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NORAH JONES - NOT TOO LATE - EMI
Record Rating: *****

NORAH JONES - NOT TOO LATE Norah Jones made one of the most startling debuts of 2002 with Come Away With Me, which introduced a 20-something talent exploring country, pop and jazz. The buzz grew into a deafening roar; and by the end of it, Jones took home an astonishing eight Grammys and sold 20 million records.

It may be far too obvious to even mention that that any follow-up perhaps had a bit too much to live up to. Still, on Feels Like Home, she remained her mellow, laid-back self and stuck to the style that won her acclaim; and while rock fans called the disc wildly over praised, pop music devotees made it another multi-platinum smash.

Her third album, Not Too Late, finds a more mature or at least a less vulnerable Jones ~ one who chooses to express herself with nuance rather than overtness. Yet that relaxed nature is the very thing that makes close to half of these thirteen songs a gentle surprise. The first album on which she wrote all the material herself, first single Thinking About You works well, and was strong enough to take this album to the top of the US and UK charts on the initial release.

Jones is a growing songwriter, and on key tracks like Thinking About You and Be My Somebody, her voice is full and seductive, rife with lipstick-stained wineglasses and curling smoke rings. This delicateness is certainly nice, but on the other songs Jones seems to be using it as a device to hide behind, instead of an actual expression of feeling. Repetitive at many points, Not Too Late is still a stronger record than her last release, and doesnít lose its charm on repeated plays. It only leaves the question lingering behind the acoustic guitars and neat piano work ~ about when the singerís going to reveal herself completely.

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