The Lion and the Cobra

It seems so long ago, and really it kind of was, when Sinead O'Connor first crashed into and dominated the alternative music scene way back in 1990 with her second album, "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got".  That album's signature song, "Nothing Compares 2U", written by Prince, was anywhere and everywhere that year.  The album was nominated for four Grammy Awards, in 1991, winning the award for Best Alternative Music Performance (not accepted by Sinead) and sold over seven million records.  It was an incredibly successful -- and very very good -- album... but ridiculously overmatched compared to her stunning debut three years earlier of "The Lion and the Cobra".

"The Lion and the Cobra" is infused with a visceral intensity, conveyed by O'Connor's stunning vocal range and projection that comes through even on the quietest notes.  "Jackie" announces the album with a soft whisper and ends two minutes and twenty-eight seconds later with O'Connor's voice high-pitched wailing that grabs the listener and makes you sit up straight.  With a slight pause, "Mandika", the most successful "pop" single, jumps right in and assures you that O'Connor plays both the singer and entertainer with equal ease.

The third song, "Jerusalem" is acoustics, synthesizer, and angry, religiously vague lyrics that stirs while taking a much-fought-over city's name and making it into something I could actually sing along to.  Until over course she belts out some ever-rising hoots toward the end to remind me that her range is just flat beyond me.  After soaring so high, "Just Like U Said It Would B", takes her fertility and faith personal, asking (God?) if he/she will be her lover, her mama alternating in pleas and taunts.  Later, on "I Want Your (Hand on Me)", she returns to demonstrate her command over sexual want, right before lamenting powerfully on "Drink Before the Water".

The final song ("Just Call Me Joe"), featuring a bare, distorted guitar for much of the song, gives a perfect backdrop for Sinead's soft, gentle song of anonymity and love.  The album is astounding in its feeling, its power, and its atmosphere.

PS.  Several years later, Sinead O'Connor's career and image were damaged by her pre-fashionable bashing of the Catholic church and what are now widely exposed rampant child abuse cases.  That irrational, feral hatred from religious champions foisted upon this vibrant, inventive signer makes me ill to this day.

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