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DAMIEN RICE - O - VECTOR RECORDINGS
Record Rating: *****

Damien Rice - O - Vector Recordings One would think that being Damien Rice would be a pretty good deal at the time of this album's release. He had a major-label deal, critics were in love with him, and Annie Lennox and Sinead Oí Connor counted themselves as fans of his work.

Listen to O, Riceís first solo album and one senses that there are about a dozen other musicians Rice would love to be, and nearly all of them were at their peak in the early to mid '70s. Half the fun of the album is trying to guess who heís trying to emulate: Delicate is a dead ringer for Van Morrison, Volcano is obviously modeled on Neil Young, Older Chests suggest the influence of Don McLean. Of course, everyone has their influences, and Rice seems determined to make the most of them on O, his ambitious debut. The performances are polished, and Rice exhibits a soaring voice on the albums oddly short play list.

First single The Blower's Daughter was an instant top 20 hit when it appeared in fall 2001, but itís taken a while after that for his music to take off. The full-length effort O may have been long in coming, but itís been worth the wait. Like Bono did with Walk On, this Irishman even makes his own ode to free Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with the album Unplayed Piano. The swaggering but lovelorn I Remember, the spare and lovely Cold Water, and the sixteen-minute long moody closer Eskimo, seem to reflect passion rather than craft as the album grows and matures with every listen.

For all their quietness, the songs leave a dark, lasting impression. O sounds like an album that could win Damien Rice a lot of new fans, especially with those whose record collections go way back. He comes across as the being the next Chris Martin, and fans of Coldplay and Radiohead will want to pick this one up for sure. Laden with intimate melodies and deep introspective lyrics, this is music for those sleepless late nights when you sit and ponder about your life.

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