Norah Jones

The Fall

Tracks: 13, total time: 45:58, year: 2009, genre: Jazz

The Fall
© 2009 Blue Note Records

Originally Released November 17, 2009

AMG EXPERT REVIEW: With The Fall, Norah Jones completes the transition away from her smooth cabaret beginnings andtoward a mellowly arty, modern singer/songwriter. Jones began this shift on 2007's Not Too Late, an album that gently rejected her tendencies for lulling, tasteful crooning, but The Fall is a stronger, more cohesive work, maintaining an elegantly dreamy statethat's faithful to the crooner of Come Away with Me while feeling decidedly less classicist. Some of this could be attributed toJones' choice of producer, Jacquire King, best-known for his workwith Modest Mouse and Kings of Leon, but King hardly pushes Norah in a rock direction; The Falldoes bear some mild echoes of Fiona Apple or Aimee Mann in ballad mode, but its arrangements nevercall attention to themselves, the way that some Jon O'Brien productions do. Instead, the focus is always on Jones' voice and songs, which are once again all originals, sometimes composed in conjunction with collaborators including her longtime colleagues JesseHarris, Ryan Adams, and Will Sheff of Okkervil River. In addition to King's pedigree, the latter two co-writers suggest a slightindie bent to Jones' direction, which isn't an inaccurate impression -- there's certainly a late-night N.Y.C. vibe to these songs-- but it's easy to overstate the artiness of The Fall, especially when compared to Not Too Late, which wore its ragged ambitionsproudly. Here, Jones ties up loose ends, unafraid to sound smoothor sultry, letting in just enough dissonance and discord to givethis dimension, creating a subtle but rather extraordinary low-key record that functions as a piece of mood music but lingers longer, thanks to its finely crafted songs. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine Product Description
Norah has taken a new direction on the The Fall, experimenting with different sounds anda new set of collaborators, including Jacquire King, a noted producer and engineer who has worked with Kings of Leon, Tom Waits and Modest Mouse. Jones enlisted several songwriting collaborators,including Ryan Adams and Okkervil River's Will Sheff, as well asher frequent partners Jesse Harris & Richard Julian. Musicians include drummers Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.) and James Gadson (Bill Withers), keyboardist James Poyser (Erykah Badu, Al Green), and guitarists Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) and Smokey Hormel (Johnny Cash,Joe Strummer). The first single/video is for the album's lead track 'Chasing Pirates'. Details
Producer: Jacquire King

Album Notes
Audio Mixer: Jacquire King .
Recording information: Sunset Sound Recorders, CA; The Magic Shop, NY; The Coop, NY; House Of David, Nashville, TN

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Norah Jones: The Fall
Grade: B
by Don Leibold November 17,2009

Overwhelming popularity can do a number on an artist.Nirvana's success resulted in what is arguably the band's best album, In Utero, but also likely hastened Kurt Cobain's downward spiral. Like Nirvana, jazz singer Norah Jones is the rare diamond-selling artist: Her 2002 debut, Come Away With Me, has sold morethan 10 million copies. Unlike Cobain, Jones has found success liberating. She has been prolific, releasing two albums under her own name and forming two bands, the country-minded Little Williesand the more raucous El Madmo. She's even tried acting. All of this speaks to a desire for experience and experimentation. With her latest, The Fall, Jones makes her biggest push to brush away the coffeehouse connotationsof her early work. The Fall is a concept album with a punchline, with most of the songs detailing the push and pull of a faltering relationship. Several, including the first single, "Chasing Pirates," explore confusion and uncertainty. Others celebrate reconciliation. In "I Wouldn't Need You," Jones implores her lover to return; then in "Back To Manhattan," she's the one returning. By the penultimate song, "Tell Yer Mama," Jones has cut her man loose, her kiss-off made bitterer by her critique of his parents. The album's punchline is "Man Of The Hour,"a cute, spare song about how the only man for her is her dog.

