Blue Note/UMe will release Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me: 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition on April 29. The 44-track collection captures the emergence of one of the most popular and successful new artists of the 21st century and reveals, for the first time, the full story behind the making of her classic debut.
The Super Deluxe Edition features the remastered version of the original album, produced by Arif Mardin, as well as no fewer than 22 previously unreleased tracks. These include the original demos that Jones submitted to Blue Note, and the complete First Session demos that she made after being signed by the famed label. Alongside these is the first version of the album made by the artist at Allaire Studios with producer Craig Street. Most of these sessions have never been heard before, and they offer a fascinating insight into what Come Away With Me might have been.
The 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition was produced by Eli Wolf and will be available digitally as well as in 4-LP vinyl and a 3-CD sets. Both come in premium packaging with an extensive booklet containing new liner notes by Jones and rare session photos. Standalone 1-LP and 1-CD versions of the remastered original album will also be released. All formats are available for pre-order now.
Heralding the expanded editions, the never-before-released original version of the signature song “Come Away With Me” as recorded at those Allaire Sessions is now available to stream or download.
The new liner notes plot the arrival at Blue Note of a young hopeful who had moved to New York City in 1999, having spent two years as a jazz piano major at the University of North Texas. While playing jazz gigs at restaurants around New York, Norah began to mix with a singer-songwriter circle that included Jesse Harris and Richard Julian.
On her 21st birthday, Jones was heard at a jazz brunch by EMI Publishing employee Shell White, leading to a meeting with Blue Note President Bruce Lundvall. A month later she was in Lundvall’s office playing him her three-song demo CD, including confident versions of “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most,” as well as a more singer-songwriter styled original, written by Harris.
A demo deal with Blue Note soon followed, and by the time she was in the studio, she knew she wanted to focus on the originals written by Harris, Alexander, and herself. “The very first song we did in those sessions was one of Jesse’s, called ‘Don’t Know Why’ that we hadn’t yet played live,” says Jones in the new commentary.
Setting the tone
“We got it on the first try and it just felt great, one of those magical, easy takes. When we walked back into the control room to listen, [engineer] Jay [Newland] was over the moon. It really built my confidence for the rest of the session and set the tone for what we were going for. After all was said and done, it was this version that ended up on the final record, with only some harmonies and a doubled guitar added to it.”
Those sessions resulted in Lundvall signing Norah as a Blue Note artist. “Cassandra Wilson’s New Moon Daughter had been a favorite album of mine and was a big inspiration for the kind of record I wanted to make,” says Norah. “Since I loved the instrument choices (beautiful slide and acoustic guitars) and the production, I asked Bruce if I could meet with Craig Street, who produced it. Craig and I met a few times and got along really well. He liked the demos and said we should put those out as the record or use most of them, but I was really excited to explore a slightly different vibe, one I knew he could help me find.”
At Allaire Studios near Woodstock, Jones and Street teamed with some of her favorite musicians including Bill Frisell and Kevin Breit on guitars, Brian Blade and Kenny Wollesen on drums, Rob Burger on accordion and organ, and Alexander on bass. “Nearly everything we recorded felt special,” she says. “We re-recorded most of the songs from the demos to see where else we could take them.”
She and Lundvall subsequently shared doubts about the recordings, concluding that they had strayed too far from what was so special about the demos. It was decided that Jones should go back into the studio, with the storied Arif Mardin producing, to make the album over. They kept three of the Allaire songs, “Seven Years,” “Feelin’ The Same Way,” and “The Long Day Is Over”; two from the demo sessions (“Don’t Know Why” and “Turn Me On”), and recorded nine additional songs that adhered more closely to the spirit of the demos. The Come Away With Me album was the result.
Twenty years later…
Twenty years on, Jones has decided to share the Allaire version of the album in the new deluxe editions. “It’s been a bit like time traveling to some alternate universe of the album that nobody ever heard,” she says. “When I approached Craig to tell him about it, he suggested we ask Tony Maserati to ‘balance’ the recordings. This brought my vocal to the front more and I can finally hear my little 22-year-old self trying new things and fitting into the music around me just fine.
“Revisiting these sessions after listening to them only once in the last 20 years has been a lovely surprise,” she goes on. “I’m so glad to finally reunite with Craig and get a chance to finish what we started together. I learned a lot from him, and I always think of that time upstate as a sort of dreamy fantasy, and I still get that feeling when I listen to these recordings.”
The album went on to reach No.1 in 20 countries, selling nearly 30 million copies, and winning eight awards at the 2003 Grammys including Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. “I was incredibly proud of this album and so thankful to everyone who made it with me,” reflects Norah. “I figured it was a good first try and felt that it truly captured who I was – musically – at that time, which made me the proudest and is all you can really hope for when making a record.
“In the end I was so thankful that I got to explore a few different paths before putting them all together. No one, including the label, had any idea it would reach the success that it did. I’m forever grateful to Bruce and the very special team at Blue Note for giving me the chance to find my sound through all of it and for never telling me who I had to be.”
Pre-order the Come Away With Me: 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition, which is released on April 29. More at norahjones.com.