we find ourselves living in’. She also covers Curtis Mayfield’s brooding ‘We People Who Are Darker Than Blue’, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s & Tim Rice’s ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’, and the traditional ‘Rivers Of Babylon’ (with some new lyrics).

In a music-making career spanning over twenty-five years, beginning with fronting Dublin band In Tua Nua at the age of 14, O’Connor went on in 1987 to record her debut solo album ‘The Lion And The Cobra’, an album that raised the eyebrow of no lesser magazine than Rolling Stone who referred to it as ‘easily one of the most distinctive debut albums of the year’.

1990 saw the release of her second album, ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got’, with its haunting rendition of Prince song, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ – the song for which she is perhaps best known. It was also the year in which she won a Grammy for ‘Best Alternative Music Performance’. In an industry littered with boring and repetitious clones, and ignoring the marketing expectations of the international music industry, O’Connor continued, as she always has, to pave her own path. The result of the paving: her orchestral album ‘Am I Not Your Girl?’ which included a memorable rendering of the classic, ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’.

Since then, she has in protest torn up a picture of Pope John Paul II on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live (in 1992), and released a number of albums of increasing maturity: ‘Universal Mother’ (1995), ‘Gospel Oak’ (1997), ‘Faith And Courage’ (1997), ‘Sean Nos Nua’ (2002), ‘She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty’ (2003) and ‘Throw Down Your Arms’ (2005).

Her eighth, latest (and best yet) full-length album, ‘Theology’, is a double. Produced by Rubyworks, Disc 1, the ‘Dublin Sessions’, offers stripped down acoustic versions of the songs, while Disc 2, the ‘London Sessions’, offers mostly the same songs with full band. The acoustic disc was produced (with Sinéad) by noted trad guitarist Steve Cooney (known for his work with The Chieftains), Disc 2 by London-based producer Ron Tom.

It’s the kind of album you can listen to all week. Honest, challenging, thoughtful, mature, wonderfully timely … it is, quite simply, one of the best albums I’ve heard in years.

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