Review: “Are You Listening?” by Dolores O’Riordan (CD, 2007)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 2007 debut solo album ‘Are You Listening?‘ from the late Dolores O’Riordan, former vocalist from The Cranberries. Is this album worth hearing, or should it fall upon deaf ears? Read on…

Dolores O'Riordan - Are You Listening? (2007) album cover
Dolores O’Riordan – Are You Listening? (2007) album

This 12 track album opens with the gentle mournful electric guitar riffs of lead single Ordinary Day, and then Dolores’ vocals are soon in place. This is a really nice track, produced by legendary producer Youth, and it wafts along perfectly. The guitars are a nice contrast and companion to Dolores’ vocals, and she’s underscored by strings and strumming guitars. It reminds me a little of Tasmin Archer or Heather Nova in places. Sadly, the track fell outside the Top 100 singles in the UK.

Next up is second and final single When We Were Young, which has a more upbeat tempo. Dolores’ vocals are lighter and breathy in the verses, and in the backing vocals, but she gets to show off the raw power of her vocals in the chorus as the electric guitars soar with her. The end result is a more catchy song with a harder sound that sometimes reminds me of Sinéad O’Connor. Again, the UK public didn’t pick it up, and it failed to chart.

Pianos lead us into next song In The Garden. Dolores’ soft vocals are set against some gentle strings as the song builds up, but then really surprisingly seems to switch to an entirely different song for the chorus laden with big vocal heights and roaring guitars. She returns to the verse as the strings intensify. The song’s contrast makes it a little disorientating on first listen, and remind me of some of the tougher Alanis Morissette tracks. The vocals and strings soar towards the end, turning this delicately introduced track into a big roaring rock track.

Human Spirit is next, again with a playful paino introduction before switching to a sampled set of beats. In a way it’s a little menacing as Dolores sings over the top. Again, I’m thinking of Alanis in vocal power and style. There’s a nice section where the softer style of her vocals return.

This is followed by Loser, which opens with some racing guitars, and some mightily fed up Dolores – ‘I’m sick and tired of people like you’ she sings. The chorus is quite catchy but dangerously borderline with the harder side of B*Witched.

Up next is Stay With Me, which is quite downbeat, and I imagine that maybe this is a Bond Theme I’ve missed. Dolores is set against tinkling pianos, haunting strumming guitars, before the chorus gives an urgency in its growling guitars and drums. Dolores’ vocals once again switch perfectly between the softer sound to the raw rock style with minimal effort. A really lovely track.

Apple Of My Eye follows next and pretty quickly, the piano led me to want to sing the Neighbours theme tune over the top. This is a slower, softer song. Strings and piano sit alongside Dolores’ softer vocals and harmonies. It’s a really nice song, but my Neighbours observation is hard to stop hearing.

Piano returns again for another sinister turn in Black Widow. Dolores’ haunting vocals add to this menacing sound like a horror film soundtrack. There’s some nice vocal harmonies here too as she sings the ‘over and over, over she calls’. I could imagine this being used on The Woman In Black soundtrack. Eventually, the track reaches peak menace, with growling guitars, hard rock drums, and the vocals to match it. It’s ghostly, but a delight.

The tempo picks up for October, ushered in with guitars and synths. Dolores reminisces of summer, before belting out the chorus. The track builds nicely with guitars, but it is a relatively spacious track that shows off her vocal range. Again, I’m reminded of Alanis.

Up next is Accept Things, which opens with some nice strumming guitars and ‘nanananahhh‘ vocals. In contrast to October, this feels quite summery and warm. This is a far gentler track compared to some earlier ones. Even when it does hit the chorus, it’s less rocky, courtesy of the strumming and the breathy vocals.

Penultimate track Angel Fire is up next, and thankfully isn’t about building websites. Instead, Dolores sings about December, with her breathy vocals returning again, alongside guitars. The tempo picks up for the chorus as the drums and electric guitars kick in, before returning to the tenderness of the verses.

The album closes with Ecstasy, which gives us some more wonderfully strummed guitars and rich warm vocals. It’s a really nice sound, but not quite ecstasy, although the lyrics hint toward the drug instead. It’s a gentle, simple song, that quietly sneaks off to the fade.

Dolores O’Riordan’s lead single ‘Ordinary Day’.

Verdict

Firstly, the design of this album’s packaging is beautiful, and really makes it one that you’d want to pick up.

Over all, this album is a mixture of two styles – the softer side up against the harder rock songs, sometimes within the same track. While this could be an issue for most artists, Dolores’ vocals are strong and perfectly capable to hop between the two from one breath to the next.

Musically this album is also wonderful – plenty of great warm acoustic sounds, and lots of roaring electric guitar energy and stadium rock drums.

There’s a lot here for Cranberries fans, as well as those who enjoy Alanis Morissette, Heather Nova, or Sinéad O’Connor.

We truly lost a gem of a songwriter and vocalist when we lost her.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 2007 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #28
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.

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