This review originally appeared on The Arts Desk.
Corinne Bailey Rae’s heart may speak in whispers, but it dreams in glorious technicolour. The title of the Leeds-born songwriter’s new album is an echoey chorus line that swims among the layers of its opening track – a song with the bridge of a boiling ocean that hints at dance-pop beats, reinvention. “The Skies Will Break” was surely an album title contender in its own right, perhaps not so much for its dubious poetry as for the glorious moment of catharsis it signals – a head rush, and then a moment of serenity.
Fans concerned, from that giddy opener, that new love and a six-year hiatus have turned Bailey Rae into a generic pop artist should hang on for the second track. “Hey, I Won’t Break Your Heart” is a gentle, soulful hymn to second chances, small enough for the jazz clubs until its lush backing vocals – which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Supremes record – kick in. It’s one of two songs, along with the sublime “Caramel” on the album’s closing third, that explicitly reference bitterness giving way to something sweeter, and it’s tempting to draw parallels with the life of a signer whose previous album was dogged by tragedy.
Steve Brown, who produced each of Bailey Rae’s previous albums and is now her husband, resumes co-production duties on this release, but it’s their shift to Los Angeles and the influences of the musicians they met there which does most to establish the album’s particular sound: musicians such as Paris and Amber Strother of soul trio KING, and jazz/soul royalty like James Gadson and Marcus Miller. With them, Bailey Rae revels in her newfound happiness on the languid, sensual “Green Aphrodisiac” (nothing like a freshly mown lawn, am I right, ladies?) and the playful, funky “Horse Print Dress”.