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Music Review
The Fall (2009) by Norah Jones
Reviewed by Leah Greenblatt | Nov 04, 2009 Leah Greenblatt

''The reports ofmy death are greatly exaggerated,'' Mark Twain famously quipped.So too are reports of Norah Jones' rock conversion. True, the Grammy-festooned pop-jazz chanteuse has largely forsaken her traditional post at the piano for a six-string on her fourth album (outNov. 17), and she's roped in a passel of collaborators (includingRyan Adams and frequent Beck sideman Smokey Hormel) not necessarily known for catering to the quiet-storm set. She's also got a voice that seems made to jump genres: supple, mellifluous, effortlessly sexy. But even when Jones lets it rip, so to speak, as on The Fall's moderately rollicking saloon stomper ''It's Gonna Be,''she remains, at heart, a girl gone mild.

Which is not to sayshe can't rustle up ? a fire -- just that it's more candlelight than call-the-FDNY blaze. The rainy-day requiem ''Light as a Feather'' and bluesy swooner ''I Wouldn't Need You'' exude an elegantsort of speakeasy allure, and studio pros like Hormel and drummerJoey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.) make it all run with the soothing sweep of a Swiss timepiece. Still, even her most upbeat numbers seemdesigned specifically to keep some choleric CEO's high blood pressure in check. On the Wurlitzer-steeped lead single ''Chasing Pirates,'' when she croons ''And I don't know how, to slow it down/My mind's racing,'' it sounds not so much rushing as recumbent.One wishes that just once, Jones would goose her adult-contemporary golden-girl status -- and let it race for real. B-

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Critics' Choice
Published: November 15,2009

Norah Jones isn't quite so serene or folky anymore. Onher fourth album, "The Fall," she moves away from both a romanceand the sound that made her one of this decade's few consistent million-sellers.

Ms. Jones still mostly writes ballads and waltzes, and still lingers over their melodies in long, breathy phrases. She's still willing to sing lines as plain spoken as "I needyou to love me." But now the guitars backing her are usually electric, the drums aren't shy, and there's an anxious, wounded undertone to her voice. It's the sonic and emotional expansion her music needed, and its tied to some of her most unguarded songs.

"The Fall" is the first solo album Ms. Jones has made without LeeAlexander, her former boyfriend, bassist, songwriting collaborator and producer. Many of her new songs revolve around a breakup that she presents as protracted, tangled and ambivalent. "Why can't it be easy? Easy? Why don't you leave me?," she sings in "Stuck," a song she wrote with Will Sheff of Okkervil River that suggests both Neil Young and the Beatles.

Ms. Jones stays more pensive than angry -- she's no vengeful emo wailer -- and aching loneliness is still her element, particularly in songs like "Waiting"and "I Wouldn't Need You." But she gets in some digs with "Tell Yer Mama," in which she thanks her ex's parents for raising him "so damn wrong."

For this album Ms. Jones set aside most of herusual coterie of tiptoeing acoustic sidemen. "The Fall," producedby Jacquire King -- an engineer for Tom Waits, Modest Mouse andKings of Leon -- plugs her in.

Her own guitar, usually electric, is abetted by selectively noisy guitarists like Marc Ribot andSmokey Hormel (both sometime Waits sidemen). She brought back Jesse Harris, who wrote her career-making hit "Don't Know Why," tocollaborate on "Even Though," a reggae-tinged song, with splashesof distorted guitar,about temptation: "I know trouble will follow, but I have to go."

The arrangements are sparse and naturalistic but more dimly lighted than on previous albums; they have shadowy, echo-y fringes. Some songs, like the waltzing "You've Ruined Me" --"Thought I liked it, but I'm ruined/My whole world's nowturned upside-down" -- are easy to imagine with her old band playing them just a little more quietly. But Ms. Jones approaches the heft of roots-rock in songs like "Young Blood" and "Light asa Feather," while the opening chords, backbeat and programmed drumsof "Chasing Pirates" hint distantly at Madonna's "Like a Virgin."Cautiously but deliberately Ms. Jones is making a new start. JONPARELES

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Listen Up: Norah Jones is standing tall onnew album 'The Fall'
By Jerry Shriver, Elysa Gardner and Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

In her new guiseas a lightly wounded, blues-slinging foot soldier on love's battlefield, Jones is as captivating as she has ever been. She comes armed with a new producer (Jacquire King), some tougher-sounding players and a terrific batch of songs (she wrote or co-wrote them all) that smartly addresses her recent romantic travails.

