Back when people were tripping over themselves to sing high praises for Annie Lennox’s solo debut Diva, I stood to the side and said, “Damn this is the coldest album I’ve ever listened to.”
Lennox’s voice has always been described as icy, but in 1992, music technology wasn’t yet advanced enough to fake warmth.
And the mostly synthetic Diva, while striking a chord with Lennox’s emotional words, was limited musically because of it.
It’s been 12 years since Diva effectively shook off the MTV shackle of Lennox’s early days, and her voice is as chilly as ever.
Thankfully, her music has defrosted quite a bit since then.
2003’s Bare is the first collection of original material from Lennox since Diva — although a 1999 reunion of the Eurythmics came across more as a Lennox solo album with Dave Stewart in tow. (1995’s Medusa was pretty much a covers album.)
Lennox still offers up the same sprawling, reflective music she did a decade ago, but this time around, its lushness feels live.
The intricately arranged “A Thosand Beautiful Things” and “Honestly” demonstrate the still-amazing versatility of Lennox’s voice. The long power chords on “Loneliness” give the song a rock swagger, while the sparse “The Saddest Song I’ve Got” segues with “Loneliness” for a stunning contrast.
The more uptempo tracks, “Bitter Pill” and “Erased”, don’t sound as robotic as they could have been. “The Hurting Time”, though, meanders way too long for its own good.
There’s a lot that’s familiar with Bare, and Lennox is very good at what she’s done before.
Long-time fans will no doubt relish Lennox’s soaring performance on this album, but for casual listeners, the album can get nondescript.
The good moments — “The Saddest Song I’ve Got”, “A Thousand Beautiful Things” — are very good, but they also leave the rest of the album behind.
But Lennox doesn’t need any new converts. The folks familiar with her already know what to expect.