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CD Reviews: Damien Rice
Damien Rice: O
August 2003
By: Blair Bryant
album cover of Damien Rice's O

It's not often that a talented singer-songwriter comes along that has the power behind their sound to take the world by storm. Not since the late Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone have there been many profound artists certain to leave their mark in music history. In the music industry today, many of those up to par are falling off the radar. However, Damien Rice is one artist who in particular deserves the attention of music execs so that he doesn't fall through the cracks like many of his counterparts.

A native of County Kildare, Ireland, Rice's journey of creating the masterpiece that is O was indeed a trying one. After leaving his former band Juniper, which was comprised of Rice and a few of his childhood friends, he left Ireland and travelled through Europe for eight months to clear his head. It was during that journey in which the inspiration for O was born.

Rice's solo debut, O, on the newly established Vector Recordings, will leave avid singer-songwriter and folk fans very much satisfied. O takes you on a journey primarily through Rice's past relationships and experiences with women. Although somewhat enigmatic, the album is laced with sensuality and eroticism--- O is an awakening of one's soul through the trials and tribulations of love.

Rice's first U.S. single, Volcano, offers a glimpse of what the rest of the album has to offer. Volcano contains the acoustic brilliance and simplistic sounds which makes Rice's album very unique. The haunting vocals of Lisa Hannigan create an intriguing and sensual vibe, which echoes throughout the song, apparently seen through the eyes of a man and a woman. The Blower's Daughter would likely be considered as Rice's breakthrough as an artist. It's simple yet powerful to where single lines repeated throughout like, I can't take my eyes off you, give the song itself a lot of depth. Amie is the ironically beautiful ballad which is rumored to have been based on a character in the erotica novel The Story of 'O', which is mentioned throughout the song--- where the album may have very well received it's title. I Remember is one of the more surprising tracks, for it is done in two parts. Hannigan sings an ever-so-lovely song of an apparent "love at first sight" experience. Unexpectedly, Rice comes in with raging intensity of a story of betrayal, in which he completely rocks it out, accompanied by an orchestra. It comes as a surprise, for most of the album itself is rather mellow. Eskimo is the final listed track, which takes an interesting turn as Rice is accompanied by an opera singer who sings parts of the song in the Finnish language. If it seems Rice has packed in all of the surprises he has to offer to satisfy listeners, there are two bonus tracks as well, followed by Eskimo. The first one is rather heavy, along the lines of the second part of I Remember. The second and final bonus track is Lisa Hannigan's rendition of Silent Night--- in which she uses the traditional melody but adds her own lyrics.

Rice doesn't disappoint on his first solo effort. He definitely comes through as a solo artist and shows what he has to offer--- and then some. If there's any new artist that has come along in recent years that shouldn't be overlooked, Rice is definitely one that should not be passed up.