19th May – The Number One Album In Australia – 2003 (Norah Jones – Come Away With Me)

Norah_Jones_-_Come_Away_With_Me

The Number One Album in Australia on the 19th May, 2003 was from singer songwriter Norah Jones with her debut longplayer Come Away With Me.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Norah Jones is the daughter of Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, who famously taught sitar to George Harrison from The Beatles in 1966.

She moved to New York City and came to the attention of Blue Note Records, one of the most respected jazz record labels in the world, that was established in America in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis.

It was a great prospective fit as her influences ranged from American jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans, considered by critics to be one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time; and American jazz singer and songwriter Billie Holiday, who was described as “possibly the greatest singer of the century” by respected critic Robert Christgau (the music editor of the Village Voice for 37 years).

The story of how Blue Note Records became aware of her is told by Brian Bacchus, A&R – Norah Jones in an interview from September 2002, Hit Quarters,

“Norah had done some background vocals for a singer signed to Atlantic, Victoria Williams, and the producer of some of the tracks was a talented artist named J.C. Hopkins, whose wife, Shell White, worked in the royalties department at Blue Note. She asked Bruce { President of Blue Note – Bruce Lundvall} and I to listen to Norah’s 3-track demo, which had two jazz standards and a song written by singer/songwriter Jesse Harris on it.

We knew right away she had the goods, although there was a question of what direction her music might follow. So we let her find her own direction. We were a jazz label, but we knew that if she could develop her songwriting and we could find great songs, it would work”

The artist development process was a priority, working on what material to record and building the right creative and production team around Norah Jones, as Brian Bacchus continues,

“It took about six months before we signed her to an initial demo deal, and I first teamed her up with Jay Newland, a great engineer who has done jazz, rock & roll, blues, country, and folk, because I thought he would really have a feeling for her sound.

We went in and cut about nine demo tracks, of which four or five became part of the album, and six formed the sampler, ‘First Sessions’, which was sold on her website and at live gigs, before she went in to start “Come Away With Me.”

It was then a question of what producers we were going to use. We went through a lot of different people and then she decided she really liked Craig Street, so we went in and recorded stuff with Craig. I think it was a real learning experience for her, because it was the first time she had worked with a producer and it didn’t work out as she had hoped, although we still used some of Craig’s material.

Then Bruce and I thought Arif Mardin would be great, because he had previously worked with many great singers whose sound was soulful. Norah was initially hesitant, because she felt that she wouldn’t be able to find her voice and stand up for her vision with someone as accomplished and renowned as Arif Mardin.

He’s worked with some of the truly great singers of our time, like Barbara Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, and Chaka Khan. But we convinced her and they got along fabulously.

She [Norah Jones] had demoed a lot of different songs and, in the end, it was just about narrowing down what was recorded. Some of the demos were just great and we realised there was no sense in trying to fix something that wasn’t broken.

Also, Norah and her bass player, Lee Alexander, really began writing during this process, and both came up with some real gems. Then there were some songs by Jesse Harris who was a good friend and a great songwriter”.

The album was recording throughout 2001, with sessions taking place at Sorcerer Sound Studio and Shokan’s Allaire Studios.

Come Away With Me was released in the USA on 26th February, 2002 and debuted at Number 139 on the Billboard 200 – ultimately reaching the pinnacle after a year; spending a total of 161 weeks [~3.5 years] on the chart there.

It met similar success around the world, in addition to topping the album chart in Australia, it also went to the top spot on the Canadian, Danish, Dutch, French, Irish, New Zealand, Swedish and UK charts.

The commercial achievements, were complemented by the critical success where it was in the upper echelons of’ “Albums of the year” lists around the world; and sweeping major music awards including winning eight Grammy Awards.

The album was simply a phenomenon selling up to 30 million copies worldwide.

Throughout her career, Norah Jones has collaborated with a diverse group of artists such as:

* Appearing on Take Off Your Cool from OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album

* In concert – Return to Sin City – A Tribute to Gram Parsons – where she performed the song She and then with Keith Richards on Love Hurtshttp://wp.me/p3uHDF-7K

* Appearing on the 2005 album Jacksonville City Nights – Ryan Adams’ & The Cardinals – the track she co-wrote with Adams Dear John

* With former Faith No More frontman Mike Patton providing vocals on the track Sucker on the Peeping Tom project.

* With the Foo Fighters, performing piano & vocals on Virginia Moon from the album In Your Honor.

* On Herbie Hancock’s 2007 release River: The Joni Letters singing the song, Court and Spark – the album went on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at in 2008.

* Jones played piano & recorded vocals on numerous tracks for the 2011 studio album from Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire.

Come Away With Me – Track listing:

Don’t Know Why (Jesse Harris)

Seven Years (Lee Alexander)

Cold Cold Heart (Hank Williams)

Feelin’ the Same Way (Lee Alexander)

Come Away with Me (Norah Jones)

Shoot the Moon (Harris)

Turn Me On (John D. Loudermilk)

Lonestar (Lee Alexander)

I’ve Got to See You Again (Jesse Harris)

Painter Song (Alexander, J. C. Hopkins)

One Flight Down (Jesse Harris)

Nightingale (Norah Jones)

The Long Day Is Over (Jones, Harris)

The Nearness of You (Hoagy Carmichael, Ned Washington)

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