A welcome return

If Sinéad O’Connor had a big budget to produce her earliest work, it might have sounded like faith and courage.

Or maybe not.

Musically, O’Connor’s self-production usually tended to be Spartan — an acoustic guitar, a microphone and that voice. This time around, she turns herself into the alternative pop version of an R&B diva, enlisting the help of a myriad of producers to craft her vision.

And the results bring out a kind of musical depth that O’Connor’s music always had but was never fully tapped.

“No Man’s Woman” comes across as the anthem it is. “Daddy I’m Fine” brings back the raging scream first unleashed on The Lion and the Cobra, only accomapnied by a tidal wave of guitars. Even the introspective numbers, such as “Jealous” and “Hold Back the Night,” don’t lose their focus.

At the same time, faith and courage could have only been written after six years away from O’Connor’s turbulent early 1990s career.

The unabashed emotional soul-bearing that put O’Connor on the map 10 years ago is no less powerful than it was, and O’Connor holds nothing back when addressing her audience, whoever they may be.

“You said I treated you so badly/I can’t be forgiven/You know I would have done anything/To make it through with you,” she sings on “Jealous.” It sounds more like an open letter instead.

“I know that I have done things/To give you reason not to listen to me/Especially as I have been so angry,” she confesses on “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” “But if you knew me maybe you would understand me/Words can’t express how sorry I am/If I ever cause pain to anybody.”

faith and courage is not only a return to form for O’Connor, but a full creative realiziation of her muse.