Corinne Bailey Rae Breaks Free on ‘Black Rainbows’

Corinne Bailey Rae dynamites her personal musical previous and embraces a bigger historic one on her new album, “Black Rainbows.”

With her self-titled 2006 debut, Bailey Rae established herself as an agile, airy-voiced pop songwriter; it reached No. 1 in her house nation, Britain. Her large hit single, “Put Your Records On,” cheerfully however unmistakably referred to as for celebrating a Black heritage.

Bailey Rae hasn’t rushed her albums. Her second one, “The Sea” in 2010, dealt along with her grief — at 29 — on the sudden demise of her first husband, the saxophonist Jason Rae; the songs mirrored on time, love and sorrow. For her 2016 album, “The Heart Speaks in Whispers,” she adopted record-company recommendation to return to polished pop-soul love songs. By then she had married S.J. Brown, who has co-produced “Black Rainbows” along with her.

On “Black Rainbows,” Bailey Rae boldly jettisons each pop constructions and R&B smoothness to think about the scars and triumphs of Black tradition. “We long to arc our arm through history,” she sings in “A Spell, a Prayer,” the album’s opening tune. “To unpick every thread of pain.”

The songs on “Black Rainbows” flaunt extremes: noise and delicacy, longing and rage. In some, Bailey Rae reclaims her distant punk-rock previous, when she was in a band referred to as Helen. Others summon retro class, toy with electronics and transfer by means of a number of transformations. In the album’s genre-bending title tune, Bailey Rae repeats the phrases “black rainbows” over a mechanical beat; her voice will get multiplied right into a choir as a labyrinthine, jazz-fusion chord development steadily unfurls, brimming with saxophone squeals.

The album has a conceptual framework. Most of its songs are impressed by artifacts Bailey Rae noticed on the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago, a former financial institution constructing that now holds an enormous repository of African and African-diaspora supplies gathered by the artist Theaster Gates: artwork, books, magazines, music and what the humanities financial institution calls “negrobilia,” on a regular basis objects that perpetuated Black stereotypes. For Bailey Rae, the gathering summoned ideas about slavery, spirituality, magnificence, survival, hope and freedom.

The cowl of Bailey Rae’s fourth album, “Black Rainbows.”Credit…Thirty Tigers, by way of Associated Press

An ashtray within the form of a Black youngster with an open mouth was a touchstone for “Erasure,” a pounding, screeching, distorted rocker in regards to the exploitation of enslaved youngsters; Bailey Rae blurts, “They took credit for your labor!” and “They put out lit cigarettes down your sweet throat!” Another, extra ebullient rock stomp, “New York City Transit Queen” — with Bailey Rae overdubbed right into a hand-clapping cheerleading squad — commemorates a cheesecake {photograph} of {the teenager} who was named “Miss New York Transit” in 1957.

That tune is adopted by a distinct take on Black magnificence: “He Will Follow You With His Eyes.” Bailey recites what appears like outdated promoting copy — “Soft hair that invites his caress/Attract! Arouse! Tantalize!” — over a nostalgic bolero. But partway by means of the monitor, she casts off the cosmetics, with an digital warp to the manufacturing and a scornful chew in her voice, as she sings about flaunting, “My black hair kinking/My black skin gleaming.”

While Bailey Rae permits herself to shout on “Black Rainbows,” she doesn’t abandon the sleek nuance of her pop previous. In the shimmering, billowing “Red Horse,” she envisions romance, marriage and household with a person who “came riding in/in the thunderstorm,” cooing, “You’re the one that I, I’ve been waiting for.”

Bailey Rae shared a Grammy Award — album of the yr — as a vocalist on Herbie Hancock’s 2007 Joni Mitchell tribute, “River: The Joni Letters,” and she or he welcomes Mitchell’s affect with the leaping, asymmetrical melody strains and enigmatic imagery of “Peach Velvet Sky,” which has Brown on piano accompanying Bailey Rae in an unadorned duet.

“Black Rainbows” is one songwriter’s leap into creative freedom, unconcerned with style expectations or radio codecs. It’s additionally another signal that songwriters are strongest after they heed instincts reasonably than expectations.

Corinne Bailey Rae
“Black Rainbows”
(Thirty Tigers)

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