Sinead O’Connor, The Lion and The Cobra – Retro CD Review

The case of the bald-headed lady and whatever happened to her? Everyone remembers Sinead’s rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, as her most popular song over the course of her career. Most everyone also recalls her fall from grace: shredding a picture of Pope John Paul II on national television during a performance of Bob Marley’s “War” on Saturday Night Live. The Irish pixie never reclaimed her fame, but she did put out a fairly good album with 1987’s The Lion And The Cobra. I will admit I was never a huge fan of her; as a matter of fact, I often compare her to Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries, one of my least favorite artists. This album, however shows what Sinead COULD HAVE done.

The first thing I would like to note is that the guitar work on this album was performed almost exclusively by Marco Pirroni, who was an integral part of the Adam And The Ants lineup, as well as Adam Ant’s songwriting cohort during the early and middle part of Ant’s solo career; not only that, but was the original guitarist for Siouxsie And The Banshees. That having been said, the songwriting credits go for the most part to O’Connor, with co-writing credits listed to several other people on a few songs.

The opening track, “Jackie”, is a short introduction that starts off the album in a minimal but powerful way. Comprised of vocal and a couple of slightly ethereal and ominous electric guitar riffs, it tells the story of a woman waiting for her lover to come back from sea. It is a beautiful song that I completely forgot until I listened to this album again. “Mandinka” is a pedestrian effort in terms of lyrical content, and almost nonsensical at times, but it is nevertheless a catchy tune. “Jerusalem” is a little funkier, but similarly pop-oriented. You can actually hear the cast-off guitar riffs that Marco Pirroni might have rejected from his previous work with Adam Ant; the matchup of these to artists, O’Connor and Pirroni, is an excellent one. I commend whoever got them together. And this is the first three tracks.

“Just Like U Said It Would B” is a waltz tempo that casts memories of literally, as she says, a “walk through the garden”. I never have been a fan of the shortening of words from their correct spellings, but the song is lovely enough that I can overlook it to a degree. Something important that you find in these tunes is that O’Connor can go from soft and sweet to piercingly loud at a moment’s notice, and this is one of the real powers of her voice. It’s almost breath-catching the way she does it, and not just because she’s a female. Any artist with that sort of power has an opportunity that, if they use it, will get them everything they ever wanted in the music industry.

I would like to skip ahead, even though I prefer to go song by song I want to address the issue of the song “Troy”. This song has been recognized by many of the ‘castaway kids’ of my generation to be an incredibly moving song, and I DO agree that it is a well constructed piece of music. It is also a love song of sorts, and it is this to which I attribute that heartstring-plucking quality that many others experience. However, it IS NOT a slow-dance song, despite what every teen alternative club to which I went in the early 1990’s would like you to believe. Any song that has a tempo of over 120 BPM is NOT a slow dance song, especially one that ends with the repeated line “you’re still a liar”. Even so, the lyrics of this song are very well crafted. I envy her this one. “I Want Your Hands On Me”, however, is a definite 1980’s dance song. This is absolutely New Wave, even though New Wave was over by that time. There is no need for this song to have any depth or complexity, and it certainly does not; I, for one, was shaking my ass in my seat while listening to this song. I may have to go experiment with using this in a DJ set.

If there are any tracks that I would have liked to skip during my listening session, it would be “Drink Before The War”, which is a suggestion to both alcoholism and war veterans, and “Never Get Old”, which is pretty much self-explanatory. I suspect that this is a juvenile’s attempt at trying too hard at social commentary, but the songs just don’t hold for me the power that I suspect they intended. These two could have been disincluded on the album, in my opinion, and still would’ve made a good overall album.

“Just Call Me Joe” is not particularly impressive as a written song, but it’s her smooth, seamless delivery that captures the closing of this album. It really is and always has been my favorite song by Sinead. I particularly love the spoken word part that completely makes the outro of the song. This would lead in to her 1990 album “I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got”, which, of course, contained her rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, which catapulted her into major stardom.

OVERALL RATING: On a scale from one to ten, this album deserves a seven and a half. The reasons for the rating are that the songwriting is excellent on most tracks, but there are only nine tracks on the album to start, and two of them weren’t worth the time put into them, in my opinion. Those two songs musically are not even bad, just the overall tone was forgettable, and that just doesn’t fly when an artist is dealing with the subject material that is included within these songs. Recommended are “Jackie”, “Mandinka”, “I Want Your Hands On Me”.