The Fall (* * * out of four) presents a classy model of how to chronicle a breakup: Jones shares her anxiety (Young Blood and the catchy single Chasing Pirates), wooziness (Stuck), confusion (You've Ruined Me and Even Though)and regrets (Waiting and I Wouldn't Need You), but spares us thehistrionics. Things didn't work out in Brooklyn? OK, she'll go Back to Manhattan, hug her dog (Man of the Hour) and regroup.

The soul-blues sound textures are haunting, sad, boozy, throbbingand tick-tocky -- more static electricity than thunderclap, but ideally matched to that sensual, laconic voice. -- Jerry Shriver

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Caught in the middle
Jones moves a bit from her comfort zone, but Mayer goes more mainstream
By Allison Stewart
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

At this pointin their careers,John Mayer and Norah Jones, the reigning King and Queen of Minivan Rock, need to make peace with their amiable dullness, or do something about it. Both artists specialize in good-but-not-interesting discs that prize virtuosity (Jones's voice, Mayer's guitar playing) over innovation. Both artists, who are releasing their fourth solo studio discs on the same day, try for modest makeovers;only Jones succeeds.

Since releasing her platinum-times-infinity debut, "Come Away With Me," Jones has slowly, judiciously tweaked her sound, moving from mild brunch-friendly jazz to mild, brunch-friendly country-jazz to the mild, brunch-friendly rock of"The Fall." Jones picks her way carefully through the disc's decorous tracks, investing her usually unruffled sound with just enough rough-and-tumble to suggest she has heard, and agrees with, every S'Norah Jones joke ever made.

Populated by midtempo guitar ballads and produced by Tom Waits collaborator Jacquire King, "TheFall" is extravagantly pretty and inevitably familiar, even asit takes nominal detours into lite funk (the breakup ballad "Back to Manhattan") and lite soul (the fine first single, "Chasing Pirates"). Jones wisely pairs with unthreatening eccentrics like Ryan Adams (who co-wrote the sleepy, lovely "Light as a Feather")and, on the atmospheric "Stuck," Okkervil River's Will Sheff, whohas enough quirk to supply a dozen Starbucks divas and still have enough left over for Feist.

Jones has always appeared genuinely torn between the adventurous artist she seems to want to beand the immaculate, unthrilling albums she actually makes. On "The Fall," that gulf narrows, but only slightly. On the opening ballad, "Chasing Pirates," she addresses a lover who wants to call it an evening, complaining that she's "not done with the night." Because this is a Norah Jones album, it's not a night of wild debauchery she has in mind; she just wants to finish her book.

Jones may want to be edgier, but John Mayer wants to be Sting. Evenworse: He's succeeding. Sting at least had a good run as a post-punk icon before settling down to a life of castles and fustinessand earnest adult contemporary songs about nuclear war. But since his debut,the 32-year-old Mayer has aimed for the middle of theroad like a lukewarm-seeking missile.

"Battle Studies" isa loosely woven concept album about relationships as a form of combat, land so well-tilled by Pat Benatar in the early '80s that it need never be revisited. Mayer is a dead-on singer and a peerless guitarist, but he can be a lackadaisical songwriter. "Battle Studies" bogs down under the weight of too many toothless sound-alike ballads about the futility of love, too many songswith theirtitle repeated over and over, in place of an actual chorus.

There are exceptions: "Half of My Heart" is a great '70s-throwbackduet with an under-deployed Taylor Swift; "Who Says" is an everydude defense of herb-smoking cloaked as a libertarian broadside that makes his not-that-bad-in-retrospect "Waiting on the World toChange" sound like "All Along the Watchtower" by comparison.

Jones, at least, seems as endearingly snoozy off-record as on. But for Mayer, whose whip-smart interviews and richly documented dating life suggest that an actual interesting person resides underneath all that hair, teeth and fondness for metaphors, such musical innocuousness is unforgivable. Merely by existing, "Battle Studies" violates Internet Rule 17: Never let your Twitter account be more interesting than you are.

Stewart is a freelance writer.

1.2:41    Chasing pirates
2.3:53    Even though
3.3:53    Light as a feather
4.3:39    Young blood
5.3:31    I wouldn't need you
6.3:32    Waiting
7.3:12    It's gonna be
8.2:46    You've ruined me
9.4:10    Back to Manhattan
10.5:16    Stuck
11.3:06    December
12.3:26    Tell Yer Mama
13.2:55    Man of the hour

Category: blues - Discid: bc0ac40d

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