I bought Sinéad O’Connor’s de­but, The Lion and the Co­bra, be­cause Mandinko was on the ra­dio and I liked it. The first time I played it, not hav­ing looked at the track list­ing, I no­ticed some med­i­ta­tive croon­ing about “Dublin in a Rainstorm”; the next time, a gut-grabbing throaty chan­t: “You should have left the lights on”; and then an­oth­er time a howl­ing dec­la­ra­tion about ris­ing, a phoenix from the flame. It took me a while to no­tice that all of these were from the same track: Troy. It’s a hell of a song.

It’s a hell of an al­bum too; oth­er high­lights are Nev­er Get Old and A Drink Be­fore the War, which in­spired me to a grief-stricken piece on the eve of the Iraq war. O’Connor record­ed and pro­duced on her own, twen­ty years old and sev­en months preg­nan­t, on the way out of an abu­sive fam­i­ly. It’s an ex­plo­sion of tal­en­t, song­writ­ing and singing and ar­rang­ing.

The word “Troy”, and the lyric about burn­ing it, are a bor­row from Yeats’ No Se­cond Troy, which I hadn’t known un­til I chanced across the po­em. I opined once that Sinéad ought to have thrown poor W.B. a cred­it and an Ir­ish Friend said “it’d be su­per­flu­ous, ev­ery Ir­ish schoolkid has to learn that poem”.

This is one of the great vo­cal per­for­mances ev­er record­ed by any­body, sung in a dozen dif­fer­ent voic­es it seem­s; hard to be­lieve that so young a throat could cov­er this range, or so young a mind write this song.

Sinéad’s had some se­ri­ous­ly rough patch­es in her life and it’s hard for her to be hap­py. She doesn’t owe the world any­thing, but the world owes her a lot, just for this one song.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · iTunes, Ama­zon, Spo­ti­fy. Now, be­fore the video links, a word of cau­tion: Th­ese per­for­mances are al­most un­bear­ably in­tense, and I think will be un­com­fort­able for some to watch. That said, most ex­plo­sive, re­al­ly scary, most pol­ished (with a bit of sing-along).


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Chris Lindley (Jan 10 2018, at 03:02)

I've been recently listening to "How about I be me (and you be you)". A dammed fine album. I've not listened to "the Lion and the Cobra" for some time. So thank you for the reminder. Your post also vaguely reminded me of brilliant live recoding she did of "Just like you said it would be" on some UK music programme. I googled it and it was on the "the old Grey Whistle test. Back then it was on some shitty VHS tape recording that is probably still up in the loft. Oh praise the lord for You Tube and my growing up music! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlsY6KnZwr8


From: Dermot (Jan 10 2018, at 06:37)

Mandinka was my first love too. Really interesting (and gossipy) backgrounder on the production of the second album: https://www.soundonsound.com/people/sinead-oconnor-nothing-compares-2-u


From: Kevin Spencer (Jan 10 2018, at 07:00)

It’s a solid album that’s held up well. Along with Mandinka, Jerusalem a fave of mine as well.


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