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With the amount of guest vocal appearances Sinéad O'Connor has made (not to mention excess extra-musical press interest) it's easy to forget her solo work. "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" is mostly known for the chart-topping ballad "Nothing Compares 2U", but the album is no fireside mug of cocoa. The ten songs here are dominated by her piercing, clear-toned but huge-ranging voice, with a variety of bare, chilly backings. Pieces like "I am Stretched On Your Grave", backed solely by a 1989-style "Soul-II-Soul" beat, and the solo-vocal confessional of the title track don't make for a comfortable listen, but it's thoroughly absorbing stuff.
We seem to start in an empty cathedral, as Sinéad intones her prayer to begin the melodramatically dour, orchestrated "Feel So Different". With a stately Bach-like bassline this grand opening fills its space elegantly. "Nothing Compares 2 U", written by notorious txt-speaker Prince, introduces the second side in a similar orchestral manner, performed with suitable slush and passion. Even her acoustic strumming is painfully quiet on "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance", and the calmly determined protest song "Black Boys On Mopeds". On the few plainer guitar-rock pieces, her backing band is too straight-edged and plodding, much like The Pretenders. But it's that voice which holds the album together. Its most special moment is when vocal power and songwriting flair intersect on the disturbing "Three Babies", swelling into a frenzy of emotion.
January 18, 2005